Shrek

A deconstruction is an interesting concept where films, books, and television are concerned. After a while media tends to get set in their formulaic ways and we’re still willing to shell out money for the same old stuffy plots and characters because we’ve grown attached to them. That’s where a deconstruction comes in. Whether it’s of comedy, horror, action, fairy tales a deconstruction can, (ironically in Scream’s case) bring new blood into a genre.

Shrek

Shrek did this in the early 2000s where fairy tales are concerned and in the process made a lot of fun at Disney’s expense (something that Disney seems to be okay with) over the years. Fairy tales are beautiful stories set in vaguely European timeframes with a touch of magic depending on the plot. The characters work strange jobs that you might not be accustomed to, like blacksmith, farmer… waitress. Okay it wasn’t that long ago but really, it all has a bit of a fantastical edge to it, doesn’t it…?

So, in your standard fairy tale you have the knight in shining armor, the beautiful princess trapped in unseemly circumstances, the oppressive tyrant who put her there, the loveable animal sidekick, and the woodland creatures who know how to set the tone. Throw in a fire breathing dragon and a kingdom wide journey and you’re made. All of these are tools of the trade, so to speak, and each and every single one of them have a very different purpose in this fairy tale.

Shrek (Mike Meyers best known for Austin Powers) is our Knight in Shining Armor and he is neither charming nor clean, or nice… Or a knight… moving on! Fiona (Cameron Diaz best known for Charlie’s Angels) is our beautiful nonstandard Disney Princess™ who is neither helpless nor Disney. Donkey (Eddie Murphy best known for tanking his career with Pluto Nash) is our loveable animal sidekick who is really more annoying to our main hero, but he’s a talking ass so what did you expect? And Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow whom I know from Dexter) is… short and evil, so basically like Tyrion Lannister with a little less cunning and a lot more evil.

Isn’t that just beautifully dissonant? Take what you know about an archetype and turn it on its head and you have something that is not only ironic (in a proper use of the term for once) but also extremely refreshing. Everybody expects a helpless princess despite G.I. Jane telling you that women can be strong or even Hermione Granger saving Harry Potter’s ass every once in a while. Everybody expects a typical animated romance because of something Disney has been selling for, by that point just under seventy years. With a deconstruction you don’t need to do what is expected. You can take the archetypes, the symbols, themes, motifs, and even the very setting itself and throw it in a blender or, if there’s metal involved chuck it in the microwave, twist the ending like Shrek famously did with True Love’s Kiss. Not only is it a lot more fun, if done right, but it’s a lot less constricting.

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