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Twilight Meets Shrek (with Shrek 4 spoilers)

May 28, 2010

I am a big fan of the Shrek movies. Now, like Twilight, Shrek is a four part saga. And, in each series, the fourth installment deals with the “happily ever after” that is marriage and parenthood – albeit in decidedly different ways.

While in Twilight, the once-reluctant-to-wed Bella is a joyous new wife gone baby-gaga, in Shrek, the focus is on the male ogre and his dissatisfaction with domesticated life.

Both of the sagas draw on fairly tales – Twilight to bolster the “happily ever after” view of life, and Shrek to mock and undercut it.

As most fairy talks end with marriage, one can presume that the “ever after” for the likes of Snow White, Cinderella, et al would likely include children (just as it does for Bella). But Twilight and Shrek break with fairy tales in that they DO focus on the children that are often the result of what happens after “true love’s first kiss.” In Twilight, parenting is joyful bliss; in Shrek the monotony and difficulty of parenting is focused on.

In the clever opening scene of Shrek Forever After, Shrek and Fiona spend a blissful, carefree day parenting their triplet ogres. Fiona, at day’s close, says “I wish every day could be like this.” Then, in Groundhog Day fashion, the film whizzes us through numerous repititions of this same type of day with the triplets crying more loudly, the diapers becoming more toxic, and Shrek becoming ever less happy with the daily grind of raising children.

The film frames Shrek as missing the days before family responsibility – unlike Twilight where Bella takes to mothering in a similar way as Edward takes to the smell of her blood.

In Shrek 4, thanks to a gleefully evil Rumplestiltksin, Shrek is given “One Day as an Ogre” – a do-over of sorts that places him in an alternate world where Rumple rules Far Far Away as tyrannical dictator and ogres are banished to an underground life of toil. In this alternate reality, Fiona leads “The Resistance,” fighting for the freedom of ogres everywhere. Though the day Shrek is given by his deal with Rumplestilskin threatens to erase his former existence (and thus his marriage with Fiona and his three ogre babies), Shrek is excited to be back in the world of causes and adventure. And herein lies the moral of the story – “happily ever after” is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Offering revolution as an anecdote to suburban ogre life, the film speaks to what Betty Friedan might have called “ogre mystique.” Shrek, like the women Friedan discussed in 50s era America, feels trapped within his domesticated sphere. He needs more than mud baths for a purposeful life, more than one eyeball martini at the end of the day to relieve his stress.

Might we presume that Bella will ever experience this type of domestic dissatisfaction? If the fawning representation of motherhood in Breaking Dawn is any indication, I doubt we can. Yet, I would love to see a spoof in which Bella is given a Rumplestiltksin type of magic deal and transported into an alternate universe where she is leading some sort of female vampire/wolf revolution. Heck, Renesmee and Leah could even be by her side.

As with the Shrek film, where I questioned why Fiona was never presented as disgruntled with domesticated life, I find Twilight’s representation of young motherhood wholly unrealistic. Yes, I KNOW it’s fiction, but still, we must remember it’s a fiction young readers (and especially young females) are taking to like a new bible. I trust most of them are more aware than the 13-year-old I recently heard yearning for a baby like Renesmee – “She is sooooo kewt! I just love her! I want a little Nessie of my own to hold and cuddle and kiss. I LOVE her!!!!!!!!!” Um, you do realize with all that cuddling there will be crying and diapers and illness and that the baby will grow up, right? (She didn’t seem to).

To conclude, a comparison between these two sagas may seem a stretch – but they both ultimately end in the same place – marriage with kids. Alas, the witty, wise-cracking, over-the top animated saga offers a far more realistic portrayal of happily ever after than the sparkly-vampire infused romance…

(And just to pre-empt comments that I am some kind of mommy-hater, please note I am a mother myself who is crazy about her kids. Alas, loving being a mom does not preclude admitting that it ain’t easy, it is sometimes monotonous, and it does make it harder to lead revolutions – but, of course, makes leading said revolutions all the more important! Future Bella’s – please please stay in college and avoid the Snow White move into a cottage far removed from society whose walls will all too soon resemble that of a prison…)

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