It is difficult to look at the Shrek films, especially Shrek 2 and think about a class system within the film. I mean it’s just a kids comedy, right? Wrong, there are many instances throughout the film where classes are pitted against each other.
Shrek 2 follows Shrek’s and Fiona’s journey (along with Donkey of course) to the Kingdom of Far Far Away to meet Fiona’s parents after their marriage. Fiona’s parents are all in for a surprise when Fiona turns up with an ogre for a husband instead of Prince Charming. Let us just say her parents (especially her father), as well as Charming’s mother the Fairy Godmother are very unhappy with Fiona’s choice in a husband. Shrek begins to feel as if he is not worthy of Fiona because he is an ogre. He tries to change himself by stealing a potion from the Fairy Godmother (Happily Ever After). This potion changes him, as well as Donkey into a hunk of a man and Donkey into a noble stead.
However, the potion must be sealed with a kiss at midnight, “Midnight. Why is it always midnight” (Shrek 2). The film goes on to trick Fiona into getting together with Prince Charming (who is not so charming by the way) and Shrek, Donkey, and the cutest bug-eyed sword slaying cat you’ve ever seen, Puss in Boots are put in jail. In the end, Shrek and Fiona get back together and they all live happily ever after… until the next movie(s).
Alright, back to the class argument. According to the film Class Dismissed: How TV Frames the Working Class. There are five characteristics of the working class in TV.
- Bad Taste
- Lack of Intelligence
- Disinterested in Politics
- Poor Work Ethic
- Dysfunctional Family (Class Dismissed)
These can be applied to Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey. In the film Shrek’s kind of humor is dirty/fart jokes/bodily humor. He and Fiona are seen creating a jacuzzi mud bath with their own flatulence (classy right). He is even quoted saying “better out than in I always say” (Shrek 2) in front of Fiona’s posh parents. They are both looked down on in this moment as lower class by Fiona’s father and mother.
Next, lack of intelligence. In Shrek (the first one) Donkey is seen as a lovable, yet buffoonish character. He can never take a hint of when is isn’t wanted and is easily fooled. For example, Fiona fools him into thinking blue flowers with red thorns are needed to help Shrek.
The disinterested in politics doesn’t really apply to this film, however, poor work ethic does. Shrek doesn’t want a life of royalty and work. He is just interested in living in his swamp with his wife, living a lazy yet relaxing existence. Again going back to the first film, Shrek only goes on the mission to save Fiona to get his swamp and lazy life back.
Finally, the Dysfunctional Family Values. Now in Shrek 2, Shrek is not interested in having a family just yet. Though in later films he does have triplets and ends up being a great dad. All he wants in this film, however, is to have a life with Fiona.
Now, I know that this film breaks many of the traditional characteristics of the working class. However, it is important to note, that Shrek is looked down on for not being a prince. I would even add that he is seen as a lesser “man” until the end of the film. This is important because event though the film is about fictionalized creatures, there are still marginalized characters in the film.
Shrek 2. Dir. Andrew Adamson. By Andrew Adamson. Prod. Aron Warner. Perf. Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz. DreamWorks Distribution LLC, 2004.