Ogres, Dragons and True Love: What ‘Shrek’ Says About Living Your Best Life
In preparation for this week’s entry in SUCCESS Movie Rewind, I watched one of the most important, impactful, iconic and groundbreaking films of the 21st century so far. I sat and pondered which three takeaways of the film’s nearly endless number I would share with you today.
I would typically say I was forever changed by watching this film last week, but that would be a lie because I’ve already seen this one a few times. You probably have too, and I wish I could see you jumping for joy after you read this next sentence: We’re talking about Shrek this week.
Welcome back to SUCCESS Movie Rewind, the podcast where we believe movies are like onions—not because they make you cry and sometimes stink, but because they have layers and layers of professional development wisdom to peel back and ponder. Let’s get to peeling.
Lesson 1: Some people like ogres.
Have you ever just woken up and felt like an ogre? You’ve had it with society and people in general, you’ve been beaten down one too many times and all you want in this world is a nice, private swamp to wallow in. We’ve all been there. Shrek has been there pretty much every day for a while now—ever since he realized that people would judge him before they ever got to know him.
I won’t insult your intelligence by recounting the plot of Shrek for you. You know what happens in between those two sweet, sweet Smash Mouth soundtrack bookends. That means you know that Donkey (Eddie Murphy) comes onto the scene and really shakes things up for Shrek.
Among the many challenges Donkey presents for Shrek is his simple attitude toward Shrek. Much to Shrek’s surprise, Donkey just likes him. He’s not afraid of him because he’s a big green ogre. He likes him, wants to be his friend and wants to help him.
Some people just like ogres. It’s not just donkeys. When you feel like an ogre—whether it’s because you’ve faced harsh criticism, failed at something or feel ostracized in some way—remember this. Some people like you for you, not for what you’ve accomplished or what you represent to them.
Lesson 2: You don’t have to slay every dragon you meet.
Spoiler alert: Shrek doesn’t kill the dragon before he rescues the princess, and he and Princess Fiona share a fun dialogue about this issue shortly after they first meet.
To sum it up, Fiona thinks Shrek should have killed the dragon because it’s part of the process—something that all of the valiant knights before him tried to do. Shrek points out that they all tried to slay that dragon shortly before they were burned to a crisp.
Shrek’s a strong-looking fellow, but I have a feeling his card might have been punched if he tried to slay that dragon. That’s his thinking, anyway.
What a lesson. You don’t always have to slay the dragon to rescue the princess. How can we apply that to our professional and personal development pursuits? By recognizing that just because you’re on a quest doesn’t mean you have to solve every problem. In fact, if you try to solve every problem, including the ones so many have already tried and failed to solve, you may miss the point of what you set out to do in the first place.
This concept applies across a ton of industries and pursuits, but it’s particularly easy to watch it play out in creative pursuits. Some musicians, for example, feel that they have to get everything in one take instead of recording bits of the song at a time. It’s a point of pride, but if you try to slay that particular dragon when you’re on limited studio time, you might miss your chance to fully record the song.
Lesson: 3: True love loves the whole truth.
I already mentioned that we’re not too concerned about spoilers for this film because it was—and in many ways still is—a global phenomenon. But just in case, spoilers ahead: Princess Fiona has a big secret. She turns into an ogre at night.
She’s all wrapped up in this fairytale requirement that she get true love’s kiss and marry her true love to break the so-called curse, but she’s terrified of revealing her secret to the prince who is meant to sweep her off her feet.
The resolution to this problem is a tearjerker. It’s not a first-10-minutes-of-Pixar’s-Up level tearjerker, but it’s a tearjerker nonetheless. The infamous Lord Farquaad discovers Fiona’s secret and refers to her as “it,” the dragon Shrek “forgot” to slay comes back in and saves the day and Shrek and Fiona have their true-love’s kiss. Fiona remains in ogre form, and she says “But I don’t understand; I’m supposed to be beautiful.”
Good old Shrek comes in with a showstopper: “But you are beautiful,” he says.
He loves Fiona’s whole truth. And that’s our third takeaway: True love loves the whole truth. This one goes a little beyond side hustles and entrepreneurialism and reaches more into universal truths. You will love, seek love and be loved in your life. And if that love is true, it will love the whole truth.
In other words, we shouldn’t hide who we really are from our loved ones. We should be confident that they will love the real us. And while oversharing is a real problem, it’s not oversharing to be who you are when you’re with someone who loves you. That’s true no matter where you are on your journey or what trials and challenges you’re currently up against.
Should we do ‘Puss in Boots’ next week?
There’s more to say about Shrek, of course, and if you’re looking for a fun ride full of extra nuggets of information, go ahead and read all the Wikipedia pages surrounding the films. As for this week’s podcast, I’ll leave it there.
We’ll be back next week with another banger of a movie to talk about. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be Puss in Boots. I’ll go ahead and spoil that one. It won’t be Puss in Boots, but I hope to see you back here next week anyway.
Alex Stevens invented motivational media criticism and reinvents the genre every week on SUCCESS Movie Rewind. Alex is also a lawyer, creative consultant, and artist, sometimes all at once. Alex lives with his family in Dallas, Texas.
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