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Shrek or Ogre-Drag


“Language is a skin”

Roland Barthes


New? Not.


I have been thinking about the Shrek films and Ogre-Drag. The Shrek films do not subvert gender and are not feminist.

I looked at the first four films: In Shrek, the familiar set-up is established: the beautiful princess is rescued. The twist is that he is an ogre. Not only that, but at sundown she becomes an ogre as well. In a very fairy tale way, they find "true love" with each other. 


Sarah Bonner says,

… in 2001 Shrek was released by DreamWorks and uses the traditional format of the genre and various repeated tropes from fairy tales in parody of Disney fairy tale presentations. Shrek, and the sequel Shrek 2, have challenged both gender and racial representation in fairy tales. Gender is interrogated in a light-hearted manner by inverting (to an extent) the lead roles: Shrek is shy and enjoys the quiet life; Princess Fiona, in contrast, is a feisty kung fu fighting heroine. Shrek is forced to take on the active adventure to save the princess; and Fiona plays, albeit impatiently, at being the princess waiting to be rescued. Gender roles are initially inverted only to become more equal as the film continues. (2007)

Is a “feisty” female and “shy” male really subverting gender? No.

The thing about gender that is overlooked in the blog and in the Shrek films is that gender circumvents black-and-white definitions.  There are butch women and femme men. (butch=a hyperbolization of traditional male traits and femme=a hyperbolization of traditional female traits) The blurring of traditional notions of female and male behavior does not suggest subversion of a gender model.

I performed with The Greater Toronto Drag King Society as a fun part of my research. I did female drag and I am female. I did not cross over to another gender. I was interested in how female behavior can be learned by the same sex. Speaking of which, "sex" is defined as being physiologically male or female- although this is definitely complicated by trans-sexuality, which I am not discussing here. "Gender" involves the meanings we give to those categories.

In The Greater Toronto Drag King Society, in the latter half of the 1990s, there were gradations of gender. We can note a vast range of female behaviors in this troupe. In the following case, even femininity is layered. In a previous article, I wrote:

Femme performer Louise - playing Olivia Newton-John playing the film character Sandi in Grease - brings to her performance not only recognizable aspects of her own femme-play and the femme-star but of the femme character the star adopts in the film. The sticky sweetness contained by a leather jacket, blond wig, high heels, and tight pants are aspects of the film character's transformation from femme-goody two shoes to femme-slut. In the finale, Louise also includes Barbie business. This performer has a physique, that lends itself to the Barbie “look,” and she camps that up with makeup, accessories, and attitude. The levels of femme play are woven together in a patchwork characterization. The result is a camp and gender performance soup with dashes of Louise, Olivia, Sandi, and Barbie. (Shiller 1996, 25-26)

In Shrek 2, they begin on their honeymoon and travel to the kingdom of Far Far Away to see her parents, the king and queen, who are planning a big celebration for them. The evil fairy godmother wants Princess Fiona to be with her son, Prince Charming. Ethan Alter, a film critic says, “The most accurate way to sum up Shrek 2 is that it is exactly like the original.” (2005)

Shrek the Third sees Shrek negotiating fatherhood and the possibility of being King. Tony Macklin writes for the Fayetteville Free Weekly and says, “Shrek the Third has the curse of the third in a bankable series. It is too often sappy, tiresome, and overblown. A franchise such as Shrek, with all the money it has accumulated, should be able to buy a little freshness and originality.”  (2009)

Shrek Forever After finds Rumpelstiltskin as an evil ruler who tricks Shrek into being altered in a new timeline. Joshua Starnes from says, “Shrek Forever After is the latest in a long, mediocre tradition. What charms it does have can't really compete with the charms it doesn't have.” (2011)

I really wanted the movies to be innovative and different. To me, they were more of the same-worse because they appeared to "subvert" traditional fairy tales: Favourites such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Rapunzel are being dropped by some families who fear their children are being emotionally damaged.

Top 10 fairy tales no longer read by many parents in 2008:

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

2. Hansel and Gretel

3. Cinderella

4. Little Red Riding Hood

5. The Gingerbread Man

6. Jack and the Beanstalk

7. Sleeping Beauty

8. Beauty and the Beast

9. Goldilocks and the Three Bears

10. The Emperor's New Clothes (Patton 2009)

On Facebook, a friend said, “For size acceptance, it's a rarity nowadays to find anyone in a film who is not built like an Olympic athlete. I am not saying everyone should imitate him but he is (mildly) counter-discursive, at least compared to other Disney princes & princesses. The rest of them are walking ads for bulimia and anorexia. Shrek says it's okay to be plus-sized...” (Barcza 2011) Sure, but look at what he is eating: “Surely Health and Human Services [USA] can find a better spokesperson for healthy living than a character who is a walking advertisement for McDonald's, sugary cereals, cookies and candy," said Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (qtd in Crary 2007).

When Richard Dyer (1979) spoke of the idea that the “viewers' perception of a film is heavily influenced by the perception of its stars, and that publicity materials and reviews determine the way that audiences experience the film” (Wikipedia contributors, “Richard Dyer” 2011) he could have been talking about the Shrek films. "Shrek would seem to be a smart choice. The green-tinged ogre had already been featured in two highly successful movies, each of which raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in domestic box office alone..." (Pattison 2008).

Women are often with "less desirable" partners, especially in fairy tales. Women are supposed to be good-looking. Take Beauty and the Beast or the film Beastly, for example. A beautiful woman can be with a beast. She cannot be the beast if he is good-looking.

To me, there is nothing new about having a male partner who is an ogre. In Shrek 2, Princess Fiona says, "I want what any princess wants - to live happily ever after...with the ogre I married."

Princess Fiona is a good-looking ogre. She is still an ogre though. It is interesting that she is both cute and an ogre. She fits a good-looking standard for women in fairy tales and she can be an ogre because he is. What I am trying to say is this: an "ugly" female can be with an "ugly" male, but an "ugly" female cannot be with a handsome man. In this case, he has to be an ogre.

In Shrek, the following dialogue takes place:

Shrek: Fiona? Are you all right?
Princess Fiona: Yes. But, I don't understand. I'm supposed to be beautiful.
Shrek: But you are beautiful.

The "beauty trope" is excessively foregrounded in the Shrek films; image is everything. "The moral of Shrek's story is that beauty lies within" (Fitzgerald 2008). The gorgeous Cameron Diaz plays Princess Fiona. She is the referent. The dazzling Michelle Pfeiffer plays the wicked, ugly witch in Stardust on a quest for beauty and eternal youth. Kendra Hilferty, the vengeful witch in Beastly, is played by the alluring Mary-Kate Olsen. You get the point. The "sacrifices" these women make with respect to how they look refer back to them as beauties. Big surprise. “[B]eauty, or the pursuit of beauty, [still] occupies a central role in many women’s lives…” (Baker-Sperry and Grauerholz 2011, 712).

The aforementioned women are good examples of how supposed “ugliness” transforms the evil into the good. If these women are “really” beautiful then they are “really” good:

This practice goes as far back as the ancient Greek expression "Kalos Kagathos," abbreviation of "Kalos kai Agathos,” which means "Beautiful and Good." In several other languages (including most of the appropriately named Romance languages), the word for "good" actually also means "good looks." (“Beauty Equals Goodness” 2011)

There is a tradition of the monster with a heart of gold but Shrek is “really” an ogre and the beast in Beauty and the Beast is “really” a beast. These referents speak to an “essential” way of being in all cases. Crossing over to a different look or behavior solidifies the “true.”


Cross-Anything is not Drag


To me, that which is leaky or excessive is full of potential for subversion. In a few of my works I present some of the following ideas: I do not believe that cross-dressing is the same as drag-to-me they are different terms. I explain, “cross-dressing, for example, is often seen as the performed manifestation and answer to the “construction” of gender, by performing gender on a “wrong” body. “ (Shiller 1999, 13)

It is misleading to imagine that dressing up a story differently, re-telling well-known stories, is anything but a wolf in sheep’s clothing in certain cases. Telling gender stories differently must, in some way, effect a destabilization of gender:

Cross-dressing, the traditional exchange of women’s and men’s clothing onto the bodies of the opposite sex, is frequently based on an essentialist position or expressive model; that is, that by dressing as the opposite [sex] the true body beneath signals a correct gender in inappropriate dress. That original interior essence, [conceived of as inherent femininity or masculinity], when crossed, is believed to subvert gender…by expressing what is perceived to be its opposite. … [W]hile drag makes use of cross-dressing, cross-dressing alone does not signal drag. Removed from the arena of cross-dressing, drag entails notions of layering and combining. (Shiller 1999, 66)

To cross-dress is to buy into an idea of an other, what is usually perceived as an "opposite" gender. In my doctoral thesis I explain that conventional parodic cross-dressing is based on making fun out of the original by attempting to pass as the original and is subsumed in origins. Female impersonation is likewise often read as the aim to achieve seamless perfection where the impersonator attempts to come as close to looking like the “original” as possible. Examples of this type of female impersonation can be found in the performances of drag queens lip-synching as their favorite stars; Cher, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Marilyn Monroe to name a few. The goal is not to fool the spectator into believing the performer is the star, but to imitate the star believably. Drag is more about layering codes.

A drag performer, Vincent Meehan, explains that drag is not limited to a sartorial crossing over: “My goal is to make people feel comfortable about drag – not formal drag but theatrical suggestions, bits and pieces of garbage woven together to look right. In this definition of drag, appearance is all about illusion. Drag was never about female impersonation . . . I’m not trying to be a female, not at all.” (Chermayeff 1995, 41)

Codes can be pretty much anything, but here they suggest dominant belief structures. My feeling is that drag plays with these codes and subverts them. I do not believe drag has to be about clothing, but it often is. Clothing can be an incredible marker of gender. In the Shrek films the “apparel” is the ogre physique.

I believe we have to revise the meanings for the words "man," "woman," "gender," "sexuality" and "species," just to name a few. To me, "identity" is about expressing oneself; drag seems to articulate this. When “cross-dressing” is brought into the realm of drag there is not so much a crossing effect as a layering effect, an amalgamation of the codes by which the meanings of female and male, femininity and masculinity are interpreted.  (Shiller 1999, 21)

Moving drag off of a model of male-female clothing exchange (cross-dressing), into one that includes clothing exchange, sartorial crossing, or an ogre physique, but is not limited to an expressive model, drag takes the notion of incongruity onto a different playing field of meanings where glamour or garbage or skin is woven into a heightened sense of playing with gender expectations and the meanings of identity. Identity is no longer supposedly stabilized by the call for the true referent, the body, upon which or “in” which true gender is said to reside. Through gender play new stories are told “so as to inscribe into the picture of reality characters and events and resolutions that were previously invisible, untold, unspoken . . .” (de Lauretis 1986, 11).

Drag is concerned with incongruities that aggravate conceptions of wholeness and which mark resistance to fixed positions and self-identity. Drag repeats the process of identification with a fixed gender by appropriating gender in a form that transforms and liberates it by foregrounding the incongruity of appropriation. The incongruity of the appropriation is not limited to crossing over to the opposite sex. (Shiller 1999, 74)

Many people assume sexuality is aligned with drag. It can be, but I do not believe it has to be:  “… I once worked with a girl who was married to a straight drag queen. ...” (Yahoo! Answers 2011)

People often use the expression of being "trapped" in a body. To me, the body is fluid. Likewise, I feel most categories and definitions are blurred, including sexuality. Most everything is on a spectrum. Some people identify with a category strongly. There is no right or wrong in all of this, but it is necessary to look at the role ideology plays.

There is no separate "inside." The ideas of inside and outside the body are conventions to me. Merleau-Ponty said, “Inside and outside are inseparable.” (“Quotes from Merleau-Ponty” 2011)

The connections and assumptions about cross-dressing and expressivity have profound ties to the traditional meanings about costume in film that affect notions of gender performance. They are binaristic, not layered. For example, in classical Hollywood cinema, there was a tension between costume and narrative that produced “storytelling wardrobes” (Gaines 1990, 180). Clothes functioned to reinforce the narrative and fitted characters like a second skin, akin to an ogre manifestation, “working in this capacity for the cause of narrative by relaying information to the viewer about a ‘person’” (181). Jane Gaines’s analysis focuses primarily on black-and-white contemporary dress drama in Hollywood film. It makes some points, however, which are significant with respect to how the perception of an inside can be brought outside sartorially or in our case, by becoming an ogre, where costumes or skin index psychology and represent interiority. Costume had to serve the narrative by “restating emotions the actress conveyed through gesture and movement. Stepping into costume was like stepping into a role. Costumes, furthermore, were expected to express the same feelings . . . called for in the part” (184).


While Gaines notes that the assumption is that the costume goes with as opposed to against the character, the notion of “personhood in operation here . . . assumes continuity between inner and outer;” the personality of the wearer can be known through dress (184).  Clothing, with or against, is based on expressing a true, coherent inner core on a sexed body that is the fixed referent. In this case, Fiona is not “really” an ogre but is a beautiful princess. That is, the notion of the “wrong body” for a type of clothing or manifestation fixes that body to an appropriate gender or modality. Models of expressivity are embedded into a medium that upholds the popular notion that the clothes or flesh-toned skin make the man or woman or species, reinforcing the binaristic positioning of man/woman and human/species.


Identity and Drag  


I had emergency brain tumour surgery in August of 2003. I was in a coma for five months and I did not speak until March of 2004. This condition is called Akinetic mutism. Cognitively, I am fine, but physically I am not as I was. I am in a wheelchair and I have a voice and speech impediment called Dysarthria. My fingers are bent. The left side of my body is very weak and there are other things as well, but the point is made. I call what I am experiencing now "disability drag." I am not putting anything on but I am manifesting a difference. There are lots of presumptions when it comes to disability. "The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) [in the UK] defines a disabled person as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities." (United Kingdom 2008).

My identity has inadvertently changed. I enjoy playing with preconceived notions. For instance, it stuns many people that I have a PhD. The fact that I used to act and look differently really bothers a lot of people. I have few issues with my current physicality, but others seem to. My current physical status is complex. It is quite a challenge, but I have a unique opportunity here to explain what I mean by "drag." Believe it or not, this can be viewed in a positive light. My current physicality resonates with many of my interests. I am very willing to use my situation. I do not feel that this is exploitative. It is realistic. It is also how I cope. I am using my situation, but I did not ask for it nor would I have chosen it.

Drag is resistance to societal norms. It is an effective way to make a point. Most people who perform drag do not recognize that they are doing this. They really do not need to-it is what they signify that is important. It also helps if they are read appropriately. I like that Drag shakes things up. Drag foregrounds expectations and presumptions. It resists dominant forms of being. It is quite radical. Whether you like it or not, it puts things we take for granted into question.

Difference is something that most people avoid. Fitting in becomes a goal. Personally, I think difference is valuable. It is the "same" that irks me. Variation is not the same as inconsistency. One can be incredibly multi-tonal and consistent. That is what I mean by "layered."  (Shiller 2008, 23)


Drag intervenes with identity. Gender seems to be a focus. Ms. Blog states “Here’s hoping that soon some of these happily-ever-after tales will focus on a female who longs–like Shrek–for adventure and purpose rather than merely “true love’s kiss.”” (Wilson 2010) Gender and genre are complex and intertwined in the blog.

The blog addresses stereotypes for male and female behavior and Shrek Forever After is entirely based on those stereotypes. “True love’s kiss” is an obvious stereotype but wanting a Fiona who wants what Shrek wants would not resolve a gender problem at all. A different type of representation here is a worthy goal; however, we must be very careful about representation. Lois McNay warns that [a]lthough a notion of the body is central to a feminist understanding of the oppression of women, it needs to be thought through carefully if what is regarded as patriarchal logic –– the definition of the social category of woman in terms of biological functions –– is to be subverted and not compounded. (1992,18)

Shrek is shown to be living a “female” existence in Shrek Forever After. He cares for his triplets and changes their diapers. His agenda is to return to his “true” ogre self (read: stereotypical male behavior.) Appropriating a typical female role apparently is so full of contention here that he must enter an altered reality to change this.

It is nice that Fiona is the leader of the “ogre resistance” in the altered time-line but Shrek’s aim is to return to the previous existence and ultimately Fiona is domesticated-a good wife and mother. “True love’s kiss” standardizes everything.

There has been critical investigation into the problematic tendencies of certain feminisms (See McNay 1992, 18 for further commentary.) to recuperate essentialist strains by returning to the body as maternal and as such innately nurturing and this tendency has seeped into popular culture. Judith Butler articulates the central concerns:

Universalistic claims are based on a common or shared epistemological standpoint, understood as the articulated consciousness or shared structures of oppression or in the ostensibly transcultural structures of femininity, maternity, sexuality. . . . [T]he insistence upon the coherence and unity of the category of women has effectively refused the multiplicity of cultural, social, and political intersections in which the concrete array of ‘women’ are constructed. (Butler 1990a, 14)

Butler claims that gender does not exist: "Gender reality is performative which means, quite simply, that it is real only to the extent that it is performed"(1990b 278). According to Butler, gender is a social construction, a fiction, one that is open to change: "Because there is neither an 'essence' that gender expresses or externalizes nor an objective ideal to which gender aspires; because gender is not a fact, the various acts of gender creates the idea of gender, and without those acts, there would be no gender at all. Gender is, thus a construction that regularly conceals its genesis." (1990b 273). The body becomes its gender only "through a series of acts which are renewed, revised, and consolidated through time." (1990b 274. Paragraph modified from Allen and Felluga).


More Identity and Drag


Many identities would be effective tools for a discussion and exploration of gender and drag. For instance, I have a permanent shunt in my head to drain excess fluid off my brain. I am taken out of the realm of being human into a new world, occupying cyber territory. I am now a cyborg. To me this is cyborg-drag. I am layering the meanings for being human.  I am human but the shunt addition creates meaning, a new category and identity:

A disturbing factor in the mix of human and machine in cyberpunk is what Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. terms the attack on the "idea of the image of the body" (189). If the body becomes emblematic of what is "natural" and "human," then the entrance of the non-human from outside becomes a threat to the most obvious signifier of what is "human." (“Man and Machine (Re)Building Cyberspace.” 2011)

Donna Haraway’s 1985 essay, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” in her groundbreaking book Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, develops a political myth around the image of the cyborg, “a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (1991, 149). By regarding the cyborg as a myth about identity and boundaries I am embracing “the possibilities inherent in the breakdown of clean distinctions between organism and machine and similar distinctions structuring the Western self” (Haraway 1991, 174) She says, "Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess" (Haraway 1991, 181). Like Haraway’s quote, myths that destabilize “origins” feel appropriate to me. Where does gender or identity reside when the body is comprised of technological extensions and interventions?

The same myth varies widely from one teller to another and ‘yet the natives do not seem to worry about this state of affairs.’ Why would they indeed? Who sets off searching for ‘real origins’? Who suffers from the need for classification and identification? Who strives for identity, a certain identity? Since there is ‘no hidden unity to be grasped,’ no secret meaning to discover behind the package, to look for it is to throw the package away.  (Trinh 1989, 62)

As before, I did not ask for a shunt, but I do have it. I am not making light of my situation by calling it drag. The confusion arises because "drag" is often considered silly. It is serious to me. The idea of foregrounding identities by practical means is substantial. It is critical.

 Drag is a stew of ideas. It can be very tasty if we are open to new flavours. This means we need an open mind; we might need to acquire new tastes. It is challenging but incredibly worthwhile. (Shiller 2008, 21-24).

Alternative Stories or, Feminism Sheminism 

Drag is very layered and as such is full of potential for interesting contradictions. It is about "difference." It involves change and it "is concerned with what might be called a philosophy of transformations and incongruity" (Newton 1972, 105). The move from standard looks to alternative ones is compelling, to say the least. In the case of all four Shrek films, it could be truly amazing, but the standard parameters for the fairy tale that are upheld belie that. There is no going against the grain here. Sorry. Even though there is "transformation," a hallmark of drag, codes remain as they were. If there was a combination of the new or if the films created something new, well, that would be special.

In Shrek 2:

Shrek: A cute button nose? Thick, wavy locks? Taut, round buttocks? I'm-I'm...
Maiden #1: Gorgeous!
Maiden #2: I'll say.

I cannot stand that these are called feminist films. "Cameron Diaz has admitted she loves the fact that her character Princess Fiona gets all feminist in the third installment of hit animation films Shrek" ("Shrek Princess Goes Feminist" 2008). There is a prevalent idea about what constitutes feminism, as we can see in the Cameron Diaz quote.  “Feminist writer and activist Jessica Valenti, Executive Editor of, says the new Shrek movie [Shrek The Third] has some feminism in it.” (Sacks 2007) Sacks writes: "Apparently the latest Shrek movie has a tad o' feminism in there” (2007) Eesh.

In this so-called post-feminist age, my perspective might seem antiquated. I believe it is necessary to be straightforward. According to the book Third Wave Feminism and Television, by the head of women's studies at South Carolina University, I am a third-wave feminist.  I am quoted pretty extensively in the book. Being called a third-wave feminist by an expert in a critical book was validating of my past, of my life's work. It is only a part of my process but it has always been there.  "I won a book prize in high school and was given a book entitled Subject Women (Oakley 1981). I used to read a lot of women's critical theory. I was quite young, a teenager, and did not understand much of it but I was not deterred. I was very drawn to this area of concentration." (Shiller, 2009) In the latter half of the 1990s, I wrote this: "With so much attention being paid to drag queen (male to female) performance, one might arrive at the assumption that female to male… or Drag King performance inhabits a like territory or domain, it is, in fact, quite distinct and multifarious." (Shiller 1996, 24).

There is so much potential in the Shrek films to challenge dominant ideas about women. To me, the amalgamation of female identities in The Greater Toronto Drag King Society is amazing to this day. The de-essentialisation of various identities was spectacular and resonates with third-wave feminism:

Third-wave feminism celebrates women's multiple and sometimes contradictory identities in today's world. Third Wave feminists are encouraged to build their own identities from the available buffet, and to not worry if the items on their plate are not served together traditionally. Women can unapologetically celebrate a plate full of entrée choices like soccer mom, career woman, lover, wife, lesbian, activist, consumer, girly girl, tomboy, sweetheart, bitch, good girl, princess, or sex symbol. Third-wave feminism encourages personal empowerment and action. Third-wave feminists like to think of themselves as survivors, not victims (Rockler-Gladen 2007).

I played Marie Osmond quite self-consciously. This was fantastic research for me. In Again, I say;

There was an amazing conflation of ourselves and the pair we were playing. I am very pleased we gave ourselves completely to the process.

I remember shooting a promotional spot on television and the producer cleared the studio because Joy L. put something down her pants so that she was anatomically correct. Maybe the producer wanted a banal G.I. Joe® representation. “... [T]here was the infamous Breakfast Television appearance that was almost canceled when the producer worried for the children in the audience after seeing that [Joy L.] was packin'..." (Paquette 2008). Who knew that anatomy could be so offensive or insulting? I remember thinking that the response was totally inappropriate. In fact, I was naïvely stunned. Even though we played a brother and sister, we camped it up with inappropriate, longing stares; there was an air of desire and sexuality. We never discussed doing this, we just did." (Shiller 2009, 31-32).

It is cool that there are contemporary references in the Shrek films. For example, in Shrek 2, there are references to the films Mission Impossible and Flashdance. The fairy godmother hands out her business card. The Gingerbread Man has a Starbucks coffee. If anything, the modern references suggest a new way of thinking.

In Shrek the Third, the following dialogue takes place:

Snow White: Right! Ladies, assume the position!
[Sleeping Beauty falls asleep, Snow White lies down, and Cinderella seats herself on the floor gazing at nothing]
Princess Fiona: What are you doing?
Snow White: Waiting to be rescued!

It is commendable that the characters are shown to know the rules, but they still conform to them. Even Princess Fiona in the first film acknowledges that "she knows how it goes," but she is still rescued. Knowledge and action do not link up.

It might seem contradictory to say that the apparent discrepancy between the fairy tale characters and their referents falls into the same ballpark as expressivity or conventional cross-dressing. If they are playing roles against “type,” there might be a case for drag. Rather, this is an example of how the film makes use of drag’s fundamentals without being drag itself. The iconicity of well-known fairy tale characters in relation to the roles they are playing does not constitute the type of incongruity that resonates with drag because we are nonetheless brought to a field of meanings that restricts the movement outside myths of origin and


There is the expectation that Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella, fixed in the popular imagination, will remain as they were, comforting any anxiety about displacement. As such, the performances do maintain the standards familiar to most spectators. In the case of this film, the form depends on the assumption that the fairy tale character is coherent enough to challenge any disruptions.


In the first Shrek, Donkey says, "Blue flower, red thorns! Blue flower, red thorns! Blue flower, red thorns! Oh, this would be so much easier if I wasn't color-blind!" Sometimes we are blind to what is right in front of us.

A revision of the fairy-tale. A contemporary way of envisioning women. Old hat. Nothing new in all four Shrek films.

Alan Cohen, a popular holistic keynote speaker, said:

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.  (2008)

Championing the new or different is commendable, but recuperating dangerous notions is, frankly, deplorable. It is very good to validate differences, but when that is couched by hidden ideology, it becomes suspect. It ends up validating old concepts. It ends up doing the opposite.



Works Cited


Allen, Emily and Felluga, Dino. January 31, 2011.  “General Introduction to Theories of Gender and Sex.” Purdu University.> (accessed March 30, 2012)

Alter, Ethan. March 5, 2005.  NYC Film Critic Review of Shrek 2.In Rotten Tomatoes. <> (accessed July 12, 2011).

Baker-Sperry, Lori, and Liz Grauerholz. April 12, 2011.  "The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children's Fairy Tales." Gender and Society 17.5 (2003): 711-26. <> (accessed July 8 2011).

Barcza, Leslie. July 13, 2011. Facebook comment. <>

Barthes, Roland, 1979.  A Lover's Discourse: Fragments. Trans. Richard Howard. Hill and Wang

--- Mythologies. 1973. Trans. Annette Lavers.  London, Glasgow, Toronto, Sydney, Auckland:  Paladin Grafton Books.

Beastly. Dir. Daniel Barnz. CBS Films. 2011.

Bonner Sarah. “Snow White: Repetition and Resistance in the Visual Arts.” REPEAT REPEAT CONFERENCE 2007. Centre for Practice as Research in the Arts. June 25, 2011. <> (accessed July 8, 2011)

Butler, Judith.  1990a. Gender Trouble:  Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.  New York & London:  Routledge.

--- 1990b. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory." Performing Feminisms: Feminist Critical Theory and Theatre. Ed. Sue-Ellen Case. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP.

Chen, Vivien.April 15, 2011 “Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty not the “Fairest” Anymore: The Role of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Fairy Tales.” Serendip. <> (accessed July 8, 2011)

Chermayeff, Catherine, Jonathan David, and Nan Richardson, eds. 1995. Drag Diaries.  San Francisco:  Umbra Editions.

Cohen, Alan. June 25, 2011.  "Alan Cohen." Wisdom Quotes. <> (accessed July 12, 2011)

Crary, David. April 25, 2007. "Advocacy Group: Drop Shrek From Anti-Obesity Ads." Associated Press: Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. (accessed June 26, 2011)

de Lauretis, Teresa. 1979. “Feminist Studies/Critical Studies:  Issues, Terms and Contexts.” Feminist Studies/Critical Studies.  Bloomington:  Indiana University Press.  1-19. 1986. Dyer,Richard.  Stars. London: British Film Institute; 1998, 2nd ed.

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© 2010 by Romy  Shiller. All rights reserved.


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