Shrek Turns 20 This Year! Here’s Why This “Kids” Film Remained A Pop Culture Pillar

Shrek Turns 20 This Year! Here’s Why This “Kids” Film Remained A Pop Culture Pillar

Hey now, Shrek’s an all star!



Shrek turns 20 this year. Let that sink in. 


Yes, two decades have passed since the first film about a green, mean but lovable ogre dominated movie theaters. In case you didn’t hear, DreamWorks will be rereleasing the films in American theaters on April 25, 28 and 29, in celebration of its 20th anniversary. This might also be the reason behind why all four Shrek movies are back on Netflix pages, too.


I’m going to be honest with you: I can’t pinpoint the exact point in time when Shrek became more of a Gen Z shitpost mainstay and less a cringy animated film from the past. But the movie franchise has an odd pull that paved the way for it to still be watched years later. Shrek has been revived through memes and re-uploaded iconic clips. Some have even gone to the extent of making a passion project and re-telling the tale of the ogre.


But still, what is it with Shrek that makes the films still enjoyable in the year 2021? Digging around the internet and rewatching all four films myself, I’ve unearthed the reasons as to why this movie series is a pop culture pillar.


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The soundtrack


If there’s anything we appreciate, it’s a scene with perfectly fitting background music, and boy, do all four movies deliver. Shrek isn't treated like fairy tale fantasy with beautiful scores; it's more akin to a film set in the 21st Century as it used mainstream songs, making it a lot more memorable. The teams behind each film didn't hold back in choosing and reviving old tunes fit for the scenes. They all go above and beyond to bring out the best mood to sequences, which adds a lot more humor. My personal favorite is this Damsels of Destruction sequence from Shrek 3, using Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song and Fergie’s rendition of Barracuda to hype the band of princesses in action. Literally. 


The absurdity


If there were one word to describe the Shrek franchise, it would be absurd. Its entire premise is the opposite of the typical fairy tale. The ugly and abhorrent beast meets an equal: an ugly and abhorrent princess. They both go on daring adventures in a very complicated fairy tale universe. Couple that with a cast made up of characters that act more like adult humans is enough to have everyone laughing out loud. All the mishaps and references can (and will) lull you to throw logic out the window. Call it a perfect escape, if you will.


The fact that *maybe* it’s really not just for kids


Think of it this way: Shrek hits two birds with one stone. It gives the children what they want, an animated retelling of fairy tales with important lessons about friendship and life. But at the same time, it gives the accompanying guardian their own version of fun, especially if they want a break from all the sugar-no-spice goodness found in kids’ films. Tbh, the amount of R-rated jokes and innuendos sometimes outweigh the cartoon slapstick for the kids. 



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So, whether you like it or not, watch it ironically or un-ironically, Shrek is a charming movie that makes it easy to rewatch and enjoy. Need proof? You’ve likely read “donkey” in Mike Myers’ voice a few times. Or perhaps the most popular effect, you automatically sing Smash Mouth’s All Star when you hear the phrase “Somebody once told me…” It's one of those movies that bring joy to any audience—wide-eyed kids and  tired adults alike—and that’s exactly why twenty years later, the franchise is still stuck in our pop culture consciousness



Art Matthew Ian Fetalver

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