Category Archives: film

The rhino scene in ‘Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls’ deserves to win every single Oscar

Ok, here’s the scene.

Back story: Ace is trying to find out what the bad guys are up to blah blah blah. It’s basically a contrivance to allow this scene to happen. And what a scene it is.

43 seconds in and Ace is already fully nude. The remaining two minutes are simply the funniest acts ever recorded on film. Yes, I really do think this.

Go on. Watch it again now.

I think we can all agree that this deserves to win every single Oscar going. And let’s go over the reasons why.

(Note: I’m using the current award categories, rather than those of the time, because we’re judging the scene by today’s standards and also this is my blog so shut up).

Best Picture

This one goes without seeing. There’s nothing better than this piece of film.

Best Director

The film, and so presumably this scene, was directed by Steve Oedekerk. Steve’s had a mixed career of directing, producing, and acting in a whole load of films – including the criminally underrated Kung Pow: Enter the Fist. But you probably haven’t heard of him.

Surely Ace Ventura 2 was the height of his directing career. And this scene is the height of the movie. Therefore, this scene deserves the best director award.

(As an aside, surely the best director award should go to whoever directed best picture? Otherwise, you’re basically saying “Great job on making that film! It’s the best film. But… we’re giving the best film-maker award to someone who made another film instead LOL!”)

Sure, Spielberg could make us weep for Neeson’s Oskar Schindler. And yeah, Scorsese drew a monster of a performance out of Dicaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. But has either of those directors ever forced an actor through a rhino’s bottom? NO. And that is their failing.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

It just has to be Carrey, right? Jim gives the performance of his life, while fully nude. We feel his sweat. We believe his agony. He makes us feel something real and true.

The only performance I’ve seen that even comes close is Danny Devito’s Frank Reynolds squeezing out of a sofa in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. And that’s only because it’s basically the same scene anyway.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

The dad! Just because….. look at him!

That subtle transformation from delight to realisation to horror displays a range of emotion that’s tragically missing from the majority of today’s blockbuster movies. Bravo, sir!

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Excuse me, Oscars? Did you just use ‘actress’? How insulting.

But if we’re talking about the best actor in this scene that is female, it’s gotta be either the mother or the daughter – by virtue of being the only two present. I’ll go with the mum, because she has a great reaction.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Ok, the daughter can have this one.

Best Animated Feature

Animated (adjective)
1. full of life or excitement; lively.


Best Animated Short Film

Consider this scene not as part of a larger whole, but as a standalone short film in its own right. Maybe some kind of weird experimental art piece. It’s not so much of a leap.

Best Cinematography

Best Costume Design

Sure, Ace is nude for most the scene. But he starts out wearing his iconic open Hawaiian shirt. Is there a more memorable costume in comedy movie history?

No. The answer is no, there is not.

Best Documentary Feature

A challenge this.

BUT, the scene documents a very funny occurrence. Sure, a human has never actually passed through the anus of a robot rhinoceros. But I believe the scene faithfully depicts what that would be like. It’s at least close enough to be judged for and win this category, in my opinion.

Best Documentary Short Feature

See above.

Best Film Editing

The editing is legitimately spectacular.

The cuts between the family and the rhino. The way the ‘birth’ goes on for way too long. The way he finally flops out onto the ground as a kind of punchline for the scene.

It’s all very beautiful, in it’s own way.

Best Foreign Language Film

Eh, I guess you can watch the film in a foreign language. In fact, you can do that right here –

Like, if this was submitted to the Cannes Film Festival, maybe in black and white, with these voices over it, and with the title ‘bébé rhino’ it would win every award going.

Best Live Action Short Film

Goes without saying.

Best Makeup and Styling

Makeup: Ace’s sweaty, sticky body at the end.

Styling: Ace’s hair at the start.

Best Original Score

The use of sound in the scene is pretty minimal. But that doesn’t matter so much when it’s this good. IT GETS THE OSCAR.

Best Original Song


It’s not a song. But it expresses something about ourselves that we can all relate to.

Don’t we all need air, after all?

Best Production Design

I’m not 100% sure what ‘production design’ even is. I mean, the rhino looks pretty good? I fully buy into the conceit that he is squeezing out of a rhino’s behind.

Best Sound Editing

Yeah, sure?

Best Sound Mixing

How is this a different category to sound editing? You guys have too many awards.

Best Visual Effects


And I believe they didn’t use any CGI for the scene, either. Carrey delivers the real deal.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) / Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Combined because they’re the same.

Kind of hot in these rhinos‘ is a truly fantastic line. Just think about how good it is.

Think about how good it is, then join me in awarding it the Oscar.

And that’s the lot!

Congratulations Jim & Co, you’ve swept the board!

Property damage costs in Paddington

Paddington is a really great film. It’s got something for everyone, not just kids. And Ben Whishaw (aka Me), brings loads to the role. Basically, go and see it.

But one thing struck me about the film. It’s very much a fun family comedy. Paddington gets into lots of misadventures, but a much stronger emphasis on slapstick than in classic Paddington. He gets in so much trouble, that I found it almost jarring.

RIP the inner child in me, as I sat in the cinema thinking “who’s going to pay to clear all that up, eh?” Perhaps the filmmakers were aware of this to an extent, as the characterisation of Mr Brown as a ‘risk analyst’ sets up a juxtaposition to Paddington’s chaos that forms the thematic core of the movie.

I wondered, is it possible to put an actual value on the amount of damage that Paddington causes? It’s worth a go at least.

Oh, and [SPOILER WARNING] I guess???

Here are the rules:

  • Any damage directly caused by Paddington on screen is counted.
  • As is any damage that can be inferred from what the other characters say.
  • Damage caused by non-characters is not considered (ie. the earthquake at the beginning)
  • Damage caused by other characters is not considered (eg. Mr Brown causing damage to the exterior of the Natural History Museum whilst scaling it)

For the most part of the beginning of the movie, there isn’t much damage that we can count. Paddington’s journey from Peru to London mostly involves sitting in a lifeboat eating marmalade. The discarded jars can’t really be construed as property damage, and would fall under some littering offence instead most likely. Moving on then.

There isn’t really anything to speak of until Paddington arrives at the Bond house. The famous bathroom scene is the first major set-piece where major damage occurs. Here’s a rundown:

  • 2 x toothbrushes ruined by Paddington inserting them into his ears (Average non-electric toothbrush price: 99p).
  • Shower hose. Ruined by Paddington tying it in a knot to stop the water flow. Average price: £8.
  • Antique traditional-style toilet. It appears to be an old one, so extra value should be added for that. £150.
  • Bathtub. Paddington literally rides it down the whole staircase. That’s got to need replacing. £200.
  • Flood damage repair to the bathroom. Taking into account labour and supplies, I’d place this around £1000, given the need to likely replace the floor, doors and walls.
  • Brown family toiletries. Judy explicitly says her beauty products are ruined, so we can assume the same for the whole family. Worth around £20 in total.
  • SUBTOTAL: 1,379.98

But wait, Richard, you’re probably thinking, doesn’t Mr Brown’s insurance cover accidental property damage? Well, it’s hard to say. We see Mr Brown attempting to temporarily add Paddington to his home insurance during the bathroom scene. But given that the damage is already happening, I’d say it’s highly unlikely he’s going to see a payout. You can’t call up for fire insurance while your home is burning down, after all. And the fact Mr Brown is trying to add Paddington at all suggests he’s not covered under their main policy (and as a risk analyst, he surely knows best!). So no it doesn’t.

Also, property damage is still property damage even if the insurance pays out. Someone is still paying for it.

Next up, Paddington and co. head to Portobello Rd. market to get his hat appraised. During this section, Paddington apprehends a pickpocket. But along the way he gets into some misadventures. Here’s the costs:

  • Skateboard. Paddington borrows this from a child and isn’t seen to give it back, so we can assume it’s lost/destroyed. £30.
  • Gift stand. Paddington smashes into a stand (ending up with a police hat and umbrella in the process). It’s hard to put a value on this, but let’s be relatively conservative and say £100.
  • Aerials. Paddington smacks into about four of these whilst flying about the rooftops. At about £20 each, let’s call that £80.
  • SUBTOTAL: £210

After this they head to the guild of explorers. This is a tricky one because the main property damage is to the central pneumatic tube system. Looking online, I’ve found a 1 tube, 2 station system for around £5000. The system in the movie is much more complex than that, featuring potentially hundreds of stations and dozens of tubes. So for this one we have to basically pluck a high number out of the air.

  • Pneumatic tube system. Clogged up by a sandwich and burst. £100,000.
  • Damage to historical archives. Again, hard to be exact. But let’s call it £1000.
  • SUBTOTAL: £101,000

Back in the Brown home, Paddington gets into some trouble when the villainous Millicent breaks in and attempts to kidnap Paddington. This is again a grey area, as the damage is partly caused by Millicent, though Paddington himself is at least partially responsible for much of it. There’s one major cost though.

  • Hob oven. Exploded after Paddington leaves the gas on and sets off the pilot light (actually quite a violent sequence in retrospect). £300.
  • Assumed property damage to the kitchen caused by gas explosion (parts + labour). £100.
  • SUBTOTAL: £400

The final sequence revolves around Paddington’s capture and escape from Millicent in and around the Natural History Museum. Most of the damage here is caused by other characters, and there’s potential damage to the exhibits – such as when Paddington slides down the Diplodocus in the main lobby. But this appears to be only cosmetic damage at best. We’re also not counting the damage to the museum’s infrastructure caused by Jonathan’s DIY dynamite explosion (somewhat inappropriate for a kid’s movie, I thought).

  • Two handheld vacuum cleaners, used during the incinerator escape scene. £20 each.
  • SUBTOTAL: £40

And there we have it! There’s presumably plenty more damage along the way, and I don’t actually have a copy on me to check so this is all relying on memory. Given that, along with some of our frankly arbitrary estimates, we get a grand total of….


Assuming this all comes of the Brown family pocket, that’s a pretty hefty amount. Plus Mr Brown could be considered criminally liable for much of that, especially given his breaking and entering during the explorer’s guild scene.

I actually thought it’d be more though.

Well, at least Paddington didn’t actually kill anyone. In real life, a stray bear in London would have likely killed/injured many many people.

Nativity Sequels

So this happened:

After the unnecessariness that was Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger they went ahead anyway and made a Nativity 3. And they called it “Dude, where’s my donkey?!” Because of course they did.

And this got me thinking: where does it all end?

So without further ado, here are my proposed titles for continued entries in this family-favourite series:

Nativity 4: Back Inn Time

Nativity 5: Bethlehem Drift

Nativity 6: Gold, Frankincense, and Mayhem!

Nativity 7: Return of the King

Nativity 8: Three Wise Men and a Baby

Nativity 9: Baby’s Day Out

Nativity 10: Dude, where IS my donkey?!

Nativity 11: While Shepherds Washed Their Socks

Nativity 12: Lemme See Dat Ass

Nativity 13: No Way! In A Manger

Nativity 14: Holy Moly!

Nativity 15: Gabriel’s Angels

Nativity 16: Heavens Above!

Nativity 17: Electric Jesus Boogaloo

Nativity 18: Wise Men Can’t Jump

Nativity 19: Nativity Forever

Forever and ever. Amen.

Why are all Shrek cakes so utterly hilarious?

This is my third post now either concerning or referencing Shrek. And that’s obviously not a bad thing at all.

So during my research on Shrek I came across a strange phenomenon. It seems that Shrek is a popular subject of birthday cakes. And why not? I mean, kids love it (and adults too!) so why not bake a cake of our Ogrelord?

Except the thing is, people don’t seem very good at it. Example:

I don’t remember Shrek having huge feminine eyelashes. But hey, maybe this is fine. Artistic license and that. Maybe it’s for some poor chap with big bushy eyebrows and lady lashes, who gets called Shrek as an affection in-joke. Without knowing the whole story, who are we to judge.

But then you have this:

Something’s just clearly gone wrong here. It barely looks like anything, let alone Shrek.  A cake that has truly gone wrong.

This is more like it. This actually looks like Shrek (if you can’t tell, just compare it to the Shrek fairy cakes orbiting Shrek Prime). He’s almost too expressive though, in an ‘uncanny valley’ kind of way. Haunting.

Hope you like nightmares, Killian! (Also, KILLian? This kid confirmed for serial killer in the making).

Not even going to fix that lazy eye then? Fine, I won’t judge!
I will however judge the floatation ring around Shrek. Utterly baffling.

Plain. Simple. Terrible. Sorry, Ammar!

Maybe if Shrek was put in a wind tunnel he’d look like this. But he hasn’t been, and doesn’t look like this. I have no further comment.

A rare ‘full body’ Shrek. The proportions are all wrong though. But I do appreciate the happily jaunty angle.

This Shrek comes from the eight dimension, where they communicate only in varying extents of pain.

Fat Shrek cake.

Kudos on the Super Mario Bros pipes as ears. This cake sucks at everything else. I’m not even sure if it’s meant to be Shrek.

My personal favourite. A lot of love and care has gone into those teeth.

This Shrek has a melted face.

Probably the most accurate attempt in this list. However, I doubt a one year old is going to be able to appreciate that fact.

Everyone involved with the production of this cake was dead within the month.

Wrong green. He looks sad.


No ears on this one. He can’t hear your screams.

Well, at least he’s smiling! Sort of.

This one is just all chin.

Hey yeah, I’d like to order a Shrek cake please. Shrek. Yes, Shrek. The ogre from Shrek. But could you also make him a tiny bit cross-eyed? Not noticeably so, but like so that if you looked at it for a while you’d be like ‘those pupils don’t quite sit right with me’? That’d be great, ta.

Great shading! Terrible everything.

Seriously, how many of these are there?


Oh wait, that was my 25th. It was made by my Mother and I think you’ll agree that it’s the best of the bunch. My Mother is a fantastic baker, and will literally make any cake you ask for.


Shrek: a cultural icon for our times


I believe that Shrek is the greatest cultural icon of the past two decades. This is not a widely held opinion, but I believe it can be fully justified. To demonstrate my point I will begin with an history of the Shrek franchise, followed by a look at its ongoing impact on popular culture. I will then follow this up with what has been deemed “the Shrek renaissance” (or Shreknaissance) by some commentators on social media. This will bring us to the conclusion that not only has Shrek’s contribution to popular culture been severely understated in the standard historiography, but that his true place is at the very zenith of the cultural pantheon.

A brief history of Ogres

Shrek’s history actually begins with a 1990 book by William Steig titled simply “Shrek!” Not a lot of Shrek fans (hereafter “brogres”) know about this work, and the cultural impact of this book itself is negligible. It’s importance is limited to simply being the genesis of Shrek as we have come to know him.

All the elements of modern Shrek are there in Shrek! – Donkey and Fiona feature for instance. As do Shrek’s parents, who are notably absent in the film adaptation. Shrek’s appearance is similar, but not quite identical. The trademark “bunny” ears are there, and the green skin. But in Steig’s illustrated work, Shrek features an odd bump on his head (modern Shrek has a streamlined, more rounded appearance overall) and wears a rope-tied toga with stripy trousers. Modern Shrek wears the same costume mostly throughout all the films: a simple peasant white gown and brown waistcoast, with some brown stockings and shoes.

The evolution of Shrek is important here. Steig’s Shrek is a terrifying creature, drawing directly from the Indo-European mythological and folklore roots (the exact etymology of “ogre” is unclear and I wouldn’t venture to favour any particular theory here). Modern Shrek is a rather more accessible creature, which at once both exhibits the archetypical ogre features and at the same time explicitly draws them out into the open for satire. Hence, modern Shrek is born out of juxtaposition, which I will elaborate further with the history of modern Shrek.

Shrek on the big screen

The rights for a movie adaptation of Steig’s Shrek! were acquired by Steven Spielberg in 1991. However he neglected to do anything with it, and the rights were reacquired in 1995 by Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder of DreamWorks. Why Spielberg didn’t do anything with Shrek is an interesting question, but not one I’ll speculate on (though it’s known he wanted Bill Murray to play Shrek, which I personally would still love to see). We should however note that Spielberg himself clearly saw the value in Shrek. Think on that. One of the most celebrated film directors of all time thought this ogre anti-hero held value. Was Shrek lined up to be the next ET?

In any case, DreamWorks was the new up-and-coming studio at the time. Shrek wasn’t their very first animated outing (that being the Woody Allen vehicle Antz), but it was arguably the first one to have absolute mainstream acclaim. I will now spend some time examining the movie as it came out.

The first Shrek film came out in 2001, six years after the rights were initially acquired. Rather than going down either a traditional animation route (a la Disney at the time, still) or a live-action/CGI hybrid (a la Small Soldiers, distributed but not produced by DreamWorks in 1998), Shrek was fully animated using computer generated images. Today we take this for granted – with Disney/Pixar being the current champions in this arena – but at the time it was a rarity. In this way, Shrek literally bridged the analogue-digital transition and this alone constitutes an important legacy in cinematic history.

The result of adopting this approach was a very beautiful film that audiences were able to experience in a new and exciting way. But I argue that the Shrek-audience connection goes deeper than this. Audiences connected with Shrek at a fundamental, mostly subconscious level. We can see this through an analysis of how Shrek is presented in Shrek.

As stated before, modern Shrek is a much cleaner and accessible character than Steig’s Shrek. Everything about him is rounded out in the character design, despite ostensibly being a disgusting ogre. This extends to other aspects of the character too. Rather than having a disgusting personality, Shrek is shown to instead be an actually rather gentle character who is forced into a charade of meanness by the persecution of a society that fears him. Even his voice is mellowed out; Mike Myers (who audiences already have a connection with from the Austin Powers film et al) reportedly tried out a series of accents before settling on the Scottish voice we all know and love. There is nothing harsh or jarring in this voice, everything comes out smooth and pleasingly – even when he’s shouting furiously at Donkey.

The character of Shrek, then, is a bundle of contradictions. Qua Hegel, we see an exemplar dialectic in action-
Thesis: Ogres are horrible and disgusting.
Antithesis: Shrek is actually nice in all respects. Society is actually “horrid” towards him.
Synthesis: We learn a valuable lesson about how we judge others through the ultimate redemption of Shrek as the hero.

Shrek is the protagonist of the story, a prime example of the anti-hero in action. He’s reluctant to even leave his swamp, let alone take down the villainous Farquaad. All his actions are motivated simply by a desire to get his swamp back, and later his love for Fiona. This provides an emotional core to the character, which – in conjunction with the important learning we receive from the above dialectic -makes us really relate to Shrek on a character level. In short, we care about Shrek.

To elaborate, Shrek is a powerful character because he appeals to our aesthetic expectations in a extremely elegant way. We laugh at his jokes, sympathise with his desire for a simple life and love for Fiona, whilst at the same time having our expectations challenged. Shrek is the least likely hero, but ends up saving the day many times over. Compare him to Luke Skywalker for instance – essentially a flawed character and by no means an outstanding person in his own right (prima facie just the son of a farmer) but one who ends up saving the galaxy. Shrek is at least a hero on the same scale as Skywalker, but he brings with him an important messages cloaked in a fairytale satire. We learn something from him we don’t learn from the Star Wars movies.

On that point, it’s worth mentioning the tone of the humour in the Shrek films, established in the very first Shrek film. We’ve already covered how Shrek is born out of contradictions, but we find that this principle applies to everything else in the film. The setting of the film is Far Far Away, a land where fairytale characters live – but always with a twist. Take Fiona for instance; her story is simply Sleeping Beauty. But the twist is that she’s sort of faking it, not sleeping at all, and gets angry at Shrek for rescuing her when she doesn’t want to be.

The contradiction there is clear: Sleeping Beauty is a classic story of romance and mythology, whereas everything about Fiona is crass and heavily grounded. We’re sneaking dialectics in at every turn, reinforcing the overall theme of not judging things on how they appear (it’s no coincidence that Fiona’s beauty is itself a facade for the ugliness of an ogre underneath).

Shrek therefore can clearly be said to be an excellently effective vehicle for a deeply important message about acceptance and appearances. And its presented in a way that even children are able to accept, not even realising it. We laugh, but at the same time we are enriched. Going back to Star Wars again, the lessons to be learned from that film are of a far more limited scope. Of course, we are excited by the Death Star assault sequence, and the emotional core of Skywalker’s yearning for an exciting life is a strong one, but it falls flat on teaching us a useful message. At most, Star Wars teaches us that good can beat evil, or that we should stand up against tyranny. Shrek not only covers these themes, but covers more themes, and also does it in a more compelling package.

As Shrek himself says, ogres are like onions. Shrek the character, like Shrek the film, has many layers. We don’t immediately realise the full import of the work as we consume it, but it’s built in a way that this doesn’t matter. And this is a key part of explaining the longterm importance of Shrek.

Shrek makes it big in Hollywood

After the runaway success of Shrek, it’s no surprise that sequels soon followed. So far, we’ve had Shrek 2Shrek the ThirdShrek Forever After, some spinoff mini-films in Shrek the Halls, Scared Shrekless, Puss in Boots, as well as Shrek the Musical. Of course, many of these are simply shameless cash-ins, the Hollywood machine in action, but their prevalence indicates an ongoing acceptance and relevance of the Shrek character.

Audiences love Shrek, which I can without hesitation attribute to the reasons outlined above. He’s the lovable antihero that teaches us important life lessons. He fills a gap that is created by the dearth of soulless summer blockbusters, remakes, and unfulfilling superhero movies put out year after year. Think of the most recent film you saw at the cinema. It’s likely an American-made film with high production values. Maybe you laughed, cried, screamed at the scary bits or had your pulse race at some exciting bits. But did it teach you that a grouch can be tender? Or that an annoying upbeat singing Donkey can turn out to be the most loyal friend? Unlikely.

A point I’d raise here more as an aside than anything would be how the humour evolved in the films, though not necessarily for the better. In the first Shrek film the humour mostly derives from the parody of famous fairytale characters. If you can think of a figure from a fairytale story, it’ll be lampooned in Shrek. For example, Big Bad Wolf is not actually big or bad at all, he’s actually quite softly spoken and is unexpectedly friends with the Three Little Pigs.

But in later films, this basic parody principle slightly shifts. The references stop being the original fairytales, but instead modern day things. Shrek 2, for instance, largely takes place in Far Far Away – now a city loosely based on the Los Angeles area. And we get things like a strange COPS parody. It’s a subtle move, but it’s apparent when watching the films with this in mind.

The reason this is relevant to our main argument is that the underlying principle is still the same. Shrek 2 and the later films are still broadly within the genre of parody as the foremost comedic device. And it’s through parody and satire that the elements of Shrek that we’ve identified as important – namely the delivery of the dialectical synthesis via appreciable aesthetics – are effective. So whilst the odd humour of Shrek 2 onwards could potentially have been a stumbling block in my thesis, I’d argue that in fact they reinforce my main points.

I would now like to move onward from the Shrek cinematic works onto his ongoing legacy.

Shrek lives on

I’ve already listed the many sequels and spinoffs that the original Shrek film spawned. But beyond this, Shrek’s indirect influence is obvious through a number of spiritual sequels. Computer-animated films are now the norm. Disney puts out films like Cars, and Wreck-It Ralph (sometimes via Pixar) and it doesn’t raise an eyebrow. Even DreamWorks themselves have ridden the Shrek-wave. Would Kung Fu Panda have been made if it hadn’t been for Shrek? (I think Wreck-It Ralph might be an ever more direct influence, if you examine the relucant hero character traits and even partial character design elements, to some extent).

What these films are trying to do then, is recreate the Shrek magic – with mixed results. Pixar receive a lot of acclaim for their films such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo Up. But none have produced a character with the same ongoing appeal as Shrek. And Shrek still sells, with a fifth film rumoured to be in the works by some sources.

Shrek merchandise can still be bought, even when a Shrek movie isn’t currently out. And he has other influences too; the ubiquity of Smashmouth songs in films of the early 00s (play someone All Star and they’ll likely attribute it to either Shrek or Rat Race) can be directly attributed to a resonance in the collective consciousness (what Hegel himself termed the Zeitgeist) inspired by Shrek. I’m even willing to coin the term Shrekgeist to describe the situation, especially as we come finally to examine Shrek’s evolution into an internet cult figure.

The Shrekgeist cometh

I personally can’t recall where I first read about Shrek on the internet, but it’s apparent that I was late to the party. Inexplicably in recent years, people on the internet began exhibiting a newfound appreciation for Shrek and his contributions to society. They began to revisit the Shrek films, with a cultlike adoration. I’d attribute this to the longterm lingering Shrekgeist. We’d loved Shrek all along, we’d just never stopped to think about it.

A good source of information on the Brogre movement would be the /r/brogres subreddit, which contains many useful resources, most famously the Shrek is Love, Shrek is Life [NSFW] greentext story from 4chan. But you’ll notice it in any online community if you look hard enough. Common elements include references to Shrek’s love of onions, and how anyone who doesn’t like Shrek is a “Farquaad.” The group can hence be legitimately identified as a legitimate movement by the characteristics of an established membership, communal values and shared points of reference. It’s undoubtedly something we ought to take seriously.

On the face of it, of course, the internet’s love of Shrek might look like just another fad. A kind of ironic faux-appreciation for an average early-CGI family film. Granted, this has been true for so many other things – just look at rickrolling. But with this phenomena, the ‘joke’ is that the thing is knowingly bad. We rickroll because we place low aesthetic value on Never Gonna Give You Up. Our protestations to the contrary all become part of the joke. But Shrek is different.

The internet’s love for Shrek doesn’t have this self-conscious awareness of the object of adoration being unworthy. The love for Shrek is real. And there are really only two explanations for why this is:

1. The internet has reached a new level of irony – one that ascends to a pure, unbridled genuine appreciation. But if so, this cannot be called irony at all, as it’s impossible to distinguish from genuine appreciation either externally (the observable behaviours being compulsive watching of Shrek, talking about Shrek, and purchase of Shrek merchandise) or internally (the qualitative experience of loving Shrek).
2. Or, brogres do genuinely have an appreciation for Shrek. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s just that straightforward.

The second possibility seems to me to be the correct one. The age of the average brogre would match up with someone who grew up with the Shrek films during their aesthetically formative years. So Shrek is kind of deeply rooted in the consciousness of the brogre. And it’s not even that far-fetched that Shrek could be appreciated sans irony. The films are funny, Shrek is likeable, and the plot is utterly unobjectionable. If any character is worthy of a true renaissance, it has to be Shrek.

One could draw a parallel with the ‘brony’ movement, which is similar to the brogre movement down to even the name (bronies are grown male fans of the children’s animated series My Little Pony). But the brony movement is laced with an awkward self-awareness that drives it closer to the ‘enhanced level of irony’ hypothesis suggested above. Brogres don’t have conventions.

The brogre movement doesn’t show any signs of slowing. If anything, it’s accelerating everyday.  It’s only a matter of time before this niche internet community goes viral. It’s likely we’ll see the whole thing come full circle and open Shrek appreciation becoming the norm.

Concluding remarks

I’ve set out a narrative that charts Shrek’s rise from a simple children’s book character to viral internet sensation. I’ve provided some insights into why Shrek initially had immediate acceptance, and why these can go on to explain his ongoing appeal to this day.

Shrek is one of the greatest comedy creations of our time (or at least, the past two decades) – that goes without saying. But not so much for anything in particular he said or did; instead, we need to recognise that Shrek has come to form a key part of the collective consciousness that has gone on to impact everything else. The exact mechanisms that this works through are not always immediately clear (I would be keen to see an analysis of the influence of Shrek on the current Marvel run of films such as The Avengers) but are there. Shrek’s always in the back of our minds.

He’s the ogre we deserve. He’s the ogre we need.