Food for Fairytales
by Andrea Brucculeri
Shrek (2001) is a unique “fairytale” story in that it presents the unlikely pair of a princess and an ogre. One of the ways the contrasts between these characters were made clear is through food. Throughout Shrek, food is used to show the deep contrasts between Shrek and society, and how Fiona is the perfect match for Shrek despite being more physically human.The character’s snacks and meals reveal that Shrek and Fiona were compatible partners.
Shrek is quickly established as having a traditionally repulsive diet. He is seen muting on a bowl of eyeballs (3:00) and threatening to squeeze the jelly out of people’s eyes, which he says goes well on toast (4:06). He doesn’t seem particularly impressed with regular human food, and yells at Donkey when the sidekick declares, “in the morning, I’m making waffles” (11:04). This serves to isolate him from the normal world, where all people and even talking donkeys are repulsed by his ogre ways. Shrek is even forced to preface some encounters with “look, I’m not gonna eat you,” just to have a conversation with someone (20:50). People are so afraid of him and his ways of consumption that he cannot connect with them, even if he wanted to. However, this does not discourage Shrek from enjoying his meals. He is seen looking over a table with a giant green slug, a pumpkin full of pink worms, and an unknown green goop (11:56). He eats this meal with apparent pleasure, only bothered by a tingle of guilt at leaving Donkey outside, or perhaps loneliness. This suggests that Shrek will need to find love with someone who accepts him for who he is, as he is not willing or able to change his ogre diet. He even personally identifies with traditionally undesirable foods, like the whole raw onion that he eats like an apple. He says he has layers, just like the onion (27:15). This suggests that Shrek knows there is more to himself than the scary ogre that others see. He surprisingly human on the inside, and has humans desires, like seeking companionship.
Although Fiona appears human during the day, her ogre form at night turns out to be her “true form” and also the body that she is the most connected with. While looking for breakfast for Shrek and Donkey, Fiona starts singing to a bird and eventually sings such a high note that the bird dies. Although this is unintentional, Fiona uses the bird’s eggs to make breakfast for everyone (50:16). This is a prime example of the “middle-ground” that is Fiona — ogre enough to kill an innocent bird, but human enough to use the eggs to make breakfast for her companions. Fiona’s instinct to make Shrek food is in line with her underlying desire to get to know him, as they two talk and bond as they eat. Later, she makes him a drum stick out of bugs and spider webs (56:20). This scene is marked by the budding romance between the two as Shrek realized how much Fiona accepts him for who he is.
The screen shot above is from 58:37, the conversation where Shrek and Fiona seem to fall in love. After Fiona expresses how much she loves the weed rat Shrek cooks, she sighs in disappointment at the idea of eating the fine foods of her wedding to Lord Farquaad. This shows that while she is outwardly a beautiful princess, she inwardly has the culinary taste of an ogre, and feels comfortable spending time with Shrek. Shrek then invites Fiona to his swamp so he can cook for her. This is significant because not only does Shrek continuously insists throughout the movie that he likes to be alone and wants no one else in his swamp, but because he is offering objectively disgusting foods that Fiona seems to find utterly dreamy. She’s leaning into him with a smile, and the sunset is giving her a golden glow and “mood-lighting” for both of them. Overall the conversation and presence of food has worked to bridge the physical human-ogre divide between these two and foster a new love.