The Psychological Assessment of Shrek's Personality

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The Psychological Assessment of Shrek’s Personality

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Plot of the Film
  • Being Rejected by Others
  • Psychosexual Studies
  • Anxiety and Mechanisms of Defense
  • Id, Ego and Superego


Every day people get the opportunity of meeting others. Humans unintentionally form an impression about others they encounter. They get the sense of other’s character. Consequently, they decide to treat them or even judge them according to the preconceived notion about their image or personality. Therefore, how people perceive others also affects how they treat them and whether they decide to associate with them.

To better understand how people form impressions of others, the personality of Shrek will be analyzed. Shrek is a 2001 Dream Works animated movie based on William Steig’s fairy tale book. The patterns of behavior will be examined, as well as the emotional and thought experience that Shrek displays throughout the movie.

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The Plot of the Film

The main character, Shrek, is an ogre who lives alone in his swamp. Shrek runs into a loud donkey named Donkey and befriends him. Shrek discovers that fairytale creatures were sent to his home by Lord Farquaad. For Shrek to claim his land, he must go on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona from her tower so that Lord Farquaad can marry Fiona to become King. Shrek and Donkey to go to the castle, chain the dragon, and rescue Fiona. Fiona expected her night and shining armor but is disappointed to find that her night is an ogre. On the quest to bring Fiona to Lord Farquaad, Shrek and Fiona form feelings for one another, but both are unaware it. What Shrek doesn’t know, is that Fiona has a secret curse where she is transformed into an ogre after sunset, the only way to break the curse is first loves first kiss. Fiona and Lord Farquaad prepare to have their wedding ceremony while Shrek returns home to his swamp. Donkey helps Shrek come to terms with his love for Fiona and crashes the wedding. Shrek then breaks the curse with a kiss and permanently turns Fiona into an ogre. They then got married and started their lives together.

Being Rejected by Others

The humans are so fearful and disgusted by Shrek, and they don’t give him the chance to reveal who he is. They are instantly afraid of him and see him as a destructive monster instead of another living being with emotions. He believes that no one wants to befriend him, which leads him to push away others who do care for him. Shrek even refers to himself as a terrifying ogre. During Shrek vulnerable moments he says there’s a lot more to ogres than people think and that sometimes things are more than they appear. Shrek tells Donkey in one scene that ogres are like onions, they have layers. He later states that he wants to build a 10 ft wall around his land to keep the world out. Donkey questions what Shrek has against the world in the first place. Shrek is resistant to the topic but later reveals that it’s the world that has a problem with him. People take one look and run away from him. Shrek then says that’s why he is better off alone. Later on at the wedding, Lord Farquaad says towards Shrek, it’s rude enough being alive when no one wants you here which is followed by everyone laughing at Shrek for having feelings for Fiona. The world is tormenting Shrek because of his genetics. He must have been rejected by others while growing up.

During the movie, Shrek bumps into Donkey and scares away the men trying to capture Donkey. Donkey saw Shrek as a hero for saving him and befriended him even though Shrek was resistant. Donkey didn’t fear Shrek and treated him respectfully. In one scene Shrek tries to scare Donkey away, but Donkey isn’t afraid. Instead, he replied with a joke. Shrek asks why Donkey is following him, Donkey responds by saying he is alone and has no friends. Shrek assumes that donkey is afraid of him and questions why he wants to be his friend when others instantly fear him. Donkey tells Shrek he likes him because he has an I don’t care what anyone thinks kind of attitude. Ironically it does bother Shrek that others view him negatively.

Fiona saw herself as hideous as well because others consider ogres as hideous creatures. For her to be fully human again, her first love first kiss would break the spell. She requested that Shrek remove his helmet only to be disappointed that he is an ogre. They later developed feelings, but Shrek realized that she is a princess and he is an ogre, meaning she wouldn’t want to be with him. Then she turned to true form as an ogre and Shrek loved her even as an ogre.

Psychosexual Studies

According to Freudian’s psychosexual stages, there are five steps in the process of personality development. The levels consist of the oral stage, anal stage, phallic stage, latency stage, and genital stage. Freudian’s Theory comes from ideas relating to children’s level of pleasure. A child will find satisfaction with oral activities such as using a pacifier or sucking on their thumb. Thumb sucking is a defense against the anxiety that satisfies their sexual needs. In the movie, Shrek is constantly overeating or chewing on something to occupy his mouth. Shrek’s great appetite and pleasure in eating grotesque foods including mice, eyeballs, and beetles indicate that he might have an oral fixation. It could also be the result of not receiving enough oral stimulation when he was a child.

The anal phase is satisfied through aggressive behavior. During the early anal period, children receive gratification by behaving aggressively toward their parents for frustrating them. At the beginning of the movie, Shrek is seen peacefully and grotesquely getting ready for his day. He puts up a beware of ogre sign in front of his home because he enjoys his privacy. There is a pub that displays a poster saying, ogre wanted, with an image of Shrek’s face on it. As he is peacefully at home, a mob of men goes to his house with plans of capturing him for ransom. He scares the men away by describing how vicious ogres can be and yells at them. He then proceeds to laugh at the men as they cower away from him. As an example of the anal phase because Shrek doesn’t like others to bother him and decides to have fun by scaring the humans for bothering him.

The psychosexual development theory states that personalities develop because of childhood incidents and experiences. The latent stage is when one is not at all interested in sexual feelings and is not fully mature. The Latency period shows that he was not at all interested in Fiona and practically disregarded her. He saves her from the castle because he wanted his swamp back. However, later develops to the genital stage when sexual interests arise and Shrek cares about the well-being of Fiona besides his desires.

The genital stage consists of the onset of puberty causing the libido to become active. During this final stage, the individual develops a strong sexual interest in the opposite sex. This stage begins during adolescence but last throughout the rest of a person’s life. After completing all other phases, the individual should now be well-balanced and mature. The genital stage applies to Shrek because Shrek came to terms with his feelings for Fiona and will live the rest of his life with her.

The psychosexual development theory does consist of downfalls. Although Shrek is male, the approach is focused almost entirely on male development. Also, Freud’s theories are difficult to test, and the concept of the libido is impossible to measure; thus it cannot be verified. We do not know Shrek’s childhood experiences which makes it difficult to predict how his past has affected his current behavior.

Anxiety and Mechanisms of Defense

Another domain that will be used to analyze Shrek’s personality is anxiety and mechanisms of defense. Freud viewed anxiety as a warning sign for the ego and distinguished three types of anxiety being reality anxiety, neurotic anxiety, and moral anxiety, each of these anxieties reflect that something terrible is about to happen. When fear arises, the ego responds in two ways, the first being that it increases ways to problem solve, and secondly, the ego activates defense mechanisms.

Memories don’t just disappear from the unconscious. They continue to influence our behavior powerfully. The forces that try to keep painful or socially undesirable thoughts and memories out of the conscious mind is called defense mechanisms. The Conscious level is made up of ideas or motives that a person is currently aware of or is remembering. Shrek regularly has his swamp on his mind. He would do anything to save it because it is all he has, which is why he goes to rescue Fiona. His motive is to save his swamp so he can be away from the world.

Defense mechanisms are responses or strategies taken by the unconscious mind to help individuals cope with stress. Denial is one example of a defense mechanism in which a person refuses to believe or accept the reality or what is/has happened. The person copes with the stress by denying that they are bothered or denying that there is anything that is causing them to be upset in any way. Shrek uses denial when Donkey tells him he knows that Shrek likes Fiona. He thinks this because Princess Fiona would never fall in love with an ogre. Shrek refuses to accept that he does have those feelings for Fiona but eventually admits to it.

Repression is a defense mechanism that arouses thoughts of anxiety, feelings, and memories into our subconscious.() Donkey constantly asks Shrek why he can’t live with him in his swamp. He later states that he wants to build a 10 ft wall around his land to keep the world out. Donkey questions what Shrek has against the world in the first place. Shrek represses his feeling and is resistant to the topic. Later Shrek reveals that it’s the world that has a problem with him. People take one look and run away from him, and they judge him before they get to know him. Shrek then says that’s why he is better off alone.

In the same scene, Shrek uses displacement, which is the redirecting anger and other impulses toward a less threatening person or object. Shrek overheard Fiona and Donkey talking about how she would never want to be an ugly beast forever. Shrek misunderstood this and thought she would never want to be with an ogre. Donkey tries to convince Shrek to stop the wedding and reveal his feelings to Fiona before it is too late. Shrek is too angry to listen to Donkey and instead turns to Donkey and projects his anger towards Donkey by insulting him.

There are benefits and drawbacks of this theoretical perspective of anxiety and mechanisms of defense. The benefits being that there is evidence that supports the idea of projection, that people actively attempt to suppress their thoughts about something they do not enjoy about themselves. Also, there is evidence that when a stereotype that involves a trait applies to someone else, it more likely projection occurs. The drawbacks are that research is equivocal and it is difficult to conclude. For example, many believe that repressions happen in the short term, and others do not at all.

Id, Ego and Superego

Freud’s theory divides personality into three elements: id, ego, and superego. People are born with their id which consists of behaviors and instincts for one’s wants, preferences, and needs. People enter a stage of anxiety and frustration when things don’t go their way. It can sometimes lead to an overwhelming response that drives aggression and anger out of a person. In the movie, Shrek comes about his id when he lashes out on Donkey and tells him that he is annoying, pathetic, and useless, after being rejected by Fiona. This behavior represents the lack of satisfaction for Shrek’s wants and his need to get the anger out of his system.

Superego is Freud’s idea of the morality and beliefs an individual gain exteriorly, for the most part through his or her parents and society. One’s superego allows him or her to establish their judgment of right and wrong. In the movie, Shrek doesn’t let Donkey sleep outside even though he’s annoyed at Donkey because he knows that’s not the right thing to do. In this case, Shrek uses his superego to determine what is right for him to do in the situation. Another example of this is when donkey asks Shrek is he can go on the quest to save the princes. Shrek turns him down, and Donkey began singing about being alone which unconsciously made Shrek feel bad and allowed Donkey to go. This example represents Shrek’s superego because it is working with the unconscious id ego and contradicts what is right and wrong.

Ego is neither good nor bad but the response to the extent of society. One example in the movie is when Shrek forms feelings for Fiona, but his ego builds the judgment of reality and realizes she would not want to be with him. Throughout the movie, Shrek deals with his internalized conflict of being accepted or hated for being an Ogre. He satisfies his Id’s desires by terrorizing humans. He fulfills his superego by crashing the wedding, sharing his feeling with Fiona, and telling her the truth about Farquaad’s plans.

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