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The Psychological Concepts in Shrek

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Introduction

The 2001 movie Shrek, tells the tale of an unsociable ogre who lives in a secluded swamp. He loves being alone, but he is soon accompanied by a talkative donkey who wants to be his friend. Shrek’s world gets turned upside down when he realizes his swamp has been overrun by hundreds of fairytale creatures. The creatures have been banished there by Lord Farquaad, the king who hates all fairytale creatures, so Shrek and Donkey set out to take his swamp back. When they find Lord Farquaad, he promises to give Shrek back his swamp on the condition that he rescues Princess Fiona for him and brings her back to his kingdom. Shrek and Donkey find her castle, defeat the dragon, and grab Fiona from the highest room in the tallest tower. Fiona is disappointed when she sees an ogre and a donkey are her hero’s, but she is relieved to find out Lord Farquaad is waiting for her. On the journey home, Shrek starts to fall for beautiful Princess Fiona, but he does not know the secret she is hiding. This essay will explore the psychological concepts of prejudice, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, confirmation bias, and schizoid personality throughout the movie Shrek (2001).

The Concept of Prejudice

In the movie Shrek (2001),the psychological concept of prejudice is apparent throughout many scenes in the movie. Early in the film, there are fairytale creatures being sold and locked up behind bars by knights who work for Lord Farquaad. The creatures are being exiled from the town because they are unwanted by the townspeople and seen as pests. The townspeople have preconceived notions about all fairytale creatures including Shrek. Prejudice is when someone has discriminatory feelings toward a person or group without reason. An example of prejudice is how the Japanese Americans were treated by Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Though these people had nothing to do with the Japanese bombing the US, people still mistreated them because of their Japanese descent. Since Japan was now America’s enemy, all the Japanese Americans were forced to live in internment camps because they were considered a threat to national security. Americans had no reason to believe any Japanese Americans were a threat or should be put in camps, other than their ethnicity. This was prejudice against the Japanese Americans. According to Crawford and Brandt (2019), “The key factor that appears to tie [target] groups together, and therefore underlies generalized prejudice research, is the low status of the target groups” (p. 1456). Shrek, along with the other fairytale creatures, are viewed by others as “less than”. They are not considered normal and are not given the same rights as humans. Since all fairytale creatures are seen as having low status and Shrek falls into this category, they are all a target.

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Another example of prejudice in the movie is how Shrek was treated when he went to Lord Farquaad’s kingdom. There was a man in a Lord Farquaad costume at the gate and immediately after spotting Shrek the man was scared. Shrek tries to ask the man for directions, but the man runs away. Even though Shrek is harmless, the man has no interest in interacting with him because he knows Shrek is an ogre. In the town, everyone is prejudice toward fairytale creatures which is why the man had a negative reaction when seeing Shrek. The only reason the townspeople have this reaction is because of fairytale creatures’ appearances. If Shrek looked like a normal human, no one would treat him differently. This is the same case with racial prejudice in America. People are prejudice towards another group solely based on outward appearance. African Americans face racism on a daily basis due to their phenotypicality. People who are prejudice against African Americans look for a stereotypical appearance of dark skin and curly hair (Maddox and Perry 2017). Once these traits are spotted, “racial stereotypes and prejudices can guide judgment and behavior toward individual group members” (Maddox and Perry 2017). When people see Shrek, they automatically see his green skin and large stature. These cues tell them that he is an ogre and they know they do not like ogres, so they have a negative reaction toward him.

The final example of prejudice in the film is during Lord Farquaad and Fiona’s wedding. Before even meeting Fiona face to face, Lord Farquaad was in love with her beauty. He was also in love with the fact that he would be a “true” king once he married the princess. Before their wedding was finished, the sun set and Fiona’s secret was revealed: she was an ogress. Lord Farquaad was absolutely disgusted by Fiona’s new appearance and ordered the guards to take her away. This is an example of prejudice because when Fiona was human, Lord Farquaad was infatuated by her, but when she was an ogress, he was outraged. Nothing was different about her rather than her outward appearance. Research shows that, “Prejudice may be so practiced by people high in social dominance orientation that they may automatically display prejudice and discrimination against those seen as inferior or deviant for the group norm” (O’Brien, Latner, and Hunter 2015). Lord Farquaad wants humans to be the dominating group in the kingdom. Once he realized Fiona was not completely human, he began to look at her as inferior and did not believe she would be fit as his queen. Though being an ogress would not affect anything other than her appearance, she still faced prejudice from Lord Farquaad.

Bodily Dismorphia

Another apparent psychological concept from the movie Shrek (2001) is Bodily Dysmorphia. The character who portrays this concept is Fiona, a princess who has been locked away in a tower and is guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. Cursed as a child, Fiona would turn into an ogre at sundown every night until she received true love’s first kiss. When Shrek rescued Fiona, he told her that she would get to meet her prince, Lord Farquaad, the following day. When she noticed it was about to be sundown while they were walking in the forest, she started making up excuses as her anxiety increased. She was saying things like, “We should set up camp because there are robbers in the woods” (Warner, Williams, Katzenberg, Hartwell (Producers) & Adamson, Jenson (Directors), 2001). Shrek told her they would make it in one day if they traveled back to Lord Farquaad’s castle overnight, but she insisted and said, “I need to find somewhere to camp NOW” (Warner, Williams, Katzenberg, Hartwell (Producers) & Adamson, Jenson (Directors), 2001). Those with Body Dysmorphia show signs “associated with clinically significant distress and/or impairment in functioning” (Wilver, Summers, Garrat, Carlton, & Cougle, 2018). Fiona did not want anyone to see what she turns into at night. She only likes people to see her during daylight as a pretty princess. She became very distressed when she saw the sun going down. Knowing that if she did not find shelter soon, Shrek and Donkey would see her turn into an ogre.

Another example of Body Dysmorphia of Fiona in the movie Shrek (2001)is when she finally was in her room away from Shrek and Donkey she was peeking through the door and listening to their conversation. Fiona was thinking about coming out to conversate and show Shrek and Donkey who she really was until fear got the best of her. Shrek was saying he thought no one likes him because he is an ogre. He also said, “They judge me before they even know me, that’s why I’m better off alone” (Warner, Williams, Katzenberg, Hartwell (Producers) & Adamson, Jenson (Directors), 2001). In Fiona’s face you immediately saw the heartbreak in her eyes. She closed the door and did not come out for the rest of the night. You can tell this discouraged her even more about her self image and now she thought she would forever be alone if people found out her secret. Even though Shrek was an ogre and would not judge her, she was too worried about her self-image and how ugly she felt. This shows the concept of Body Dysmorphia because she immediately was sad about hearing that “ogres are better off alone” which intensified her own sadness.

The last example of Body Dysmorphia from Fiona in the movie Shrek (2001) is when Donkey found Fiona in the shack where she stayed overnight. Fiona was trying to hide from him and tiptoed around trying to be quiet then fell through the ceiling. Donley saw her as an ogre and started screaming for help. Fiona frantically tried to get him to get him to be quiet. You saw the panic in her eyes, and she was filled with anxiety that Shrek would find out. Donkey does not believe her when she tells him she is the princess and says, “No, this is me” (Warner, Williams, Katzenburg, Hartwell (Producers) & Adamson, Jenson (Directors), 2001). When Donkey says she looks different, she said, “I’m ugly okay. I’ve been this way as long as I remember. Every night I become this, this horrible ugly beast” (Warner, Williams, Katzenburg, Hartwell (Producers) & Adamson, Jenson (Directors), 2001). She cried to Donkey and was embarrassed for him to have found out. We can see that Fiona definitely has Body Dysmorphia because in a study about individuals with this disorder researchers, indicated that “female participants were more likely than male participants to report elevated generalized anxiety symptoms” (Schneider, Mond, Turner, & Hudson, 2019). Fiona could not see that she will not be judged by Shrek, and she was not judged by Donkey. This disorder makes her more worried about her own self image than others are. She is hard on herself even though Donkey sees nothing wrong with it. Shrek most definitely would not have judged her, but she believes in her mind no princess should look like this.

Overall, Body Dysmorphia is associated with those who are “most frequently concerned about features related to their face or head. Such as their skin, hair, or nose” (Grant, Lust, & Chamberlain, 2019). Fiona was most definitely concerned with what her face and color of her skin looked like. She believed her bodily image as an ogre was not fit for a princess. She believed she was an ugly beast at night even though she was pretty. She picked apart her image more than any other individual would have. She had friends who would have loved her regardless, yet she was too overwhelmed about how she did not like what she saw in the mirror.

Confirmation Bias

The smash-hit Shrek (2001), is an animated movie with core themes of psychological concepts. A particular concept that is shown throughout the movie is confirmation bias. The main character of the movie, Shrek is an ogre that lives in his swamp all alone, because all of the townspeople and even the other fairy tale creatures think that he is a monster. However, Shrek is under a harsh stereotype ogre portray, because he is a very nice ogre. As a result of living a life of solitude and mistreatment, Shrek has confirmation bias. An example of Shrek’s confirmation bias is when he overhears Fiona ranting to Donkey about her curse of being an ogre, and he automatically assumes she is talking about him. These actions transcend Shrek into a downward spiral of preexisting beliefs that all people are disgusted by him. Engulfed with emotion, Shrek immediately finishes his quest, hands over Fiona to Lord Farquaad, and retreats to the comfort of his swamp.

Confirmation bias is whenever people purposely seek out information or actions that confirm their opinion, and they do not listen to information that contradicts it. Confirmation bias influences how people form and express their opinions. Examples of confirmation bias are in everyday life, but confirmation bias has had a particularly long history of helping white people discriminate against African Americans and it still occurs today. According to Carly Rivers (2018), confirmation bias “undoubtedly helped the defense in the 2013 trial in the death of Trayvon Martin. Lawyers successfully “thuggized” the black teenager, who was walking home carrying candy and a bottle of tea when he was shot by a white neighborhood watch member.” Martin was a young black man with no criminal records, he went to school, and he even had good grades. Although he was not guilty of any crime, the defense found evidence of a previous minor problem he had in school, overdramatized the previous situation in school by animating a video showing how he “attacked” the white man who shot him, and used it against him as evidence. The jury found Martin guilty, even though there was no actual evidence. The jury portrays an example of confirmation bias. “Throughout U.S. history, confirmation bias has helped some white people use the image of the evil black man for their own ends (Rivers 2018).”

In the previously mentioned Shrek scene, Shrek is the one who portrays confirmation bias. Shrek has been pushed into a stereotyped category of how ogres are mean and ugly monsters. Shrek eventually gives up on trying to be the actual nice ogre he is and conform to what people think he is. His view of himself throughout the beginning of the movie is that he is happy alone, isolated from everyone else, because everyone else is scared of him.

Later in the movie, he embarks on a quest to save his swamp home for Lord Farquaad to rescue a princess and bring her back to him. Throughout this quest, he befriends Donkey and Fiona who were both scared of Shrek at first due to stereotypes of ogres, but then they realized how much of a softy Shrek is. Shrek, throughout the journey, starts to fall in love with Princess Fiona. What Shrek does not know is that Fiona is a princess by day but an ogre just like him by night. Donkey eventually figures out about Fiona’s secret. Towards the end of the movie, confirmation bias is shown when Fiona is talking to Donkey about her secret about being an ogre when Shrek overhears the conversation between them and automatically thinks she is talking about him. Confirmation bias is shown because Shrek’s opinion about himself and what other people think about him was in his mind justified by what Fiona said about being an ogre. Deep down Shrek always felt like people hated him, but he started to change his mind whenever he met Fiona and Donkey, but he quickly resorted back to his first impressions after he heard that conversation. That negative opinion portrays confirmation bias throughout the movie.

Schizod Personality Disorder

The final apparent psychological concept from the movie Shrek (2001) is Schizoid Personality disorder also known as ScPD. It is “one of the “odd cluster “ or ”clusterA “ personality disorders in DSM-IV” (Triebwasser, Enemerinski, Roussos, & Siever, 2012). This disorder typically happens in early childhood. People with ScPD are characterized by ” a pervasive pattern of detachment from social relationships and a restricted range of expression of emotions in interpersonal settings” ([APA], 1994). When having this disorder, you are more likely to “prefer being alone, have little to say, feeling unable to experience pleasure, and come off as dull and emotionally cold” (Esterberg, Goulding, & Walker, 2010). In Shrek 2001, the main character, Shrek is a homebody and kept to himself. In a scene he screams, “Get out of my swamp!” to everyone who gets near his home. He shuts everyone out because he prefers being alone.

All causes occur in early childhood and “are almost exact or close to the following: having parents or other relative who has ScPD, having parrents who was cold or unresponsive to emotional needs, suffer from child abuse, neglect, or other mistreatment” (Treibwasser, Enemerinski, Roussos, & Siever, 2012). What caused Shrek to feel this way is because all the villagers never liked him and saw him as a dangerous monster. With him feeling out of the loop and not like everyone else it caused pain and neglect on Shrek’s brain. When you are struggling with ScPD you have symptoms of just wanting to be alone and in your own space. You were probably the one called loner or loser just because you wanted to always be with just yourself.

Symptoms vary but they are all around the same focus. One would lack close friends because they feel like all they need is themselves. With that, they don’t desire close relationships because they see no need to. They are typically feel and are thought of someone who is cold hearted, detachment or unaffectionate. Shrek didn’t care what the villagers thought of him. He didn’t even care about Farquaad’s or Fiona’s criticism towards him. The only thoughts and judgements that he cared about what his own. He also wanted to rescue Fiona alone implying that he wanted to do all the work by himself and gain credit for the action. As you can tell, Shrek just wanted to be alone in general. Schizoid personality disorder is visible in Shrek 2001because of the main character, symptoms, causes, and scenarios.

Conclusion

The iconic movie Shrek is an animated children’s film, but it has more psychological value portrayed than one commonly realizes. The film includes multiple psychological concepts throughout it. This essay explored the psychological concepts of confirmation bias, prejudice, and body dysmorphia. It is ironic how many psychological metaphors and events happen in a children’s movie. This is a perfect representation of how psychology is integrated into society and pop culture. Psychological concepts surround everyone daily life, even in children’s movies like Shrek.

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