“Beautiful ain’t always pretty…” sings Shrek, a hideous ogre at first glance, in “Shrek the Musical”. This line to me amplifies a powerful message; everyone is beautiful in their own way, even if society doesn’t think so.
As some of you may know, I am performing in “Shrek the Musical” this weekend with Children’s Theater of a Mason. Never once have I been in a show with a deeper meaning than this one. Beneath the witty dialogue and humor pertaining to mostly, well, gas (seeing as how Shrek is an ogre), there is a legitimate lesson to be learned.
The storyline follows an ogre who’s back had been turned on the malevolent world for quite some time. When his isolated home had been overrun by fairytale creatures who were forced to inhabit his swamp by Lord Farquaad of the kingdom of Duloc. In exchange for his swamp, Farquaad gave Shrek the challenge of going on a quest to rescue Princess Fiona from a dragon-guarded castle so Farquaad would have a queen to marry and therefore he would become king. When Shrek is bringing the hard-headed, sassy princess back to Duloc, he falls in love with her. Yadda yadda yadda, Farquaad is incinerated or eaten by a dragon (depending on if you’re watching the musical or movie) and Fiona and Shrek live happily ever after.
Big deal, I’ll bet you’re saying. Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love and live happily ever after. What’s not cliché about that? Well, here’s the catch. Fiona had a curse placed on her that causes her to become an ogre at sunset. She lived in shame and awaited that day that true love’s kiss would break the spell and make her permanently dwell in a body that depicted her true form. When she and Shrek kiss, she devastatingly remains an ogre.
“I don’t understand,” she murmurs hopelessly. “I’m supposed to be beautiful.”
“But you are beautiful,” Shrek replies, grabbing her hands. To me, this line is very important. It shows that he fell in love with her personality, not her beauty. He isn’t repulsed by her outward appearance and adores the fact that she is like him.
According to Shrek, ogres are like onions. No, not because they smell bad or if you leave them in the sun too long they turn brown and sprout little white hairs: they both have layers. Obviously, in the real world, ogres don’t exist (sorry to crush any fantasies of fairytale creatures). He’s saying that judging things at first glance isn’t an accurate representation of a person; they’re more than they appear. The first lesson I learned from being a part of this show is to not judge a book by it’s cover. Although this is a very cliché saying, it still rings true to this day. On the surface, someone may appear to be an ugly, spiteful ogre, but on the inside, he is a hopeful man who aspires to be a hero and learns to love.
The dynamic characters of Shrek and Fiona bring me to my next point. Shrek began his life learning to hate everything and everyone. Fiona was bitter about being locked away for so long and was eager to be married to Lord Farquaad, a man who would provide her with a kingdom and true love’s kiss to break the spell. However, when these two come in contact, that all changed. Shrek learns to love someone in the world he once claimed to hate. Fiona detests the idea now of marrying someone she doesn’t love and falls for a creature that makes for an unlikely pair. What I’ve learned: love can change anyone.
So the next time I’m asked who my favorite princess is, I won’t say a skinny, flawless-haired mermaid or a beautiful damsel in distress whisked away by a handsome prince. I’ll say Princess Fiona, because she’s the one who’s life I would want to be living: not caring what anyone thinks about me and having someone who can love me for me.