Editor's Note: Shrekked
Of all the pieces we've published this year, none has provoked as passionate a response as Eric Metaxas's review of Shrek, the summer hit that is now second only to The Lion King in the all-time box-office rankings for animated features ["Shrek: Happily Ever Ogre," July/August 2001]. CHRISTIANITY TODAY'S online Film Forum has been a particularly lively site, with responses to Metaxas from a host of readers, including film reviewer Peter Chattaway, who has frequently appeared in the pages of BOOKS & CULTURE. Leaving aside the specifics of agreement or disagreement, what's striking is not only the sheer volume of response-evidently an astonishing number of our readers saw Shrek almost as soon as it was released-but also the degree of engagement. Movies, for better or worse, are the lingua franca of our culture, or as close to a common language as we come. Here are three letters selected from the many we have received.
Eric Metaxas's preachy, indignant review of Shrek forgets that the rose-colorization of fairy tales is largely an invention of the twentieth century, and that in his quest to create palatable entertainment for large audiences Disney had to strip folklore of much of its moral and cultural authenticity. In the fairy tales of Grimm and countless others, moral frailty and bad taste figure just as prominently as Prince Charming and Snow White. Crude humanity can be the difference between an instructional tale that has relevance to the reader/viewer and one that is mere entertainment. Shrek is not high art, and as Metaxas rightly points out, it goes over the top at points. But the moral and aesthetic universe it operates in is far more interesting than that of the old Disney movies.
Italo Calvino, a great student of the genre, wrote: "Those who know how rare it is in popular (and nonpopular) poetry to fashion a dream without resorting to escapism will appreciate these instances of a self-awareness that does not deny the invention of a destiny, ...