Have you ever seen Shrek and Shrek 2? I hope the answer is yes. Confession: The first two Shreks are two of my favorite childhood movies (the third and fourth Shreks just didn't get at my heart in the same way). So why are the first two Shreks two of my favorite movies you ask? Not only are the movies funny, but the soundtracks are pretty dance party ready, and don't get me started on my soft spot for Donkey.
There are some pretty advanced themes in all of the Shrek movies. For one, the "ogres are like onions" line is pretty rich. It speaks to the fact that we all have different layers and complexities hidden beneath the surface. Second, there is something to be said for having a kick-ass (pardon my french) female lead who doesn't need a man to do her bidding for her (yes, you could argue that Fiona was rescued by Shrek in the original Shrek, but she was really the one that got them past the dragon and through the forest). Third, the fact that Fiona gives up the prestige, money, security, and power with Lord Farquaad to be with her true love Shrek is so romantic. It's refreshing to see a capable, grown woman (okay- she's a princess) deciding her own fate. And lastly, Fiona choosing love and emotional connection over physical beauty (Shrek isn't the prettiest, but that's okay!) time and time again is HUGE. Picking an ogre over THE Prince Charming- the hottie mc hottie of Far Far Away cue swooning is worthy of discussion.
Now, I sort of went on a tangent there, but the part of Shrek that I really want to talk about is the idea of Prince Charming.
Well goodness, the idea of Prince Charming is super appealing. He's a man's man. He sweeps you off your feet. He has perfect hair. He has an amazing body. He sings or plays guitar or is a total bad boy. I don't know what you're into, but pick your ideal dreamboat guy or girl, and pretend I am serving him on a figurative platter to you.
And this is where I love Shrek! The notion of the perfect person is completely dispelled. Prince Charming doesn't really exist in Far Far Away, and I hate to break it to you, but he doesn't exist in real life.
Prince Charming is physically and superficially so on point. And he seems so genuine and caring from afar, but when you really get to know this guy, he's the worst. He is trying to breakup a perfectly imperfect and normal marriage and reek havoc just to subdue his power-hungry mother.
The point I am trying to get at is that people aren't perfect. Fairytale creatures aren't perfect. And in Shrek, you get fleshed out characters where you get to see their good and their ugly. Fiona and Shrek have problems as a couple. They have character flaws. Shrek has a temper, and Fi has some pretty stubborn tendencies. If you keep "holding out for a hero" like Fairy Godmother suggests to Fiona in the suspenseful, AMAZING dance scene/dramatical ball/diva performance, you are going to be disappointed.
A prince charming, a perfect princess, "holding out for a hero," they are all social constructs of sorts. From the time that we are young children, we are hit over the head with the idea that there are perfect people, perfect characters, things that can save us and make us better. In particular, movies for young children (at least the ones I saw when I was younger with the exception of Mulan and a few others) reinforce these ideas by having characters with perfect bodies, perfect, ever loyal friends, and easily fixable problems who are often fixed not by the main character themselves, but by a Prince Charming character who just poof makes all the bad and ugly go away.
I got to thinking about this Prince Charming character. Once I got past his devilishly handsome looks, he really had nothing to offer. He was needy, dependent on his Mother, whiny, and a total jerk (I will give it to him with the fighting, horse riding, and dancing). But he's so self-absorbed (I feel like I know this guy because I have seen this movie so many times). That's not to say that Prince Charming isn't perfectly lovable to the right kind of person (God help them), but he definitely has his what I am going to call "ugly and bad bits," and those "ugly and bad bits" need to be acknowledged.
Shrek and Fiona love each other for a multitude of reasons. But I think it is important to note that they truly see each other for who they are really are. Shrek is an ogre. Fiona is a princess. They come from different walks of life. They have different mannerisms and behaviors. They have "ugly and bad bits," and they still love each other.
Shrek and Fiona work because they love ALL of each other. Yes, even the "ugly and bad bits" because those "ugly and bad bits" make up the whole picture of the person (maybe ogre is technically more correct here) they love.
There is no perfect love. There is no perfect friendship. There is no perfect person. There is no perfect anything. Humans are flawed at the core.
There is no "holding out for a hero." There is no "hero" who will sweep you off your feet, make all of your problems go away, and turn your world into what you want it to be. There are people. There are people who have amazing qualities and can make you feel like a million bucks. And even those people, those people who you love so much and who make you feel so hot and awesome and over the moon have flaws. The friends you care about, that near impeccable teacher, the fantastic employee, they all have flaws. I am not recommending "settling" for a friend or a love interest who doesn't respect you and align with your values, but I am saying we often forget that well intentioned people make mistakes and hurt our feelings.
Even Prince Charming isn't always so charming. The takeaway here is twofold.
1) Go watch Shrek and Shrek 2. Right now. They are awesome movies.
2) Don't hold out for a hero. They don't exist. Try to weigh the good and the bad in the people you care about, but realize that people aren't perfect and cut them some slack. We are all just doing the best we can.