As for me, I think Shrek is important because the most valuable thing in life is happiness. I mean this quite literally. There's a mountain of evidence for it, if you're willing to look at the research. And I think movies can help us get there. Or at least not get in the way.
Now, when I say "happiness," I'm not talking about the transient buzz that you get from, say, heroin. I'm talking about a sense of fulfillment. A sense that you are where you're meant to be. That you are doing what you're meant to do. That you are who you're meant to be. And, most importantly, that you like who you are.
It's hard to find this sense of fulfillment in life. For some people, it comes from family. For some, it comes from career. For some, it comes from a hobby. For some, it comes from religion. For some, it comes from drugs.
The problem is, these things are not always enough. And this is where Shrek comes in.
See, the first time I watched Shrek, I knew something was wrong with it. Not with the movie itself, of course—that's a classic and a timeless masterpiece—but with me. And the problem was that I couldn't figure out what was wrong.
You see, watching Shrek for the first time is an experience that everyone should have. You sit there in the dark, watching the story unfold on the screen in front of you. And as you watch it, you find yourself actually caring about the characters. You laugh when they laugh. You want them to succeed. You feel sad when something bad happens to them.
Now, I'll be the first to admit that this experience isn't unique to Shrek. A lot of movies can do this. The difference is that with most movies, you watch them once and that's the end of it. You may remember certain scenes or jokes or what-have-you, but you don't dwell on them.
But with Shrek, it's different. After you've watched it once, you'll probably want to watch it again. And again. And again. Before you know it, you've seen it fifty times. And each time, you pick up on something new.
I'll give another example. Let's say you've just watched the movie Tron, and you really liked it. So, you watch it again. This time, you pay attention to the cinematography. The way the light cycles chase each other on the screen. The way the discs explode when they hit something. The way the digitized effects blend into the real-life footage. The way the scenes are set to an electronic version of Liszt's 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody.
This attention to detail only increases your enjoyment of the movie. In fact, you enjoy it so much that you want to share this experience with others. So, the next time you're with a group of friends, you tell them how you watched Tron and how much you liked the cinematography.
They stare at you blankly.
You try again. You say, "You know, the way they did the light cycles and stuff."
Finally, one of your friends gets it. "Oh yeah!" he says. "I remember that. It was cool how they did that."
But he doesn't really remember it. Not the way you remember it. To him, it's just a vague idea of something that happened, not an ingrained memory seared into his brain like it is for you. You see his reaction and you try to forget about it. After all, what does it matter? You know what you saw, and in your mind, that's all that matters.
But it's this mindset that keeps you going back to Shrek. And it's this mindset that will lead you to other movies, and then other TV shows, and then books, and then games, and then pictures of bunny rabbits with misplaced captions on Tumblr.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. This is a story about how I lost myself, but it's not my story. It's my brother's. My brother—let's call him Michael—had a similar experience with Shrek, except his was even more powerful because it was the first time he'd experienced it.
At the time, our family had just gotten cable, and one of the channels happened to be MTV. At this point in time, MTV was still playing music videos, so my brother and I would always sit in front of the TV watching music videos whenever we could. One day, Shrek came on. We didn't know anything about it. We hadn't read the book it was based on, and we hadn't seen the trailers. All we knew is that there was a movie with a bunch of animals talking.
When the movie ended, we were speechless. In fact, our jaws were on the floor. We didn't know movies could make you feel this way. For the next few days, all we could talk about was Shrek. We told our parents, our friends, anyone who would listen about this movie we'd seen. Of course, none of them understood. I mean, how could they? They hadn't seen it.
But something else happened when we watched that movie. It got under our skin in a way nothing else ever had. After the first time, we had to watch it again. And again. And again. Soon, we knew every line in the movie. Not just the main ones, but every single line. And we didn't just watch it. We analyzed it. We took scenes apart and put them back together again. We tried to find all the little details that the creators had hidden in the background artwork.
As the years passed, this process never changed. Shrek became a part of us. I remember getting sick one year and missing a week of school. I stayed in bed and watched Shrek at least once every day that week.
A few years later, a sequel was released. My brother and I went to see it on opening night. We saw it again the next day, and again the next day, and again the day after that… well, you get the idea.
We never did anything with other kids our age. Our lives were Shrek, and Shrek alone. When people would ask us what we were into, we always had the same answer: Shrek. They usually laughed and made fun of us, but we didn't care. As far as we were concerned, they just didn't get it.
When high school came around, I decided to change things up a bit. Instead of watching Shrek, I listened to music and read books. Michael didn't like these changes too much. He stuck with the Shrek stuff. I sometimes wonder where we would be now if I had encouraged him to listen to music and read books instead.