Shrek, Feminism & Men's Issues
The other day, a concerned friend called me up after reading the inflammatory comments to my recent "My Dad, The Feminist" article. We spoke about why the mention of “feminism” raises so many hackles. What worried me more than usual is that one of the commentators mentioned that anti-feminist representatives included people with impressive credentials and educational qualifications.
“Apparently a degree does not really contribute towards liberal thinking,” I said to my friend who chuckled. “News flash!” he said with a tinge of sarcasm. Now I have to admit, that "trolls" and overzealous anti-feminists crowd my mind with their arguments to such an extent that I have somehow begun to see feminist messages in everything I see. Their strategy is strangely working against them. While for the most part I am a pacifist, this one issue seems to have triggered a rare combative side in me. I guess, only when our beliefs and convictions are questioned or attacked do we find the courage to defend them, especially when they are so widely misunderstood.
"So you are probably going to stop writing about feminism, right?" he asked in a tone that suggested he already knew my answer. "Nope" I answered as I balanced the phone in one hand and locked the door with the other. My friends and I were leaving to go see Shrek The Third. I would leave the bitter debate behind and enjoy this light-hearted movie, I decided quietly. But little did I know that this seemingly innocuous film would have anything in the least to do with feminism. Then again, it is quite likely that my already ripe psyche, fresh from the online debate, saw an unrelated scene in an animated film in this light and made a connection.
“Shrek 3 had a women’s lib angle to it!” I exclaimed as we got out of the movie theatre. “Not again!” my roommate groaned, “You know what the response is going to be.” she warned. But I was already rubbing my hands in delight. I have always liked Shrek. Not only was it the first film to deviate from the unrealistic and unidentifiable “happily ever after…” cliché, it also changed the stereotypes of Prince Charmings and Fair Godmothers in a funny but pungent manner. The satirical messages in this film that may be lost on the much younger children are interpretable by those who they are meant for. We are always told that appearances are deceptive. We are led to believe that we should not judge people by their looks or their labels. We are preached the virtues of forgiveness. We are taught to be independent and self-reliant.
Unfortunately, though, our childhood fables and bedtime stories contradict these wise postulates. Shrek changed all that and brought newer heroes for the little ones. Little girls grow up hoping to be “rescued” and learn the hard way that Prince Charming is already taken by Cinderellas and Snow Whites. Men are supposed to be the ones fixing problems, fighting dragons and crossing tricky bridges to towers where the imprisoned princess waits. Little boys try all their lives to live up to this “protector” image and end up with self-esteem issues because they couldn’t impress girls. The damsels in distress, the beautiful princesses and the knights in shining armor leave us wanting to fit into these pre-cast roles, in search of our own happy endings.
People underestimate these seemingly harmless fairy tales even though they make up our childhood theories about relationships and . In this past week, information provided by a lot of commentators, who were very mad at me for reasons beyond my comprehension, enlightened me quite a bit, unbeknownst to them of course. I found myself empathizing when reading about men who commit suicide because of financial demands and stay in a marriage in spite of verbal abuse because they feel trapped. While admitting to abuse is easier for women, for men it is a matter of going against the norms. I have to admit, I hadn’t thought about men’s issues as much before.
Truth be told, my heart does go out to the boys. In India, while women with a career are praised like there was no tomorrow, men bear the unstated, unsung onus of being breadwinners. And then it hit me. Wouldn’t feminism actually be the answer to these men’s issues as well? No, no, wait! Don’t dismiss it just yet. This is worth a thought. If women were to be financially independent, wouldn’t it mean a little more lax for the man of the house? If she were educated, she would be more likely to help out in household matters. This, of course, is if feminism is still perceived in the traditional, untwisted sense as social, cultural, economic and political equality. If the myths about feminism were to be debunked, people would realize that it holds the answers to men’s issues as much as women’s issues.
Educating women about the true essence of feminism would ensure that they don’t turn into radical believers of the concept. In Shrek 3, to my amazement, Princess Fiona, Snow White, Beauty and Cinderella find themselves in peril and for once decide to take matters into their own hands rather than waiting around for their knights. They actually make things a little easier for their respective partners who appreciate the assistance. Lets face it; even the knights in shining armors could use a break.
Shrek, Feminism & Men's Issues
- » Published on May 25, 2007
- » Type: Opinion
- » Filed under:
Author: Aditi Nadkarni
- Subscribe to RSS 2.0 feeds for:
- » Comments on this article
- » Culture
- » Culture: Social Issues
- » Culture: Society
- » Culture: Women
- » Culture: Men
- » Culture: Philosophy
- » Culture: Relationships
- » Media: Films
- » Media: Films - Hollywood
- » Politics: India
- » Politics: Freedom
- » Politics: South Asia
- » Desicritics.org articles by Aditi Nadkarni
- » All Opinion articles
- » All Desicritics.org articles