What If Shrek Isn’t Love?

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book due out in 2021. Keep up to date with all progressions here and on instagram @barnkhan

Chapter Shrek)

You see guys when you think about it enough. Shrek is love. Shrek is life. Wait no. You’ve been brainwashed. Shrek is the illusion of love. But Shrek is modern life; that’s for real. And also, Jeff Bezos is Shrek.

Shrek is the archetypical representation of our modern desires. The film as a whole takes the entire human history of folklore, fairytales and fables: then in the best 95 minutes of your life condenses them all into one film, while simultaneously deconstructing, delivering and subverting all expectations of the genre. Indeed, Snow White, The Gingerbread Man and co had become individually dated and boring for our ever expanding minds (and ever decreasing attention spans). We needed them all at once, with Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, violence and adult jokes thrown in for good measure. Still not enough, many would check their phones intermittently while watching today. What does it take to truly engross someone now? If Shrek isn’t enough, then what is?

It is the peak of the genre, much like Amazon in terms of being an online shop. It gives us the entire history of everything, all the time, instantly, or a wait time of about the Shrek film to get a delivery by drone in some locations. It even made your ugly face feel a little bit better about being ugly. You fucking uggo.

Shrek is Keyser Söze from the Usual Suspects. The greatest trick Shrek ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. Much like the film he led you down one path while leaving all the evidence right in front of your eyes the whole time, he even played Smash Mouth over the top of it, just to see how far he could push us. We all remember what Shrek is trying to tell us:

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Bullied by society and cast aside for being ugly: much like Jeff Bezos was in primary school amirite? If that bald ass head was in my primary school I would have bullied him. Bullying is not OK. Shrek is presented to us as the protaganist, the hero. Despite his ugly appearance, he saves the princess, saves the fairytale creatures, saves the day, you know the story.

But what if you look a little deeper. Throughout the entire film Shrek reveals many sides of his personality: I have a great metaphor for this one: he is an onion.

But much like Bezos, at this onion’s core is a Machiavellian and manipulative soul that cares for no-one else but himself. He is only helping the townsfolk to GET THEM OUT OF HIS SWAMP THAT HE WANTS ALL TO HIMSELF LIKE THE PLANET MARS. He doesn’t treat Donkey very nicely, terrifies and beats up multiple humans who are already facing oppression under a fascist ruler, and of course he openly admits to the humans:

“But ogres, oh, they’re much worse. They’ll make a soup from your freshly peeled skin! They’ll shave your liver, squeeze the jelly from your eyes! Actually it’s quite good on toast…”

He tells you to your face that he is a murderous human eater. But hides it behind charm. Indeed did you not look inside Shrek’s house? The last words of my Shrek essay (my writing hasn’t improved much in 14 years, in fact it’s probably gone downhill) were “Where did Shrek get all the jars of eyeballs from?”.

As amazing as Amazon is, it’s weird people respect Jeff Bezos for being the richest guy ever. He is peak late-capitalism, a living metaphor for the world’s inequality. Everything all the time. But what’s the point of having it if you feel like you’re supporting slavery using it. The fact is many of us are forced to use it, like slave labour clothes from Primark, because it’s all we can afford. The other problem is that it is genuinely fantastic. So why does the easiest shopping service ever not feel quite right?

Indeed 2001 was just the beginning of the acceleration of our desires, and for Shrek. Despite being perfect in its nature, it was impossible for it to be advanced upon, as it was already everything at once. Our lust for more pushed it into the direction of the grotesque, past 5 main films, one film in 4-D two spin off films, 8 short films, and 4 television specials, including Christmas special “Shrek The Halls”… we clearly can’t get enough of everything all the time. Fuck, don’t forget the broadway musical too.

The human mind isn’t great at imagining such large numbers, and I don’t think we can truly imagine the global impact his wealth hoarding is having, as it’s hard to imagine a better world when madness has become so normalised. Wealth hoarding and tax avoidance could possibly be the most destructive things to society, it’s just hard to imagine a world with all the hoarded money in circulation.

Our obsession and inability to find satisfaction has led to where things are now: “Shrek is Love. Shrek is Life.”


The Youtube meme spin off fan-video, in which a Shrek fan prays to Shrek every night, thanking him for the life he has been given. His dad calls him a faggot, ashamed of his son. Crying himself to sleep the boy is relieved for Shrek to visit him in the night through the window:

“He penetrates my butthole. It hurts so much, but I do it for Shrek”

Just like capitalism, it seems we can’t find satisfaction with something, and push it until the point it is literally raping our children. Much like the elite class of this world.

Since Shrek’s release we’ve seen the fastest increase in rent rises, CEO bonuses, deaths from pollution. But still we want more. Indeed for some reason we aren’t satisfied even by this. We’ve gone from the “The Nokia 8250 kicked things off in 2001 by introducing the world’s first monochromatic display in a phone.” to the iPhone 12 with 4K filming and every app for everything all in one device in such a short space of time: and still there are bad reviews of the new iPhone not having enough new features. Our expectations have become having more than everything at once.

Amazon has grown from being an amazing feat of capitalism, to a modern slavery system with the biggest gap in CEO to worker pay in history: a sign of the times. The biggest abundance available through the most advanced infrastructure systems ever: destroyed by unequal distribution and never ending greed. Indeed, is there an amount of money anyone could agree on for an individual to be content with? In some places it seems yes.

It would take 212 years for an Ocado employee to earn 1 year’s wage of the CEO in the UK. Why does the average Tesla employee earn more than three times the average Amazon and Mcdonalds worker? In Japan things are very different. Max Fisher from The Atlantic reports:

“Japanese regulators recently announced that Japanese companies must disclose the salaries of executives who make more than 100 million yen, which is equivalent to 1.1 million dollars. Surprisingly, only 300 executives at Japan’s nearly 4,000 companies met the baseline requirement. And those who did weren’t far over the limit. At Toyota, for example, the chairman draws $1.5 million and the CEO does not even make the $1.1 million required for public disclosure. That’s tiny in comparison with the salaries of top U.S. executives.”

Indeed the article goes onto cite “Sometimes Culture Dictates Business: The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein sighs, “It’s a reminder that CEOs aren’t just paid what the market will bear, they’re paid what the culture will accept.””

So why — when in Japan the culture set the cap at an annual salary of what Jeff Bezos makes in 4.5 minutes — haven’t we drawn any boundaries? Why is our culture so accepting of inequality and what can only be called modern day slavery: that is working a 40 hour week to live below the poverty line.

It’s because of Shrek. It’s because of our love of Shrek. It’s because of our never ending desire for the infinite, at any cost. But we are quickly finding out: when Shrek is love. Shrek quickly becomes life.



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Barney khan

Barney khan

Barney Khan is a writer on nutrition, mental health and capitalism. Taking time to think stupidly about serious matters, and deeply about fun stuff.