I have enjoyed the Shrek movies. They are funny, witty, and well-written. The character Puss-n-Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) may be the greatest fictional creation of all time (okay, slight exaggeration there). They appeal to both children and adults.
But they are quintessentially modern films. Shrek is the anti-fairy tale. It inverts all of the traditional categories that used to define children’s stories. It makes the ogres heroes and the Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming the villains. The third movie in particular reveals that all the traditional villains like Captain Hook and Rumplestilskin are not that bad after all. They are just misunderstood. Once they stop believing the lies society has told them about themselves, they are able to discard their villain mentality. The inversion of categories is palpable, and the psychologizing is rampant.
My son has seen the Shrek movies, but I don’t want these and other modern tales to be the substance of his imagination diet. Children need the old stories where princes are good and ogres and dragons are bad. They need fairy tales, where good and evil are clearly defined, and where the hero wins the day by fighting with strength, courage, and wit, not by convincing himself that he’s not so bad after all.
What kind of moral compass will the Shrek generation have? In all likelihood, it will be a confused one. I’m not seeking to lay down a firm rule against all enjoyment of modern stories. But I do believe wisdom would guide us never to omit the great tales of the past, the stories that shaped our own moral compass and taught us more about God’s world than anything else in our early years.