Shrek is now 20 years old, so you’d be forgiven if you don’t recall just how gonzo Dreamworks’ Oscar-winning film, its three sequels, and the various spinoffs really were. As Shrek writer and Gingerbread Man voice Conrad Vernon told us this month, the creative team behind Sherk drew most of their inspiration from The Simpsons, Mad Magazine, and other satire, rather than the animated canon. As a result, the movies are chock full of weird, off-color humor.
Thinking back, the Polygon staff found itself in awe of What Actually Happens across the Shrek cinematic universe (henceforth known as the SCU). So here are the moments, bits, and references from Shrek that continue to live rent-free in our heads nearly two decades later.
Farquaad gets a boner from Shrek
This happened on screen and we just accepted it. Farquaad is NAKED in bed, with garish zebra print sheets and a martini, asking the mirror to show him pictures of Fiona and then he sheepishly looks under the sheets because he absolutely got a hard on.
I was around five years old when I first saw Shrek. Let that sink in. —Petrana Radulovic
As a kid, I thought Shrek’s Magic Mirror dating game scene, with stories of Cinderella and Snow White told in a fun, funky reality TV show way, was silly fun. The one bit I didn’t get was Fiona’s description, but I thought the specificity of Fiona “liking piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.” Haha, funny right?
Only now do I realize it’s from Rupert Holmes’ “Escape,” that song about that dude wanting to cheat on his girlfriend (?) and answering an ad in the personals section that she put in (??) Romantic??? I guess??? —PR
“They don’t even have dental” from Shrek 2
Shrek, Donkey, and Puss sneak into Fairy Godmother’s facility by pretending to be union representatives in order to sweet talk their way past the receptionist. When he learns who they are (or rather, who they are pretending to be), he tilts his intercom away, lowers his voice dramatically and confesses that Fairy Godmother doesn’t even provide her workers with dental insurance.
This is another one of the Shrek jokes I didn’t get as a kid, but unlike the others which are just racy or about specific pop culture ephemera I was too young to get, this one is currently my favorite because I now am a Working Adult™ who pays taxes and belongs to a union. Because of course the villain of the movie wouldn’t give her workers good benefits! I think all the fairytale employees need to unionize and argue for a fair contract. —PR
“Dead broad off the table!” from Shrek
Shrek does not like the fairy tale characters living in his swamp. And he especially doesn’t like Snow White’s cryogenically frozen corpse in his dining room. So he screams this line, which feels like the anti-Pixar in one sentence. —Matt Patches
Just the name “Farquaad” in general from Shrek
Look at this man. I mean, really look at him. He looks like the little dancing lad from the Starburst Berries & Cream commercial if he got ahold of the crimson behelit from Berserk. There’s a lot you could criticize Lord Farquaad for: He’s vain, a terrible ruler, a bully, and overall just an unpleasant person to look at (LOOK AT HIM). Probably the most immediately unpleasant thing about him is his name, the very pronunciation of which resembles an expulsion of grotesque flatulence. There’s something else about it though. Take the “r” out of his name and you get … oh dear. —Toussaint Egan
The COPS parody from Shrek 2
There’s a lot to unpack out of the Cops parody in Shrek 2. Let’s break it down: Right off the bat we got a grainy CRTV overhead shot of Shrek (now transformed into a human) riding a “white bronco” through a forest while being pursued by a pair of police — err, I mean “knight” patrols in FFPD (Far Far Away Police Department) branded hot air balloons. We got a high-speed chase through cobblestone streets, complete with skid sparks, followed by Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy, now transformed into a stallion) screaming protests of police brutality, Shrek having pepper crushed into his eyes, Puss ‘n Boots calling the knights “Capitalist Pig Dogs,” all before being thrown in the back of whatever the medieval equivalent of a paddy wagon is. Mind you, this all elapses in the span of a minute. I haven’t even mentioned the catnip drug bust. —TE
The absolute brutality of the bird egg bit from Shrek
I know that’s the point, but jeez. —Patrick Gill
“What are you doing in my swamp?” from Shrek
I haven’t watched the Shrek movies in a decade. Still, Mike Myers shouting ‘What are you doing in my swamp?!” in Shrek’s Scottish accent is permanently seared into my brain. It’s like this single, perfectly preserved memory that lays completely decontextualized from whatever is happening in the movie.
It’s the first time I regularly referenced a movie joke as a child and to this day, has become an instinct to shout anytime someone says the word swamp, or anytime I am in a slightly wet and forested area. It’s Shrek being his most, angry, ogre self and for some inexplicable reason, it’s managed to stay with me all these years. —Ana Diaz
The reptile balloons from Shrek
Rewatching the original Shrek 20 years later, one of the things that really stands out is how perfunctory and minimal the Shrek-Fiona love story is. Sure, the fairy-tale genre is expressly known for love at first sight, but the whole point of Shrek is that he isn’t sentimental, emotional, or even particularly friendly. What does it take for him to go from completely contemptuous and patronizing around Fiona to full emotional attachment? Seeing her belch and punch a few Merry Men. And then their romance consists of each of them grabbing a random scaly creature and blowing air into it, then trading them. Why do they both apparently breathe helium? Why is watching a lady smooch a snake and turn it into a floating balloon-animal such a turn-on for Shrek? The whole film series is about these little mysteries. —Tasha Robinson