Shrek: Connecting Nostalgia to New Characters
Last week, my children watched the fourth Shrek movie and though I was busy preparing dinner and had very little time to devote to sitting down and watching it, I did manage to catch a few moments and was delighted that after all this time, Shrek can still capture the nostalgia and imagination of childhood fairy tales while spinning an entirely new story unlike the original.
The princess in the tower, guarded by the fire-breathing dragon. The three blind mice and the gingerbread man. Rumpelstiltskin, the Fairy Godmother, the knight in shining armor and of course, ogres living in a swamp. These are all things that the adults of this generation (and of generations past) grew up listening to, and the children of this generation know in the moment and enjoy as new stories… inspiring parents to read them the old.
But Shrek does tell a new story with each movie, one that hasn’t been done before as the grumpy, lovable ogre and his love interest Fiona encounter fairy tale creatures and situations and enjoy their romance throughout it. The thing that sets Shrek apart from other new fantasies told to children is the way it invites reminiscence into scenes unexpectedly and warms your heart with memories.
“Do you know the Muffin Man?”
“The Muffin Man?”
“The Muffin Man!”
“Yes, I know the Muffin Man… who lives on Drury Lane?”
This exchange between Lord Farkquaad and the Gingerbread Man is so famous because of its use of nostalgia that I’ll bet you read that in their voices, too. In fact, it doesn’t matter that the Gingerbread Man is on a baking sheet with missing legs and having his gumdrop buttons torn off by the nasty, short, hero-impersonator who compensates for his… stature… with a giant castle. It’s too funny for me to bother caring how morbid the poor Gingerbread Man’s plight was at that moment.
Biblical FanFic uses these connections we make with familiarity to create a stronger character, one with whom we immediately identify because we recognize the personification of a Biblical element through his actions or surroundings. A name, a quote, a subtle reference or setting, or even just a voice can bring up memories, connections and familiar associations in fiction.
My point is that these familiar feelings, warm fuzzies and unforgettable voices are what make us love Fairy Tale Fan Fiction and Biblical Fan Fiction so much. If I tell you a story featuring Little Miss Muffet, you know there will, at some point, be a spider who just may sit down beside her.
(I would add a picture here, but I can’t even look at spiders without feeling my stomach try to crawl out of my eye sockets.)
And if you tell me a story of a man named Moses, I will expect him to lead a fight for the freedom of many, regardless of where he is or against what foe he struggles… for me, that kind of connection makes a book (or movie or tv show) so much more personal, and I’ll think about it for much longer afterwards than if that character was named Bill.
I’d love to hear your childhood connections to stories of fiction or the Bible that show up in everyday life and either teach you something or bring a smile to your face! Comment below, and tell me your favorite accidental nostalgia!