Thesis: Identifying Three Social Psychological Principles That Appear to Be Operating in the Movie Shrek 2001

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Social Psychology Principles in Shrek

Social-Psychological Principles in Shrek (2001)

For most people, movies are made for entertainment. However, there are also movies that go beyond merely entertaining its audience. There are films that have been created making use of psychological principles, which enrich the movie-viewing experience of audiences. This paper will focus on the movie Shrek, which was released in 2001, directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson.

Shrek tells the story of a green ogre named Shrek and a princess named Fiona. Shrek was feared by all the people in the town of Duloc. He lived alone in a swamp, which he one day found to be swamped with fairy tale creatures. The fairy tale creatures had no choice but to take refuge in Shrek's swamp after they were banished and exiled to the woods by Lord Farquaad. Wanting to restore the peace in his life and fervently desiring to live on his own, he went to Duloc to ask Lord Farquaad to give him back his land. However, it wasn't going to be easy for Shrek to get back his swamp without getting anything in return. Lord Farquaad entered into an agreement with Shrek -- Shrek was to help Lord Farquaad in his dream of becoming the ruler of a kingdom by rescuing Princess Fiona so that Lord Farquaad can marry her. In return, Lord Farquaad would give Shrek back his swamp and take away all the fairy tale creatures who took temporary residence there. Shrek agreed to this agreement and he was soon on a journey to rescue Princess Fiona. After rescuing Princess Fiona, who did not expect to be rescued by an ogre, he started to fall in love with her. Fiona, who was bound by a spell and turns into an ogre at sunset, also slowly began to fall in love with Shrek after spending time with him and getting to know him. However, conflict arose when Shrek overheared Fiona and the donkey talking to each other. Shrek only hears a part of the conversation which he immediately assumes was about him. In the end, Fiona is revealed in her ogre form as she was being wed with Lord Farquaad. Lord Farquaad, shocked to see his bride as an ogre, ordered the knights to arrest Shrek and Fiona. However, the female dragon which was previously holding Fiona captive came to the rescue and Shrek and Fiona got married.

The three social-psychological principles identified in the movie Shrek are schemas, prejudice, and cognitive dissonance.

Schemas in Shrek

According to the Schema Theory, every person possesses categorical rules or scripts which help them interpret the world (Widmayer, 2002). Schema or schemata, in its plural form, are a person's knowledge about concepts, things and their relationships with other things, situations, actions, and many more. Every person's schema is said to be unique (Widmayer, 2002) and is derived from prior knowledge, experiences, and cognitive processes. According to Daniel Chandler, schema helps people in simplifying reality and setting up expectations on possible outcomes of a situation in relation to specific contexts. When there is information that does not fit a person's schema, there exists a risk of miscomprehending something. According to Ausubel's Meaningful Receptive Learning Theory, every person builds his or her schema actively and changes it whenever there is new information available.

In the movie Shrek, we understand Shrek's schema when he first meets the donkey and the donkey continues to follow him. Being an ogre and having experienced people get frightened of him, Shrek's schema tells him that he should expect the donkey to get frightened of him and scamper when he tries to scare it away. However, the donkey does not get frightened by Shrek's appearance nor by fact that Shrek is an ogre. This is new information for Shrek which he tries to fit into his existing schema.

We also see Princess Fiona's schema when she learns that an ogre rescued her instead of a prince, which she was expecting. Fiona has a lot of expectations on how she was supposed to be rescued based on her knowledge of how other princesses were rescued. She expected her rescuer to kiss her and to sweep her off her feet. She expected the incident to be romantic, her rescuer to be passionate, poetic and valiant such that when she learns that Shrek was sent there to take her to Lord Farquaad, she looked disappointed and couldn't accept the situation. In the following scenes in the film, we see how Shrek and Fiona have successfully changed their schemata with the new information that they got.

In a broader sense, schema is useful in understanding how people react in situations. In the workplace, a person who has long been exposed to a certain type of work would easily know how to react and would know what to say when confronted with an issue at work compared to a newbie who would most likely not know what to say or do when an issue arises.

Prejudice in Shrek

In Pscyhology, prejudice is said to be an attitude of a person which includes feelings of dislike, contempt, or loathing. It usually involves a prejudgment which is often negative about a group of people (Plous, 2003). Where there is prejudice, stereotypes are said to exist too. Stereotypes are generalizations which could be both positive and negative. According to Fiske (2008), prejudices are not inevitable and that it is possible for people to counter their impulses and reduce their prejudices. Prejudice can lead to discrimination which is a behavior that leads to unequal treatment of a certain group of people because of their race, ethnicity, religious affinity, etc.

Prejudice is illustrated in Shrek when Shrek and the donkey had a serious conversation on why Shrek feels the world doesn't understand him. Shrek told the donkey about the prejudice of people toward him. He told the donkey that people judge him even before they get to know him. People see him as a big, stupid ogre who will eat them. And for this reason, he doesn't want to get close to anyone. The people of Duloc are prejudiced against Shrek because of how he looks, which is similar to how certain people are prejudiced based on the color of their skin. Prejudice is also shown in the movie when Shrek goes to the town of Duloc and a man wearing a big head gear sees him and runs away because he is an ogre. The man thinks that Shrek will eat him so he ran away.

Lord Farquaad has prejudice against magical creatures. This is shown when he has ordered that the magical creatures be exiled to the forest. This action also illustrates the discrimination that the magical creatures experienced due to Lord Farquaad's personal prejudices. The magical creatures were showed to be treated like criminals, taken into carts and placed in cages. Furthermore, Lord Farquaad also has prejudice against ogres. He identifies and calls Shrek as "it," connoting that he thinks of himself as superior to an ogre like Shrek. And when Fiona first meets Farquaad, she was explaining that she is just saying goodbye to Shrek, Lord Farquaad told her not to waste time on Shrek because it doesn't have any feelings. When Fiona turned into an ogre on her wedding day, Lord Farquaad ordered his army to capture Shrek and Fiona. This scene demonstrates Lord Farquaad's prejudices against ogres.

Knowledge about prejudice can help people understand why certain races have prejudices against other races. Knowledge about prejudice and discrimination can help us understand why there are people who treat other people unfairly or who have negative perception about certain kinds of people. Some people would feel prejudice against homosexuals; other people would see women as weak.

Cognitive dissonance in Shrek

According… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Identifying Three Social Psychological Principles That Appear to Be Operating in the Movie Shrek 2001.  (2009, November 10).  Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/identifying-three-social-psychological/6612546

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"Identifying Three Social Psychological Principles That Appear to Be Operating in the Movie Shrek 2001."  Essaytown.com.  November 10, 2009.  Accessed July 23, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/identifying-three-social-psychological/6612546.