Story telling (animated or otherwise) depends on character arcs. We’re all on some kind of journey; life is never static (even when we want it to be). The character arcs we are most drawn to are the ones we need to learn from to help us on our own journeys.
My favourite is Shrek. I’ll tell you why at the end, but you’ll probably figure it out before then.
Shrek starts his journey as a loner, he’s built some pretty serious walls around himself to keep everyone out . . . quite frankly, from the way the locals treat him, I don’t blame him. People can be so freakin’ mean sometimes it seems that life would be better without the whole nasty stinkin’ lot of them.
He finishes surrounded by community, married and singing some rather rockin’ karaoke.
It didn’t happen by magic. He took some very definite steps. He had his trip forced on him, we don’t have to. We can make decisions and take action that will take us to real friendships and love before the fairy tale creatures invade our swamps.
Sooooooooooo what did he do and more importantly, what can we do?
He accepted a deeply flawed, irritating, friend – who didn’t judge him. Let’s face it, Donkey’s irritating, he has no concept of personal boundaries, or social norms and he doesn’t have a clue when he’s not wanted…but he’s a friend. If you’re looking for a perfect friend/partner/spouse, you’re going to be very lonely. There’s a difference between dangerous toxic people and people who can drive us crazy at times. One of them needs to be avoided at all costs, one of them is . . . human (or a Donkey in Shrek’s case). Some brilliant voice work here by Eddie Murphy By The Way.
He leaves his comfort zone. Shrek doesn’t go willingly, he’s forced out, but he goes. He moves into places that are uncomfortable, places he’s avoided in the past. Do I have to explain this one? Nothing changes if nothing changes. We can’t grow if we keep doing the same things we’ve been doing all along. Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Get out of your comfort zone.
He wins. He lands in Duloc just in time for a tournament and he wins (with the help of his irritating friend). We all have something we’re good at. Often it’s something we dismiss because it’s so easy . . . for us. Even small successes will yield amazing results to our self-esteem if we don’t totally dismiss them.
His journey continues and includes some really important points that I’ll come back to at some point, but I want to keep the Blogs short.
Accept people for the deeply and beautifully flawed individuals that they are, while you’re at it accept yourself for the same reasons.
Get out of your comfort zone.
Celebrate small successes.
I grew up feeling deeply alone. I had very few social skills and suffered from a magical combination of pretention and low self-esteem. I convinced myself I was happier alone and put a LOT of effort into proving I was right. It’s taken decades to learn what Shrek learned. I wish I’d learned it earlier. I wish for you a whole community of irritating, loving friends . . . are there any other kind?