In 2001, Dreamworks produced Shrek, a computer-animated anti-fairy tale that has established itself as highly quotable must-have for any DVD collection. Now, I don’t have a problem with Shrek as a stroke of comedic genius or with Shrek as a cynical, sarcastic, but soft-hearted ogre. I certainly don’t have a problem with the celebration of inner beauty that is the main theme of the movie. I have watched it a number of times(and am coming back around to it with my kids), always delighting in that little quip that I missed before, always having my heart warmed by the story, but always feeling a little dissatisfied when the credits roll.
It all comes down to the climactic scene in the chapel, where Shrek storms in to interrupt the wedding of Lord Farquaad and Fiona (all unfamiliar/disinterested parties can skip to the next paragraph for less movie and more principle). He loves Fiona, Fiona loves him, and only true love’s kiss can break the curse she’s been under all these years, apparently making her an ogre after sunset each night. The twist comes when that kiss does indeed break the spell but leaves her in permanent ogre form, revealing that being an ogre was no curse at all. To add to this “inner beauty is all” principle, the second movie leaves Shrek and Fiona with an opportunity to live together in new, beautified bodies, but they decline it.
The point of the film is clear and powerful: inner beauty is more important. I believe that. First Peter 3:3-4 makes that abundantly clear. But when I read I Corinthians 15 and its contrast between our current, perishable bodies and the glorified bodies that are to come, I am convinced that we ought not get ourselves into a baby/bathwater situation. Outward beauty is still beauty, and all who trust in Christ will have that outward beauty in abundance forever. The reasons for our desiring of that outward beauty are often twisted and self-centered, far from the loving enjoyment of beauty that is found in the Trinity, but it does not follow that we ought to cease to desire that beauty(or worse, to wish the world to be outwardly ugly instead).
To put this more simply, God is comprehensively beautiful. His world reveals a stunning picture of Himself, whether it be through the loving character of His people or the impossible color combinations of sunsets. As the source of all beauty, He clearly loves that beauty and is in the business of either creating it or restoring it. He created us as beautiful things, “very good” things, and we are now in the process of having our beauty restored.
From our perspective, we are to do two things: see God’s beauty and partake in God’s beauty (that He graciously imparted to us). We are never called to delight in ugliness because it is ugly, but rather to love ugliness as God has loved ours, with an eye to the restoration of its beauty.
This is a hard tension to live in. Self-exaltation has brought our society to a place where outer beauty has become everything, where eating disorders run rampant, where the mirror is more important than the friend. It all makes Shrek seem very reasonable. But there is coming a day when inner beauty, outer beauty, and our love for others will all flow together in perfect harmony. When Fiona and Shrek are as beautiful on the outside as they are internally. If we desire that day, and the God who is preparing it, we ought to fight for that heavenly blend, with all the gospel power that He has given us.