The Sexy Shrek Controversy of 2010: The World Was Different Then

Remember when magazines were a thing?
The Sexy Shrek Controversy of 2010: The World Was Different Then

Beloved cartoon ogre Shrek is a lot of things; husband, father, abrasive musical nightmare fuel – but unless you're a Scottish person who’s been livid about Mike Myers’ accent since 2001, Shrek isn’t exactly controversial, right? If there was anything unwholesome about the character, they wouldn’t have sold Twinkies filled with a mysterious green Shrek-like goop oozing out of the middle.

But back in 2010, amazingly there was a modest uproar over one magazine’s overly-sexual Shrek-themed photoshoot. We’ll give you a minute to wipe away the coffee you just spat all over your screen.

The men’s fashion publication VMan published a “sultry” array of images to promote the release of Shrek Forever After, including shots of characters like Donkey rubbing up against a woman in lingerie while some guy on a bed looks on in disapproval – which is admittedly weird, but also arguably the perfect photo to replace the old “distracted boyfriend” meme. 

Ellen von Unwerth/VMan

Meanwhile, two shirtless dudes are seemingly fighting over who gets to hook up with Fiona, while Puss in out of Boots is being fed grapes by someone who appears to be the ultra-aroused lead singer of a Christian rock band.

Ellen von Unwerth/VMan

Shrek himself appears in some of the spread’s least racy photos, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a backlash. Dreamworks and Paramount even had to issue a statement claiming that they regretted allowing the characters to be used in such a context. Really? Everyone at Dreamworks was cool with making a movie in which a dragon regularly has sex with a donkey, but this is where you draw the line?

In retrospect, these photos were generally pretty tame, and some of the reporting by outlets like The Hollywood Reporter, which called the spread “bizarrely metrosexual,” seems laughably prudish and intolerant today. Not to mention that we live in a world where Shrek has inspired countless pieces of outlandish fan art, erotic or otherwise. So in a way, this one random photoshoot anticipated our culture’s willingness to expand its Shrek-based horizons.

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Top Image: Ellen von Unwerth/VMan


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