In 2017, an image of a Wythenshawe pizza shop was posted to Reddit. The shop itself was situated on an arguably nondescript parade of businesses in the Northern Moor area. However, in the ever-sprawling cacophony of noise and chatter, the theme of the restaurant garnered instant affection from many corners of the information superhighway. The restaurant’s name was Shrek’s Pizza. For those not versed in the ever-so-niche subculture of gen-z internet humour, allow me to explain.
‘Shrek’ was released in 2001 and was met with critical acclaim. Its all star cast and charming take on the fairytale genre made it a joy for children and parents alike. The film grossed almost half a billion dollars at the box office and spawned three sequels and a myriad of spin-off media. Interestingly however, Shrek’s popularity truly surged in the 2010s, years after the latest instalment in the franchise was released. The factors playing into this are hard to pin down, but there have certainly been undeniable catalysts, moments at which a generation fell more and more in love with the gang of swamp-dwellers.
“All that glitters is gold”
The importance of Shrek’s soundtrack cannot be understated. The film opens with the then-obscure All Star by Smash Mouth. The upbeat surf-rock bop was heard by many for the first time as they saw our green hero emerge from his swampside shack and go about his daily routine. To this day, Smash Mouth remains in relative obscurity, and yet their name is almost synonymous with the hit song, with much of their social media content leaning into this fact.
As the Shrek generation rolled into adolescence and began to revisit these formative pieces of media, the affection towards this song in particular remained, spawning a host of almost-absurdist content and remixes, opening the door to the further exploitation of the beloved franchise for the humour of those who grew up on it.
The ever-present ogre
The Shrek franchise was a staple of the 2000s. The generation which now dictates the hot-or-not of internet culture had their childhoods peppered with adventures in the land of Far Far Away. The constant and consistent presence of Shrek in their lives created somewhat of a low-hanging fruit when the world of internet memes entered the era of surrealism. An entire generation, now truly integrated with the lights, sights and sounds of technology like none before them, would of course pull this childhood staple along with them. It is hard to find a university student who has never seen even a crumb of Shrek. There is little funnier therefore than twisting and reshaping these pieces of media into something barely related to the original whilst keeping with the frankly iconic nature of the franchise.
A local celebrity
And so, we return to our Wythenshawe hero – Shrek’s Pizza. What made it such an internet sensation? Simply put, it pushes every button of the gen-z psyche. Amongst older adults, Shrek is generally seen as simply a wholesome family flick, but most are unaware of its significance to their children. It is rare that adults engage with the memes of the younger generation, and when they do it is often derided as cringeworthy and poorly executed. It appears however that the example of Shrek’s Pizza was an inadventant dip into the internet subculture – an arguably cynical money attempt at a quick money spinner, a gimmick even, but still inadvertent in its humour, and therefore hilarious. In addition to that, the current internet generation has a particular fondness for the ‘little guy’ against the mighty, money-grabbing corporations. Just take a look at the recent GameStop fiasco, which saw many pouring hundreds of pounds into the void purely to hurt hedge funds, who they perceived as monoliths of avarice. A small-time pizza shop in a corner of England having the sheer gall to name themselves Shrek’s Pizza, to plaster its frontage with merry stills of the characters in clear breach of copyright law (perhaps several copyright laws), is seen as quite frankly brilliant.
The culture of our lightspeed communication networks are, at best, enigmatic. It is impossible to pinpoint what makes it tick, what sets the twittersphere alight with an uproar of clamourous roars of laughter, but if there is one hard and fast rule, let it be this: Shrek is love, and Shrek is life.