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Why The Most Powerful Villain In Shrek Isn't Who You'd Think

When "Shrek" reached theaters in 2001, the comedy surpassed industry expectations and became a blockbuster hit. During its run, the movie, widely considered to be an underdog project, grossed $500 million worldwide (via The New York Times). The beloved film later received an Oscar for best animated feature the same year (via IMDb). Praised by critics for its subversive take on fairytale lore (via Rotten Tomatoes), "Shrek" introduces viewers to ironic iterations of well-known storybook tropes. Starring the titular Shrek (Mike Myers), the movie follows the ogre as he begrudgingly embarks on a journey to save Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), a noblewoman who has been locked in a tower for most of her life. Along the way, he and his ragtag team fight Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men, the misunderstood Dragon guarding Fiona's tower, and antagonist Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow). In the end, however, the unexpected hero, a swamp ogre, defeats his royal foes.

In a recent BuzzFeed essay, Elamin Abdelmahmoud praised "Shrek" for being "genuinely edgy." He added, "[I]t let us briefly have a laugh at the Disneyfied views we grew up with, and it urged us to ditch them for the green, ugly truth: that we may all be deeply flawed in irreparable ways, but we still deserve to love ourselves."

In subsequent sequels, including "Shrek 2" and "Shrek the Third," the prickly protagonist and his allies confront other devilish fairy tale counterparts, from Rapunzel to Prince Charming to Rumpelstiltskin. However, one particularly formidable, yet surprising villain in the "Shrek" universe stands above the rest.

The Fairy Godmother reigns supreme in the Shrek universe

In "Shrek 2," the Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) dazzles her fairytale peers with her impressive magical abilities and no-nonsense authority. Notably, she initially positions herself as a friend, offering Shrek the opportunity to transform into a handsome prince and woo his fiancée. However, Shrek and Donkey (Eddie Murphy) eventually discover that her kindness is nothing but a façade. The mother of the doltish Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), the Fairy Godmother has schemed to trick Fiona into thinking her son is the "real" Shrek. She hopes that Fiona will marry him and rightly sustain his royal lineage. And, of course, the Fairy Godmother finishes off her ploy with a show-stopping rendition of Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero."

Ultimately, the Fairy Godmother is arguably the most powerful villain in the franchise. Not only does she shrewdly play upon Shrek's weaknesses, but she also makes sure to surveil his every move. Moreover, whenever a hitch in her plan threatens to unravel her goal, she wisely has a spell on hand to quash any errors. The only reason her ruse doesn't work is because of her son's mistakes, not hers. As Redditor u/SD-Men noted, "Compared to the other villains, she actually does some pretty devious things to get to her goal and has some memorable moments." While the Fairy Godmother is thwarted by Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey, she lives on as a fan-favorite villain with murderous potential.