Back on March 30th, I wrote about the entirety of Shrek being available to download via Steam for Wallpaper Engine. It was removed within twelve hours and I feel no remorse. But while moderators can remove files from the Steam Workshop, they can’t remove them from your PC, and I’ve kept Shrek as my desktop wallpaper for nearly three months.
Today, I’m removing it. Here is what I’ve learned.
It’s worth reiterating some of the finer details, here. What I’ve had lurking upon my desktop is a low quality, 92MB video of the entirety of Shrek. It’s highly compressed but, importantly, still watchable. It plays whenever my desktop is visible on my monitor or whenever I interact with the start menu, and it is paused the rest of the time. Aside from that, I have no way of controlling the video.
This means that I do not see the entirety of Shrek every day. Most days, I see the first minute. Just enough to reach the first couple of lines of “All Star” as Shrek emerges from his outhouse. I’ve purposefully watched deeper into the film only a couple of times and I’ve never finished it.
By coincidence the film turned 20 years old back in May, prompting a wave of retrospective articles, chief among which was an article in The Guardian. Its author argues that Shrek was unfunny and overrated, and that “it encouraged a destructive, know-it-all attitude toward the classics that made any earnest engagement with them seem like a waste of time. Those once-upon-a-times were now rendered stodgy and lame, literally toilet paper.”
After 81 days, the main thing I have learned is that Shrek is good, actually, and better than I remembered. Much of it is dated, not least the animation, but it’s far more earnest than The Guardian article allows. It has a winking approach to its fairytale inspirations, but also a fundamental respect for them. Shrek lives the story he uses as toilet paper in the film’s opening moments, that’s the whole point.
The other thing I have learned is that the damned Smash Mouth song is genuinely uplifting. Mostly, I don’t see the film at all in a given day, but hear snippets of it in the background as I click on the start menu or task bar. A few seconds here, a few seconds there, until eventually I’ll click on the Windows calendar to check a date during a work video call, and over the top I hear it: “SOMEBODY–“. It’s an energy changer. I’ll finish my work call, hit “Show Desktop”, and watch the film properly for the duration of the song.
Alas, all things must end. I don’t know if, once I’ve turned it off, I’ll ever be able to re-activate Shrek within Wallpaper Engine. I doubt I’d want to, even if having Shrek as my desktop is preferable to the anime crimes that form the rest of Wallpaper Engine’s Steam Workshop. But I’ve now watched an ogre bathe in mud to the Smash Mouth song over 50 times and I still don’t hate it, and that’s worth knowing.