Shrekxposé: Internet Fandom and the Fall of Shrek Culture

This is an excerpt from an article investigating “Shrek culture,” an online subculture mocking the concept of fandom.

Unlike other popular fandom-based subcultures, such as “Whovians” (fans of Doctor Who) and “Bronies” (fans of My Little Pony), Shrek culture has very little to do with its actual source material. In fact, it relishes the disconnect.

The idea of an entire subculture existing as a self-parody may seem strange at first, but given the nature of modern fan cultures, it actually makes perfect sense. New media, namely the Internet, has transformed the way fans interact. Twenty years ago, a Trekkie had to go to a physical convention to socialize. Today, loud and proud fans of all sorts can connect with thousands of like-minded individuals online.

Shrek culture is a response to cross-fandom diffusion across social media platforms. It’s a disenfranchised subset of the larger Internet community saying, “Fine. Flood my wall with your Twilight and My Little Pony memes. We’ll take something you wouldn’t even think to like. We don’t even like it.” It’s absurdly strange, and strangely postmodern.

But bridges burn, mountains crumble, and all funny things eventually die.

By 2012, Shrek culture had fallen into decline. What began as an irreverent artistic statement about fandom had become the exact thing it lampooned. Shrek culture worked in the first place because it existed on the cusp on fandom, a large scale inside joke with no real form and no unified community. ShrekChan changed all that.

ShrekChan.org was the first community message board for Shrek culture, resulting in a new, unwanted element: “Brogres.” These self-proclaimed Shrek enthusiasts, playing off the term “Brony,” brought bad jokes and more mainstream fandom clichés along with them. Brogres claimed they were different from other subcultures because they “didn’t actually like Shrek,” but by calling themselves Brogres, they had ceased to exist outside the realm of fandom. As fan cultures often tend to do, the focus shifted from the original interest to the community itself.