|First appearance||Shrek (2001)|
|Created by||Ted Elliott|
|Voiced by||Cameron Diaz (2001–2014)|
Holly Fields (video games)
Renee Sandstrom (singing voice)
Sally Dworsky (singing voice; first film)
|Nickname(s)||Fio (by Shrek)|
|Species||Ogre Human (formerly)|
|Family||King Harold (deceased father)|
Queen Lillian (mother)
Arthur Pendragon (cousin)
Princess Fiona is a fictional character who appears in DreamWorks' Shrek franchise, first appearing in the animated film Shrek (2001). One of the film series' main characters, Fiona is introduced as a beautiful princess cursed to transform into an ogress nightly, initially determined to break her enchantment by kissing a prince, only to meet and fall in love with Shrek, an ogre, instead. The character's origins and relationships with other characters are further explored in subsequent films, introducing her new husband Shrek to her parents in Shrek 2 (2004), who struggle to accept Fiona's decision to marry him, becoming a mother by Shrek the Third (2007) and an empowered warrior princess in Shrek Forever After (2010), much of which is set in an alternate reality in which Fiona never meets Shrek.
Created by screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, Fiona is loosely based on the unsightly princess in William Steig's children's book Shrek!, from which her role and appearance were significantly modified. The screenwriters adapted the character into a princess under an enchantment that induces shapeshifting, an idea that was initially greatly contested by the other filmmakers. Fiona is voiced by actress Cameron Diaz. Comedian and actress Janeane Garofalo had originally been cast as the character until she was fired from the first film with little explanation, although it is believed that the producers found Garofalo's sarcastic approach to the princess no longer suitable after Shrek's original voice actor passed away, replacing her with a kinder-sounding actress. Fiona was one of the first human characters to have a lead role in a computer-animated film, thus the animators aspired to make her both beautiful and realistic in appearance. However, an early test screening resulted in children reacting negatively towards the character's uncanny realism, prompting the animators to re-design Fiona into a more cartoonish heroine.
The character is considered to be a parody of traditional princesses who appear in fairy tales and animated Disney films. Reception towards Fiona has been generally positive, with critics commending her characterization and use of martial arts, which references the films The Matrix (1999) and Diaz's Charlie's Angels (2000). However, reviewers were divided over the character's human design, some of whom were impressed by the technological innovations while others found her realism to be unsettling, citing her likeness to Diaz. Several media publications consider Fiona to be a feminist icon, crediting her with subverting princess and gender stereotypes. Diaz also became one of Hollywood's highest-paid actresses due to her role in the Shrek franchise, earning $3 million for her performance in the first film and upwards of $10 million for each sequel.
Creation and writing
Shrek is loosely based on William Steig's children's book Shrek!, but features several significant modifications from the original source material, particularly pertaining to its main characters. In Steig's story, a witch foretells that Shrek will marry an unnamed princess, who she describes as uglier in appearance than Shrek himself, prompting Shrek to venture on a quest to find her. Described as "the most stunningly ugly princess on the surface of the planet", Steig's princess bears little, if any, resemblance to Fiona, but the two characters are immediately attracted to each other and get married by the end of the story with little conflict. Animation historian Maureen Furniss, writing for Animation World Network, identified the fact that Shrek's love interest is altered from "a really ugly woman" into a beautiful princess as the film's most significant adjustment. In an effort to expand the film's plot while making its characters more visually appealing and marketable, the writers decided to adapt Shrek!'s princess character into a beautiful maiden who has been cursed to become unattractive only during the evenings, which she is forced to conceal from the film's other characters, providing "narrative motivation for not showing her ogre manifestation."
Feeling that Steig's storyline about the princess remaining undiscovered until the end was only suitable for a short book, screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio introduced the concept of a shapeshifting princess, which was rejected by the other filmmakers for six months because they found it "too complex" and unsuitable for a fairy tale; Elliot and Rossio contested that similar themes had been used successfully in both The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991). The screenwriters ultimately convinced the studio by referring to Fiona as an "enchanted" princess instead, believing that there might have been less of a debate had they suggested this from the beginning. There were some concerns regarding whether or not Fiona turning into an ogress full-time once she professes her love for Shrek suggested "that ugly people belong with ugly people." Rossio explained that "we explored ... the idea that Fiona actually was somebody who ... changed shapes. And the best moral to give would say that, 'Even princesses who change their shapes can find love too.' And Shrek would love her in all of her varied forms." Elliot elaborated that this prompts audiences to wonder if Fiona's "true form" is beautiful or ugly, "the answer we wanted to give was, 'Her true form is beautiful by day, ugly by night.' ... and she was trying to rid herself of part of who she truly was, because society maintained that was wrong." The studio ultimately conceded that Fiona should remain ugly in the end, which Elliot considered to be "a more conventional idea—”It’s not how you look, it’s who you are.”  Furthermore, Lord Farquaad's choice in Fiona as his bride becomes more compelling since he is attracted to her only for her beauty.
Fiona's origins were originally more complicated. In early drafts of the script, Fiona is actually born an ogress to human parents, to which they respond by locking her in a tower guarded by a dragon to conceal the true nature of their daughter's appearance from the kingdom, and lying to the public that she is a beautiful princess. One day, Fiona escapes from the tower and seeks assistance from a witch named Dama Fortuna, who offers her a choice between two potions: one will make the princess beautiful permanently, while the other guarantees that Fiona will ultimately live happily ever after. Fiona ignorantly chooses the potion entitled "Beauty" for which she does not realize that there is a catch, as the potion only allows her to turn human during the day but revert to her ogre form every night. The writers originally intended for Fiona's backstory to be fully animated and used as the film's prologue but discarded it after it was deemed too depressing. Entitled "Fiona's Prologue", this sequence was never animated but storyboarded and filmed. A second abandoned scene is entitled "Fiona Gets Them Lost", which follows Shrek and Donkey after they rescue Fiona from the tower, and the trio are trapped in a cave; an action sequence inspired by the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) ensues. Fiona's encounter with Monsieur Hood originally featured more "terrible pick-up lines" from the outlaw, which were ultimately written out of the film because the directors were concerned that the dialogue was inappropriate for their own mothers to hear. In the screenwriters' original draft, Fiona's monstrous form was intended to have a physical fight with Shrek when he discovers her. Assuming that the monster has harmed Fiona, Shrek pursues her and a fight reminiscent of Hong Kong action films ensues. The idea was abandoned because, according to Elliot, Hong Kong films were unfamiliar at the time, "nobody was familiar with the emphasis on action and physicality that Hong Kong action movies have" in comparison to more violent American films, explaining, "no matter how much we described it, [the studio] saw 'fight between Shrek and Fiona' and they imagined this violent, knock-down, Steven Segal-type, bone-cracking fight." Some female crew members also protested that this concept was misogynistic towards Fiona.
Elliott and Rossio had suggested revisiting the idea of determining if Fiona's true nature is to be beautiful or an ogre in the sequel, but the idea was rejected. The directors spent four months brainstorming several new ideas for a potential sequel. They ultimately determined that the only logical "jump off point" after Fiona and Shrek earned their happily every after was one of the few things not shown during the first film, deciding to explore Fiona's parents' reaction their daughter's decision to marry an ogre and in turn remain an ogre herself. Shrek 2 director Kelly Asbury explained that introducing Fiona's parents "presented a whole new story to go on, and a whole new place to go." Additionally, Shrek 2 reveals why Fiona was locked in the tower in the first place, with the filmmakers realizing that they could use some of the abandoned concepts from the first film to gradually reveal more details about Fiona's story throughout the remainder of the series. For Shrek 2, the filmmakers decided to resurrect the idea of Dame Fortuna from the first film, re-imagining her as Fiona's conniving fairy godmother and the sequel's main villain, who decides against using her magic in Fiona and Shrek's marriage. Fiona is believed to take on more empowering storylines during the third and fourth films, the latter of which is set in an alternate universe in which Shrek never rescued Fiona, showing what she would have become under these circumstances.
Fiona is voiced by American actress Cameron Diaz, one of the franchise's three main cast members. Diaz voiced Fiona in all four installments of the film series over the course of years. The role was originally intended for comedian and actress Janeane Garofalo, who was fired from the first film and ultimately replaced with Diaz. Garofalo maintains that she was not offered an explanation as to why she was fired, joking, "I assume [it is] because I sound like a man sometimes". However, it is believed that Fiona's re-casting resulted from the death of comedian Chris Farley, who was originally cast as Shrek and had already recorded most of the character's dialogue until he passed away during production, at which point he was replaced with actor Mike Myers. According to film historian Jim Hill, the filmmakers originally cast Garofalo as Fiona because they had felt that the actress' "abrasive, sarcastic comic persona" would serve as an ideal foil to Farley's positive approach to the titular character, but eventually relented that Garofalo's Fiona was "too downbeat" for the film's lighter tone, offering the role to Diaz. With a "sweeter" version of Fiona introduced, Shrek was developed into a more pessimistic character.
Fiona was Diaz's first animated role. DreamWorks invited Diaz to star in an animated film about an ogre and a princess who learn to accept both themselves and each other. In addition to the film's positive message, Diaz was drawn to the idea of co-starring alongside Myers, Eddie Murphy and John Lithgow. Diaz had grown up watching only "the barest" of cartoons, citing the Tom and Jerry and Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner shorts as examples. Approaching her role as though it were a dramatic performance, Diaz recorded most of her dialogue before a full script had been written, working closely with director Andrew Adamson to act out scenes before the film had been properly storyboarded. Prior to Shrek, Diaz starred in the action-comedy film Charlie's Angels (2000), a role for which she had undergone martial arts training. In a DVD bonus feature, Fiona explains that she performed her own stunts during the film, claiming that she based her kung fu on Charlie's Angels. While recording the scene in which her character fights Monsieur Hood and his Merry Men, Diaz became quite animated, gesturing and occasionally uttering Cantonese phrases; her martial arts background is credited with benefiting the sequence. Diaz once belched during a recording session after consuming a can of Coca-Cola, which was written into a scene for Fiona. Without a proper screenplay, Diaz found the "off-the-cuff" improvisation required to be one of the most challenging aspects of the recording process. The actress did not see the film's completed story until after she had finished working on it on-and-off for two years, at which point she finally truly understood her "character and ... what she was going through" for the first time. Myers was both impressed with and inspired by Diaz's commitment to her role, to the point at which he "thought [he] was doing a movie with Princess Fiona" herself. Asbury recalled that Diaz immediately "nailed" her character, elaborating, "She had this certain thing about her voice where she could be headstrong and know exactly what she wants and be confident, but also have this touch of sweet naivete and all make it completely believable." Despite admiring the performances of her predominately male co-stars, Diaz seldom worked with them on the Shrek films.
Diaz enjoys "the good feeling" she achieves while playing Fiona, and prefers playing her character as an ogre over a princess, explaining, "I thought she was beautiful. She had big eyes and she was round and soft and delicious." Apart from the Charlie's Angels sequel Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003), Shrek is the only franchise in which Diaz has reprised a role. Diaz regards Shrek as one of a few film franchises that maintain a certain level of poignancy and integrity throughout, elaborating that each film has "great messages, it’s for everyone. All audiences can watch this.” In the first film, the origins of Fiona's parents had not yet been disclosed, therefore Diaz voiced Fiona using an American accent. After discovering that English actors Julie Andrews and John Cleese would be voicing her parents Queen Lillian and King Harold, respectively, in Shrek 2, Diaz wished she had voiced her character with a British accent as opposed to her default Californian accent, relenting, "Wait a second! How come I sound like I’m from California?" She identified this as one of the few things she would have changed about her performance. Bob Thompson of the Ottawa Citizen observed that few, if any, critics took issue with the inconsistency. Although admitting that working on the films for a few hours at a time over a sporadic period of days sometimes results in her feeling that she is not "100 per cent involved with it ... at the same time, that character is so my character. I feel very possessive of Fiona. It's interesting to see something that's not actually tangible so fully embody your essence. It feels like I've lent something to this film that I could never give to any other film, in a weird way." Diaz would often defend Fiona's appearance from interviewers who would ask her how she feels about playing an ugly character, explaining, 'What are you talking about? I think she’s beautiful.' It’s shocking to me that that’s the perception, just because she’s big and round. I think she’s lovely. Her body is everything that she is inside. I love that she is the princess who isn’t like all the other princesses. She doesn’t look like them, and she’s just as beloved and accepted. In Shrek the Third (2007), Diaz co-starred alongside her ex-boyfriend, singer and actor Justin Timberlake from whom she had broken up the previous year, who plays her character's cousin and heir to her father's throne, Arthur Pendragon. Shrek 2 features a brief reference to Timberlake; a picture of a young nobleman by the name of "Sir Justin" appears in Fiona's childhood bedroom, which is believed to be a reference to their relationship at the time. Diaz was unaware of Timberlake's cameo in the second film until she saw it, believing that he was asked before they were a couple. Although Timberlake was first cast in the role in 2005 while he was still dating Diaz, producer Aron Warner insists that Timberlake's involvement in the film was not influenced by his relationship with Diaz, explaining that he won the role based on his own merit after watching his performance on Saturday Night Live and finding him to be funny. The film's May 2007 premiere in Los Angeles marked the first major media event at which the former couple had been photographed together since their relationship ended. Director Mike Mitchell denied media speculation that Timberlake and his character's omission from Shrek Forever After (2010) had anything to do with Diaz and Timberlake's relationship, explaining that the Arthur was written out of the film solely to allow more screen time for other characters, feeling that Arthur was not necessary for the plot.
A filmmaker described Diaz as "the rock" of the franchise because "She brings such a great spirit to these movies.” Following the release of Shrek Forever After, currently the series' final installment, Diaz reflected that the Shrek films remained her "safety net" for several years, describing it as "a decade of knowing that you finish one and for the next two years we’ll be making another one". She remains hopeful that there will be future sequels, joking, "I’m ready for 'Shrek 18,' if they haven’t killed Fiona off by then." Diaz revealed that she was sad to bid farewell to her character, admitting that she took the films for granted and did not fully appreciate Fiona until the end because she had always assumed that she would be invited back for another installment within a few months. Considering the role "a privilege and honor", Diaz maintains that Fiona is the role for which she is recognized by children most often, but she prefers when parents allow them to pretend that her character exists without revealing her voice actress, and often attempting to stop parents from sharing the truth. Diaz elaborated that Fiona has become "part of my screen persona. Rather than me putting myself through her I think she comes through me in a weird way. When people think of me they think of Fiona, it's not the other way around." Diaz believes that her popularity has greatly increased since voicing the character. Her role in the Shrek series is believed to have contributed to her becoming one Hollywood's wealthiest actresses by 2008. After being paid $3 million for the first film, Diaz originally re-negotiated to receive $5 million for Shrek 2, estimated to be an hourly salary of $35,000. She ultimately earned more than $10 million for reprising her role, estimated to be between $10 million and $15 million. For Shrek the Third, Diaz was paid $30 million, her highest film salary at that point, due to securing a significant percentage of the installment's profits. She once again earned $10 million for Shrek Forever After. In 2010, Forbes ranked Diaz Hollywood's second highest-earning voice actor, behind only Myers. On the actress' lucrative earnings, filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis wrote in an article for the Sun-Sentinel "Sure, she captured the character well. Yes, the 'Shrek' movies invariably are box office successes. But can anyone say that if the voice of Princess Fiona were that of a competent actress other than Cameron Diaz, the movie would have flopped?" Despite currently being in development, Diaz has yet to confirm whether or not she will reprise her role in a potential fifth film, although she had previously said that she would return for a fifth installment if asked.
Design and animation
Fiona is the franchise's female lead and Shrek's romantic interest. Shrek was the first computer-animated film to feature human characters in lead roles, with director Vicki Jenson believing that its heroine should be beautiful yet convincing. Elliott and Rossio originally envisioned Fiona's "ugly" form as furry and hairy, wanting her to be an entirely unique character as opposed to simply a female version of Shrek, but the filmmakers struggled to agree upon a final design. Aiming to achieve stylized realism, the animators found that the most efficient way to emphasize Fiona's face was by focusing "on the subtleties of the human form", compiling translucent layers of skin to prevent the character from resembling plastic, a task they found daunting due to the audience's familiarity with human skin. To make her skin appear more believable, the animators studied dermatology books "to determine how various types of illumination play on human skin", with visual effects supervisor Ken Bielenberg comparing the situation to lighting Diaz herself. He joked, "You want the sunset to reflect off her face in a way that's flattering ... Fiona may be a computerized princess, but she has her bad side." They painted a combination of freckles and warm tones onto some of her skin's deeper layers, through which they would filter light. A shader was used "to layer the skin with light that seemed to penetrate, refract and re-emerge", the concentration of which was adjusted depending on how radiant they wanted her to appear; too much exposure risked resulting in the character resembling a mannequin. The lighting department consulted with makeup artist Patty York to learn about different approaches to creating realistic effects for Fiona's face, while the computer graphics software Maya was used to animate her hair, which consists of more than 1 million polygons. The animators felt that Fiona's design was "too real" at times. When the film was previewed to test audiences, some children cried because they found Fiona uncomfortably realistic to the point at which they were disturbed by her hyperrealism, suffering from a phenomenon known as the uncanny valley. Consequently, DreamWorks ordered that the character be re-animated to appear more like a cartoon and less like a human simulation. Animator Lucia Modesto recalled that her team was ordered to "pull back" on the character's design because she was beginning to appear too realistic, resulting in a "distinctly unpleasant" effect. Subsequently, Fiona was modified to fit in among the film's more fantastical characters, which supervising animator Raman Hui credits with improving the believability of Fiona and Shrek's relationship. Hui acknowledged that Fiona was much more difficult to animate as a human because "If you get anything wrong, it shows." To make Fiona "a slightly more cartoony-looking love interest," the animators enlarged Fiona's eyes and smoothed her skin. In total, Fiona's face required a year of constant experimentation before the animators agreed upon a final, satisfying design: a realistic yet softer interpretation of the princess.
Director Andrew Adamson admitted that the process of making Fiona both beautiful yet familiar "on a visceral level" posed several unique challenges for the filmmakers. For example, her eyebrows sometimes resulted in shadows appearing over her eyes, while her upturned lip and large eyes resulted in a "spooky" appearance. Adamson explained, "There's something that happens in the translation from real life into the computer that gets tricky, especially for a humanoid." They wanted Fiona's appearance to make her relatable but not to the point at which "she would stick out among Shrek and the other fantastic characters and distract from the fairy-tale mood." Adamson identified Fiona as easily the film's most difficult character to animate because "everyone’s used to watching people talking and expressing themselves on a daily basis" whereas "You can get away with a lot with a talking donkey”. Adamson said, referring to the motor-mouthed sidekick voiced by Eddie Murphy.Hui maintains that Fiona's appearance was not based on that of any specific individual. Although the animators wanted to avoid making the character resemble Diaz too closely, elements of the actress' body movement, who was videotaped while she recorded her lines, were incorporated into Fiona nonetheless, which they drew onto a different face in order to create "a totally unique new character". Studying Diaz's mannerisms inspired the animators to exaggerate Fiona's expressions and reactions, instead of striving for realism. For example, "Fiona is listening to someone and her lips compress and her eyes squint,” which Adamson identified as “extremely hard things to achieve in animation, but they give the character a richness you’ve never seen before.” Diaz was shocked and ran out of the studio screaming joyfully when she saw her character animated to her voice for the first time. Although she does not think the character resembles her, she recognized that Fiona had many of her mannerisms in addition to her own voice, appearing "more real than she had imagined". The actress explained that "the experience was so weird she felt like she was watching some kind of strange sister." Diaz personally prefers Fiona as an ogre. Fiona's body consists of 90 muscles, but her entire model is made up of more than 900 movable muscles. Even in her ogress form, Fiona is significantly smaller than Shrek, without layout supervisor Nick Walker revealing that Shrek is capable of swallowing Fiona's head whole.
Costume designer Isis Mussenden designed the character's costumes for the first two Shrek films, for which she helped develop new technology to animate clothing in the then-new computer animation medium. The filmmakers wanted a more realistic approach to costumes than previous computer animated films, in which clothing was typically depicted as a tight layer over the figure, adorned with a few wrinkles. The filmmakers had envisioned Fiona's velvet gown as one that moves independently from her body, therefore one of the film's producers recruited Mussenden, with whom they had worked prior, to assist them with the process. Mussenden began by creating a one-quarter scale replica of the skirt. To determine the gown's volume, fullness and where certain areas would rest on the character's form, the costume designer worked with both a pattern maker and designer. The patterns and seams were then labeled and forwarded to the animators, who would replicate the images on the computer. Mussenden decided to give Fiona's dresses tight sleeves as opposed to the long, flowing sleeves associated with traditional medieval clothing due to the difficulty the latter would have been for the animators. Unlike Shrek, Fiona has several costume changes in Shrek 2. In the sequel, both Fiona's ogress and human forms are shown wearing the same green dress. To ensure that both forms looked equally flattering in the same outfit, Mussenden lowered the dress' waistline to make it more medieval in appearance than the costume she wears in the first film. Fiona's first costume is a lilac dress, which Mussenden designed to appear " organic and textured, because she's been living in the swamp". Towards the end of the film, she changes into a white ballgown with rhinestones inspired by an image of a 1958 dress the costume designer had found. Actor Antonia Banderas, who voices Puss in Boots, originally found it challenging to accept some of the film's unconventional approaches to fairy tales, namely regarding Fiona's appearance. Banderas explained, "I’m thinking how wonderful Fiona was, how beautiful she was. She looked like a beautiful girl you would find on the street and make you fall in love with her ... Then I had a certain resistance as a spectator for her to be an ogre. Even if she’s a nice ogre. I was thinking in the back of my brain, they’re going to end up being humans at the end of the movie. That’s what I had to break in myself ... I said, ‘No, I have to accept this end. This is the right ending for a movie like this.’" The actor believes that several audience members "went through this process when they were observing this movie" because "We are used to rejecting ugliness without reason.”
The scene in which Fiona single-handedly fights Monsieur Hood and his Merry Men, one of the film's many anachronistic pop culture references, is a reference to the slow motion special effects popularized by The Matrix (1999), as well as Diaz's own Charlie's Angels films. Despite concerns that such references to The Matrix would eventually date the film, Rossio believes the gag will remain funny, because it’s a parody instead of merely of the film instead of merely an imitation, during the middle of which Fiona grooms herself. A similar reference is made when Fiona defeats a mob at the beginning of Shrek 2, a complex sequence for which the animators used powerful data processors to store and manipulate millions of computer generated images. Modesto created new characters models for Fiona and Shrek in Shrek the Third, while new software and servers were implemented to animate individual strands of the character's hair much faster than what they had been capable of in the first film. In Shrek Forever After's alternate reality, the character is featured wearing her hair down and unbraided for the first time; her tiara has also been discarded. Due to its costliness, Mitchell had to have his decision to change Fiona's hairstyle approved by DreamWorks, likening the process to "prepar[ing] like a lawyer". The re-design was a difficult, expensive process that required 20 animators to animate each strand of hair individually. Mitchell explained that since "People know what long hair looks like ... you have to do it right". Setting up Fiona's hair was performed by one group, which Darin Grant, head of production technology, believes "allowed the process to be optimized and work across many, many shots" as it "flows and cascades throughout" the entire film. Fiona's hairstyle was inspired by singer-songwriter Janis Joplin. Despite closely watching the animators work on Fiona's hair, Mitchell maintains that his understanding of the process is still limited. Sarah Wexler of Allure believes that Fiona's hairstyle "reaffirms how much hair plays into how we show off our personalities".
Rossio revealed that the first film's four main characters "are organized around the concept of self-esteem, and appropriate and/or inappropriate reactions to appropriate or inappropriate self-assessment", explaining that Fiona seeks validation from others because she "thinks there’s something not correct about herself". Adamson elaborated that the character's main issue revolves around "living up to a stereotype, the idea represented in fairy tales that if ... you look a certain way and act a certain way and put the right dress and slippers on a handsome man is going to come", dismissing this as an unrealistic and unhealthy approach to finding romance. Diaz added that once Fiona is freed from the tower and realizes that her Prince Charming differs from what she had been taught to expect, she "stopped listening to all that" and "became the person that she truly is."
A scene during which Fiona duets with a bird who explodes once the princess sings a high note, subsequently frying its eggs for breakfast, is considered to be a parody of Disney fairy tales such as Cinderella (1950), with Adamson explaining that the sequence "pok[es] fun at people’s expectations" of princesses. Diaz believes that her character's personality "shattered" children's perception of princess characters from the moment she was freed from the tower, explaining that Fiona had always been capable of freeing herself and remained in the tower for several years solely because she was "following the rules of a fairy tale book". In the sequel, Diaz explained that Fiona "has a lot of pressure from all the people who told her about Prince Charming to take everything materialistically and monetarily. And she literally is just kind of baffled by it and says, 'Sorry, but I don't need any of those things.' All she needs is this man who she loves and loves her and accepts her." Diaz considers her character to be an empowered, positive role model for young girls, explaining, "She's never depended on anyone to rescue her, which is a different message from Snow White and Rapunzel ... She was capable of getting out of the tower herself" and "took on Shrek as her partner rather than as her rescuer." She believes that the moment she accepts herself as an ogre is her most empowered moment, as well as "the biggest stride in her evolution as a person".
Diaz considers Fiona to be "the anchor that holds all these kooky characters", identifying her as the comedy's straight man. Revealing that she "hate[s] naggy women", Diaz sometimes found herself wishing that Fiona would be "less naggy" and more compassionate and understanding towards the difficult changes Shrek is undergoing since marrying her. During production of Shrek the Third, Diaz observed that the filmmakers had made Fiona into more of a nag and asked that they tone this down, explaining, "just because she got married it doesn't mean she has to become a nag'." This was one of only a few things Diaz asked that they adjust about Fiona. In Shrek Forever After's alternate reality, Fiona frees herself from the tower on her own and subsequently becomes a warrior and leader of an army of ogres, which some commentators found to be a more empowering approach to the princess; Diaz contested that her character has "always been a warrior ... of love through all these films. What she’s worked for, what she’s fought for is the love that she has for herself and the love that she has for Shrek and her family and her friends." Diaz concluded that, due to the fourth film's tone, Fiona's responsibilities are simply more apparent, believing that in this film she is "fighting for what she believes in."
Characterization and themes
Todd Anthony of the Sun-Sentinel identified Fiona among several elements that initially make Shrek resemble an archetypal fairy tale. Furniss identified Fiona's character arc as struggling with insecurities about her identity and physical appearance before "being able to accept herself in a so-called 'ugly' physical manifestation", which she opined is merely "cute" as opposed to "push[ing] the boundaries of true ugliness."Demonstrated by her "very definite ideas about how she wants to be rescued," Bob Waliszewski of Plugged In believes "It’s obvious that Fiona has bought into the conventions of fairy tale romanticism hook, line and sinker", writing, "Her skewed perspective on love and marriage undermines agape love and spiritual discernment in relationships." Similarly, TV Guide film critic Frank Lovece described Fiona as a "beautiful and headstrong princess" who "has had way too much time to sit around and think about true love." Michael Sragow, film critic for The Baltimore Sun, agreed that the character is "fixated on being treated like a fairy-tale princess", resulting in a "shaky" outlook on reality. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw considers Fiona's name to be an "evident contradistinction to Shrek's central European handle". Although Fiona is originally disappointed upon finding that the person who rescued her does not resemble a Prince Charming, her expectations have more-so to do with "rituals of self-loathing". Furniss believes that Fiona's story seems to be targeted towards animated Disney films "in which a host of lovely princesses have been saved from horrible fates by their knights in shining armor." However, despite her efforts to look, speak and act like a traditional princess, Fiona is soon revealed to not be a traditional heroine, demonstrated by her traits as a skillful fighter, unusual diet occasionally consisting of wild animals and tendency to belch.
James Clarke, author of Animated Films - Virgin Film, described Fiona as "both an old-school and new-school heroine, in love with the notion of a charming prince who will rescue her but also tough talking and tough acting". Although she originally possesses traits associated with a traditional princess, being tall and slender, both Shrek and audiences soon agree that Fiona is different, and the princess is merely "following a script from a storybook" herself. Among her unusual characteristics, John Anderson of Newsday observed that Fiona is "perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She's just been waiting for some classic romance." Although in the context of the film Shrek initially observes Fiona's differences once she belches, "it rapidly also becomes apparent that she is indeed not a prototypical fairy-tale princess", according to author Johnny Unger. The New York Press observed that Shrek emphasizes "that the ogre falls in love with the heroine not because of her conventional good looks, but in spite of them ... looking past Fiona's skinny, blond human surface and seeing the belching, bug-eating ogre beneath." Journalist Steve Sailer, writing for UPI, similarly wrote that "Fiona wins Shrek's heart by belching, beating up Robin Hood's Merry Men (who act like Broadway chorus boys) with cool "Matrix"-style kung fu, and cooking the Blue Bird of Happiness' eggs for breakfast." Elliot believes that Fiona's storyline explores "the actual prevalence of attitudes about appearance in society", identifying a theme of lacking self-esteem as particularly prevalent with Fiona. Film critic Emanuel Levy shared that "Fiona suffers/benefits from duality", transitioning from a "sexy, opinionated, and feisty" character into an outcast once "her secret is revealed", after which she becomes closer to Shrek. Matt Zoller Seitz, film critic for the New York Press, wrote that Fiona takes the film's metaphor pertaining the people "passing for something they're not" to "a whole different level", explaining, "At first you think she's a standard-issue princess who's willing to let her hair down and hang with the riffraff", describing her as "a modern-day Disney heroine." Seitz also observed "interracial overtones" in Fiona and Shrek's relationship.
PopMatters contributor Evan Sawdey wrote that the Shrek films use Fiona to promote a message about "acceptance, particularity" the moment she "discovers that her true form is that of an ogre", by which she is not saddened. Believing that Fiona would happily battle and defend whatever she loves or believes in, Diaz identified the character as "the anchor everyone has attached themselves to", to whom Shrek looks to for guidance, which she would not have been able to provide unless she possessed the strength herself. In terms of character development and evolvement, Diaz recalled that, despite having been raised in a "storybook life", Fiona eventually comes to terms with the fact that "her Prince Charming didn’t come in the package she thought he would. She’s learned to have patience with Shrek, accept him for who he his", particularly going against being taught that her Prince Charming must look and act a certain way. Thus, Adamson considers Fiona to be "an empowering character" for young girls. Unlike Farquaad, Shrek respects Fiona for speaking up for and defending herself. Fiona's final transformation sequence in which she transforms into an ogress permanently is considered to be a parody and critique of the Beast's transformation into a human in Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991), with Fiona coming to realize that her "true love's true form" is in fact an ogress. Novelist and film critic Jeffrey Overstreet considered it to be "part of society’s downfall that we embrace the Princess Fionas when they’re glamorous rather than real." Film critic Roger Ebert observed that Fiona is the only princess competing to be Farquaad's bride (opposite Cinderella and Snow White) who "who has not had the title role in a Disney animated feature", which he considered to be "inspired by feelings DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg has nourished since his painful departure from Disney".
In a review for Salon, film critic Stephanie Zacharek observed that Fiona "has two little frecklelike beauty spots, one on her cheek and one on her upper chest", which she interpreted as "symbols of her human authenticity, but they also serve as a sort of factory trademark left by her creators: 'You see, we've thought of every last detail.'" Rick Groen of The Globe and Mail observed that Fiona "appears to replicate the body of Cameron Diaz", describing her as "a cute brunette with a retroussé nose, ample curves, and cleavage that broadens whenever she bends low in her scoop-neck frock." Fiona is skilled in hand-to-hand combat and martial arts. The New York Times journalist A. J. Jacobs wrote that Fiona's kung fu skills rival those of actor Bruce Lee, abilities she is explained to have inherited from her mother Queen Lillian. Describing Fiona as tough and clever, museum curator Sarah Tutton observed that, despite being a love interest, the character "doesn’t play the typical supporting role ... Just because Princess Fiona subverts the idea of beauty, it doesn’t mean that beauty is not important. It means that the film isn’t taking it as a cliche." In the third film, Fiona teaches the classic princesses, who are naturally inclined to "to assume passive positions", not to wait for their princes to rescue them, making them over into action heroines themselves when Prince Charming takes over the kingdom while teaching them to stand up for themselves. Several critics considered this moment to be about girl power and female empowerment, as well as a Charlie's Angels reference. Diaz believes that the films and her character "retain the best qualities of" classic fairy tale characters, "infusing them with contemporary wit, style and relevance" for a more contemporary generation. Diaz elaborated, "We do love those girls ... But now they have a whole new life. They can exist in our current culture, our pop culture again ... Where before, they were forgotten. It’s a celebration of them. It’s a rebirth.” Furthermore, Diaz believes that the princesses' independence is a positive message for both women and men, interpreting it as "a message for everyone … You have to be proactive in your own life." Miller believes that Fiona's skills as a martial artist prove naturally beneficial to her adjustment to motherhood because "she can use her whole body. She’s very adaptable.”
Fiona first appears in Shrek (2001) as a bride chosen by Lord Farquaad, who intends to marry the princess solely so that he can become King of Duloc. In order to regain ownership of his swamp, Shrek and Donkey agree to retrieve Fiona from her dragon-guarded tower and return her to Farquaad. Fiona is rescued successfully but disappointed upon discovering that Shrek is an ogre instead of a knight, proceeding to act coldly towards him at the beginning of their journey back to Duloc. However, her attitude softens once she overhears Shrek explaining that he is constantly misjudged based on his appearance, and the two gradually develop a camaraderie and attraction towards each other as Fiona falls in love with Shrek. Late one evening, Donkey learns that Fiona is under a curse that transforms her into an ogress each and every night, and she wishes to break the enchantment by obtaining a kiss from Farquaad before the next sunset. When she finally decides to tell Shrek the truth the following morning, she discovers that Shrek has already summoned Farquaad to take her back to his castle herself, having overheard and misinterpreted her conversation with Donkey. The princess and ogre part ways, Fiona returning to Duloc with Farquaad and Shrek returning to his swamp alone. Shrek and Donkey soon interrupt Fiona and Farquaad's wedding ceremony; Farquaad realizes that Shrek has fallen in love with Fiona. With the sun setting, Fiona allows herself to transform into an ogre in front of Shrek and their wedding guests for the first time, prompting Farquaad to threaten to lock her in her tower for eternity. However, the dragon that had once kept Fiona prisoner eats Farquaad, killing him. Fiona finally professes her love for Shrek and, upon kissing him, turns into an ogress full-time; the two ogres marry.
In Shrek 2 (2004), Fiona and Shrek return home from their honeymoon to find that Fiona's parents have invited them to the kingdom of Far, Far Away to celebrate and bless their message. Shrek is apprehensive about the idea of meeting his parents-in-law for the first time, but Fiona convinces him. Fiona's parents, King Harold and Queen Lillian, are surprised to see that their daughter is still an ogress having married one herself, with Harold acting particularly coldly towards his new son-in-law, straining Fiona and Shrek's relationship. When an unhappy Fiona unintentionally summons her Fairy Godmother, who discovers that the princess has married someone other than Prince Charming, her own son, she conspires with Harold to kill Shrek and trick Fiona into falling in love with Charming, as per their original agreement. Fiona is briefly returned to her human form when Shrek consumes a potion that turns both him and his true love beautiful, but Shrek must obtain a kiss from Fiona before midnight, otherwise the spell will be reverted. However, Fairy Godmother, from whom Shrek stole the potion, tricks Fiona into believing that Charming is Shrek's human form. Despite their efforts, Fiona continues to resent Charming's impression of her husband to the point at which Fairy Godmother imprisons Shrek and insists that Harold give Fiona a potion that will force her to fall in love with whomever she kisses first, intending for this to be Charming. However, the king refuses upon seeing how unhappy Fiona has become, thwarting Fairy Godmother's plan. Fairy Godmother and Charming are defeated by Fiona, Shrek and their friends. Although Shrek offers to kiss Fiona so that they can remain human forever, Fiona refuses, insisting that she would rather spend forever with the ogre she fell in love with and married.
In Shrek the Third (2007), Fiona and Shrek take on the roles of acting Queen and King of Far, Far Away while Harold is ill. When Harold passes away, Shrek is reluctantly named next-in-line to Harold's throne, a position he declines because becoming king would prevent him and Fiona from returning to their swamp. Determined to locate a suitable heir, Shrek sets out to recruit Fiona's cousin Arthur Pendragon to convince him to assume the throne. Before Shrek departs, Fiona finally reveals that she is pregnant, forcing Shrek to come to terms with the idea of fatherhood. While Shrek, Donkey and Puss venture to Camelot to recruit Arthur, Fiona remains at Far, Far Away, where her princess friends Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel host a baby shower for her. The shower is interrupted by Still bitter over losing both the kingdom and Fiona to Shrek, Prince Charming stages an invasion so that he can proclaim himself king of Far Far Away. Instead of waiting to be rescued, an idea that Fiona finds appalling, she encourages the princesses to free themselves and fight back. After escaping the dungeon, Fiona, Lillian and the princesses (albeit Rapunzel, who has betrayed them to marry Charming) organize a resistance to defend themselves and the kingdom. Artie makes a speech to convince the villains to go straight. In the end, Fiona gives birth to ogre triplets with Shrek by her side, and the two ogres became parents.
Shrek Forever After (2010) reveals that, during the events of the first film, Fiona's parents had nearly lost the kingdom to Rumpelstiltskin, nearly signing it over in return for their daughter's freedom, but his plans are thwarted when Fiona is rescued by and falls in love with Shrek. Fiona confronts Shrek, who has grown frustrated with his mundane repetitive life since becoming a father, about losing losing his temper during their children's birthday party after being pestered by a young fan, and a heated argument leads to Shrek wishing that he had never rescued Fiona from the tower, a comment by which Fiona is hurt. When Shrek makes his deal with Rumpelstiltskin, for a single day he is brought to a universe where he was never born. Here, Rumpel has seized power by tricking Fiona's parents out of ruling the kingdom of Far Far Away. Since Shrek never frees Fiona from the tower, she Fiona remains under the witch's spell – human by day and ogre by night – and has subsequently become the leader of a group of Ogre resistance fighters. Shrek initially believes that the relationship between him and Fiona is still existent there but when she doesn't even recognize him, he finally accepts completely that the reality, he is in, is not his own and that Stiltskin has truly altered reality to be as if he never existed until now. Fiona is shown to still be kind hearted and caring but bitterly cynical and disillusioned about the power of true love, because she was never rescued from her tower, having grown traumatized and solitary due to her yeats of imprisonment. She begins to fall in love with him again when he starts training with her, but still does not kiss him (having only started to find him likable). But Fiona's attitude towards Shrek changes as she and the other ogres head off to take down Rumpelstiltskin once and for all. During the day, Shrek realises that a loophole will negate the deal if he can receive a True Love's kiss from Fiona. After a failed attempt, they realize that he has succeeded when Fiona's curse has been broken. The timeline returns to normal, and Shrek returns to his children's birthday party before he lashed out at everybody and warmly greets Fiona. The change in the timeline also restores the Ogres who seem to have disappeared in the first 3 shrek movies through unknown reasons. She also reveals she always wanted to have a daughter named Felicia. We also learn that Shrek and Fiona's sons are Fergus and Farkle.
Television specials and shorts
The animated short Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party! (2001) is included on home video releases of Shrek, featuring several of the film's characters performing covers of well-known songs. In the short, Fiona sings an excerpt from Madonna's song "Like a Virgin" (1984). Fiona appears in the short Shrek 4-D, a 4-D film originally shown at various amusement and theme parks. The film was renamed Shrek 3-D and The Ghost of Lord Farquaad for home video and streaming service releases. Fiona and Shrek's honeymooning plans are interrupted by Farquaad's ghost, who kidnaps Fiona and intends to kill the princess so that he can marry her ghost in the afterlife. Shrek and Donkey pursue Farquaad determined to rescue her, assisted by Dragon. Fiona appears in the short film Far, Far Away Idol, a parody of the reality television singing competition American Idol, which is included as a bonus feature on home video releases of Shrek 2. First serving as a judge alongside Shrek and an animated version of American Idol judge Simon Cowell, offering feedback about the other characters performances, Fiona eventually duets The Romantics' "What I Like About You" with Shrek.
In the musical, it is revealed that when Fiona was seven years old, she was sent away to her tower to await the noble prince who would rescue her. Her only company were some old dolls and all she did was re-read fairy tales about princesses in similar situations (Rapunzel, Snow White, etc.) and learn about proper princess etiquette. Fiona waited 23 years (8,423 days), growing into a strong-willed, feisty and beautiful young woman. When Shrek finally arrives to rescue her, she tries to get him to act out the scene she always imagined would happen when her prince would come, though he ends up having to drag her away to escape the Dragon and her skeletons. Fiona is ecstatic that she is finally free, though confused at first as to why her champion refuses to give her "True Love's First Kiss". She is shocked and angry when Shrek reveals himself to be an ogre, but runs off to a nearby cave when the sun sets. During the finale song "Who I'd Be", she overhears Shrek and Donkey's conversation and is moved. She stands apart from them, alone in the moonlight, in her ogress form.
In Act Two, she wakes up bright and early to greet the day in the show stopper "Morning Person". Her singing accidentally makes a bluebird explode and she accidentally tosses a deer off a cliff, but when she helps a Pied Piper with his duties, the rats dancing becomes a full-blown tap number, complete with Fiona changing her dress into an attractive dance outfit and leading them. Shrek and Donkey walk in at the end, astounded by what they have seen. Fiona apologizes for her behavior, but she and Shrek begin a duel over whose childhood was worse (Here Fiona reveals that she was sent away on Christmas Eve, angering Shrek, who thought he beat her when he said he was kicked out on his seventh birthday). Upon realizing they were both abandoned at the hands of their parents, they begin a bond, which is sealed in a burping and farting contest between the two of them.
On reaching Duloc, Fiona is reluctant to finally leave her friends and shares one last campfire dinner with Shrek, who mutually doesn't want her to go either. When the sun sets again, she hides in a nearby barn and Donkey finds her in her ogre form. She tells him the story of her curse and begs him not to tell Shrek, because she believes nobody could love her when she looks like such a hideous beast. However, Shrek was outside about to tell her he loved her when he overheard the conversation and thought she was referring to him. The next morning, Fiona decides to tell Shrek, but he has already brought Lord Farquaad to her. She is rather unimpressed with his small stature and egotistical attitude, but accepts his proposal and convinces him to move the wedding to before sunset.
In a song originally in the Seattle previews but removed when taken to Broadway, Fiona prepares for her wedding but is unhappy as she has found the fairy tale ending is not really what she wanted. Before she and Farquaad can share a kiss, Shrek interrupts the wedding and is mocked by Farquaad when he tries to tell her he loves her. Caught between true love and breaking the spell, Fiona tries to run away but is stopped by a mob of fairy tale creatures that Farquaad had previously banished from the kingdom. After it is revealed that Farquaad is a "halfling" (half-human/half-dwarf) the sun sets and Fiona transforms amid the confusion. Shrek, while initially surprised, accepts the change, though Farquaad is furious and banishes her back to her tower when he proclaims himself the new king. The Dragon crashes through the window, swallows Farquaad, and Shrek and Fiona kiss. Fiona undergoes a miraculous transformation into...an ogress. She is surprised that "True Love's Form" isn't as beautiful as she thought it would be, but Shrek still thinks she is beautiful. Everyone celebrates and lives happily ever after.
Haven Burton, who understudied the role on Broadway, plays her on the North American tour. Amanda Holden originated the role in the West End until she was replaced by Kimberley Walsh and then Carley Stenson. The character is provided with more of a backstory, having been shown first seeing Shrek as a child, being the only character who does not dislike him until she is taken away by her parents. Despite being a fan of the musical adaption, Diaz has stated that she has no intention of reprising her role on stage.
Reception and legacy
During early press screenings, critics were amused by Fiona's bluebird scene to the point at which they laughed hysterically; David Ansen of Newsweek reported that the sequence consistently "sends audiences into fits of delight". Time film critic Richard Schickel called Fiona "an excellent character," highlighting her confrontation with Monsieur Hood, while John Zebrowski of The Seattle Times described the same scene as "great". Similarly, the New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick identified Fiona's encounters with Monsieur Hood and the bluebird as clever, delightful "sendups of a long line of Disney classics", also calling her final transformation "extremely satisfying". Kelly Vance of the East Bay Express wrote, "Armed with Diaz' vocal portrayal ... Fiona is more charming, more vulnerable, perkier, and even more sensitive than if she were played by a human actress." Film critic Emanuel Levy believes that Shrek "benefits immensely from the presence of Fiona", writing that "Diaz applies well skills she had acquired for Charlie's Angels". Hollywood.com's Robert Sims joked that "Fiona could teach Charlie's Angels a lesson or two in romance and survival skills." Malcolm Johnson of the Hartford Courant lauded Fiona as "a marvel, as beautiful and shapely as a real star but capable of moves that go beyond the wirework in The Matrix." Johnson continued, "Every turn of Fiona's head, every glance, every shift of mouth lift character animation to new heights." Similarly, the London Evening Standard wrote that "every bright ringlet on Princess Fiona ... the liquefaction flow of her velvet robe, even her skin tones have the feel of organic root, thread or cell." Slant Magazine's Ed Gonzalez identified Fiona's issues with self-loathing as the film's strongest asset.
Diaz has also received positive attention for her voice acting. The Washington Post film critic Desson Howe wrote that Diaz's performance "makes a funny, earthy princess." GamesRadar+ wrote that Fiona in particular "nestle[s] comfortably between the movie's storybook style and photo-realistic convincingness," continuing that Diaz's performance "reinforces her game-for-a-laugh reputation". Kim Morgan of OregonLive.com wrote that "Diaz's sweet yet tough demeanor shines through all her computer-generated-imagery beauty, and, like her own likeness, she's not just lovable because she's a knockout; there's some vulnerability in there." The Daily Telegraph's film critic Andrew O'Hagan believes that Diaz Fiona "with the kind of easygoing shrillness that modern eight-year-olds may find likeable in the extreme." The Deseret News' Jeff Vice wrote that Diaz proves that "she's more than just a pretty face." Bruce Westbrook of the Houston Chronicle reviewed that Diaz "takes the spunkiness of today's heroines further, packing surprise punches that would have suited her role in Charlie's Angels" and reminding audiences that her character does not need to be rescued. Reviewing Shrek 2, Jean Oppenheimer of Screen Daily felt that Fiona's bluebird scene would be difficult to "top" in the sequel, while describing Diaz's performance as "flawless". PopMatters' Cynthia Fuchs, reviewing the fourth film, described the princess as "always at least a little wonderful, patient, and smart (and now awesomely Amazonian)," and found herself wishing that Fiona would eventually discover her own parallel universe in which "her work outside the home is better appreciated." Rachel O'Neill, a writer for The Daily Edge, identified Fiona as "the first badass princess who I remember ... was able to speak for herself", joking, "nobody can fling a mermaid quite like Fiona."
Derek Armstrong of AllMovie found Fiona's fight scene to be unnecessary, writing that it "leaves things feeling scattershot" despite being "Amusing and visually dazzling". In a negative review, CNN's Paul Tatara dismissed Fiona as "bland" and the film's "only miscue among the characters". Criticizing her design, Tatara wrote that the princess "sometimes gives off the creepy air of a possessed Barbie Doll" while "Diaz's California-girl line readings simply don't fit the character." Similarly, the Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro wrote that Fiona "has a particularly generic, anorexic-Barbie look" but admitted that "this characteristic has a worthwhile purpose in the plot. She's got a secret, and it's resolved in a giddy, farcical, window-smashing climax that almost makes you forget the elements that don't work." Anthony Quinn of The Independent found Fiona's "glazed perfection" to be particularly "troubling", explaining that she "looks so close to human that you start to wonder why the animators didn't just down tools and invite Cameron Diaz to play her as well as voice her." Similarly, The New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane felt that the character appeared too realistic, writing, "What I don't want is to gaze at Princess Fiona, at the multifarious play of her near-human features, and wonder if she is supposed to resemble Cameron Diaz". Peter Bradshaw, film critic for The Guardian, found Fiona and the film's other human characters "disappointingly ordinary looking and unexpressive," comparing them to claymation. New York's Peter Rainer found that human characters such as Fiona "are less interesting than the animals and creatures". Paul Malcolm of LA Weekly described Diaz's performance as "insuperably flat".
NBC New York's Bryan Alexander described Fiona as "the world's hottest ogre", while Stephen Hunter, film critic for The Washington Post, found hearing Diaz's voice come from a computer-animated character to be "kind of hot". Diaz and the rest of the main cast garnered significant media attention and press for the roles throughout the series. For her performance in the first film, Diaz won a Kid's Choice Award for Best Burp, which the actress has identified as one of her "proudest achievement[s]". Daniel Kurland of Screen Rant described Diaz as "a bit of an unsung hero in the franchise, but she remains a crucial component of what makes the movie work." Summarizing the actress' career, Kendall Fisher of E! Online wrote that Diaz "voiced one of our favorite animated characters as Fiona in Shrek." The Ringer ranked Shrek Diaz's best film, writing that her performance as Fiona has aged better than the film's soundtrack and animation. Author Alison Herman elaborated that Fiona embraced her flaws and offered "an important lesson in both self-esteem and the comedic value of fart jokes for young children everywhere", while the actress "Diaz holds her own against the likes of Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy; as a character, Fiona subverts the pretty-princess trope enough to provide fuel for undergrad media studies papers for decades to come". Marie Claire ranked Fiona Diaz's third best "Movie Moments That Made Us Fall In Love With Her". In addition to ranking Fiona the fourth best role of Diaz's career following her retirement in 2018, Samarth Goyal of the Hindustan Times wrote that Fiona is "one of the most loved animated characters of the 21st century", ranking her among Diaz's characters that have "been infused with that X factor that made her such a big star." Forbes wrote, "Princess Fiona, who exudes good will and girl power, is the kind of character one could see Cameron Diaz playing" in live-action films, despite being an ogress. In 2011, Gulf News ranked Diaz among "Hollywood's A-list of most popular voice actors", with Forbes reporting that the actress was mentioned in the media approximately 1,809 times while promoting the most recent Shrek film. Teen Vogue considered Fiona to be among the "17 Best Princesses in Movies and TV", praising the character for learning "to love herself." To promote Shrek 2, ice cream restaurant Baskin-Robbins named an ice cream after the character, entitled Fiona's Fairytale. Described as "pink and purple swirled", the ice cream is cotton candy-flavored.
Some media publications have regarded Fiona as a feminist icon. Upon her debut, Fiona was celebrated by most media critics "as a radical new take on the princess myth". Fiona's subversion of common princess traits and stereotypes continues to be widely discussed in the media. Wired contributor Claudia Puig wrote that the first film boasts "a wonderfully affirming message for girls courtesy of Fiona". Jack Rear, writing for Pretty 52, described Fiona as "feminism goals" due to her proficiency in martial arts. Affinity Magazine contributor Isabel Tovar identified the moment Fiona defeats Monsieur Hood as "a female empowering moment", writing that "Fiona has been feminist queen since day one." Teresa Brickey of The Odyssey wrote that, despite being rescued at the beginning of the film, Fiona "embraced and liberated herself ... never once did she submit herself to the patriarchy. Instead, she accepted her body, accepted who she loved, and fought for right to do her thing." Reviewing Shrek Forever After, Rachel Giese of CBC found the character's "girl-power turn as a warrior princess" to be one of the installment's most interesting changes. Crowning the character "the best feminist action hero around", Emily Shire of The Week deemed Fiona "the kind of feminist action hero movies need more of", describing her as a strong heroine who "saves herself and loved ones; and ultimately embraces the 'ugly' and 'gross' aspects of herself that she never thought fit the rules." Shire also voiced her preference for Fiona over characters such as The Hunger Games' Katniss Everdeen and the superheroine Wonder Woman. Shire's sentiments were shared by Allison Maloney of The Shriver Report. Felicity Sleeman, a writer for Farrago, believes that "Fiona completely dispels any misconceptions of the passive princess trope when she shows off her amazing fighting skills", citing her as "an example of a strong female character, able to stand up for herself and fight in ways that would typically be considered masculine." However, Sleeman also argued that one of the most important aspects of Fiona's personality "is that the films don’t ignore or degrade any of her qualities that are considered typically feminine", explaining that her "concern over her appearance ... is significant in that it presents the ways in which so many girls are pressured by society to uphold a certain standard of beauty." Sleeman concluded, "In an industry where female characters have so often portrayed as secondary characters defined by their beauty, or as strong warriors who are unable to be both feminine and strong, Fiona is a well-rounded character who represents an eclectic mix of traits that are representative of real women."
HuffPost contributor Hayley Krischer cited Fiona as one of a few examples of a princess who "br[oke] the mold", describing her as a "chubby, tough cookie". Iona Tytler of Babe.net recognized Fiona among "The feminist characters from your childhood who got you where you are today", writing that Fiona was "a main character in her own right" despite being Shrek's love interest. Tytler continued, "She knew how to handle herself and was independent, overcoming the societal prejudice in her world that came with being an ogre, and her character developed to be more comfortable in her own skin." Reviewing Shrek the Third, Entertainment Weekly film critic Lisa Schwarzbaum described Fiona as "fabulously resourceful", identifying the moment she transforms her princess friends into "Shrek's Angels" as "the movie’s One Cool Thing." Philippa Hawker of The Age felt that the threequel could have been improved had Fiona been named Harold's heir instead of Shrek or Arthur, opposing the idea of Fiona being relegated to "a cursory girl-power scenario at the end of the movie." Sarah Tutton, curator of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image's DreamWorks exhibition, credits Fiona's role in the Shrek films with "br[eaking] the mould of the helpless princess," citing her as "an example of the modern feminist." Tutton elaborated that the character "completely subverts what it means to be a princess, what it means to be beautiful" and "how people act in a fairytale world". Forbes contributor Dani Di Placido believes that Fiona embodied the unconventional rebellious warrior princess several years before such traits became standard in films. Similarly, the British Film Institute's So Mayer wrote that heroines such as Merida and Elsa from Disney's Brave (2012) and Frozen (2013), respectively, were both " late to the party compared to" Fiona, writing, "over the course of the trilogy she wanders the wilderness, turns down Lord Farquaad, survives imprisonment, decides she prefers being ogre to being human, and organises a resistance composed of fairytale princesses." Furthermore, Female Action Heroes: A Guide to Women in Comics, Video Games, Film, and Television author Gladys L. Knight wrote that Fiona also challenged the ways in which medieval women were portrayed on film. Refinery 29's Anne Cohen felt that Shrek's plot in which "All these men mak[e] decisions about a woman's future without her knowledge, consent, or physical presence should all make for a very un-feminist plot" but believes "of all the fairy-tale princesses out there, Fiona is the one that strikes me as the strongest." Cohen praised Fiona for defending herself, defy traditional princess stereotypes, speaking her mind and accepting herself despite her flaws. The author concluded, "Fiona doesn't look like Wonder Woman, Lara Croft, or Katniss Everdeen. She's strong, she's got curves, and let's be real, she's GREEN. But in the end, she accepts herself for the fierce, honest, wonderful princess she is and we — and Shrek, of course — love her for i", crowning her an "important cultural milestone". Mary Zeiss Stange, author of Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World, Volume 1, cited Fiona as an example of an "outstanding female action hero".
Despite being impressed by the character's "ability to fight like female warriors from The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," Furniss observed a "contradiction in her need to seek authentication from a male romantic partner", typically arguing that a highly trained martial artist would have little, if any, concerns about her outward appearance. Although acknowledging that the film demonstrates themes of inner beauty and "women of all types are beautiful," the author argued that Fiona's understanding is dependent on male approval, referring to her relationships with both Farquaad and Shrek, and further acknowledging that she struggles to use these same martial arts skills to fend off Farquaad's guards. Furniss found it "disappointing that her character arc ... is in fact activated by the kiss of a man", but admitted that the completion of Shrek's character development is similarly determined by him kissing Fiona. Furniss doubts that Fiona would not have been able to accept her ogre form had Shrek decided to retreat to his swamp alone after kissing her. Author Margot Mifflin, writing for Salon, felt that some of Fiona's actions contradict with the film's morals about looks being less important, citing that she dislikes Farquaad more for his short stature than his cruelty towards others. She also found the princess in Steig's original story to be more liberated and less of a damsel in distress than Fiona. Despite describing the character's ogre form as "an overfed Cabbage Patch doll with the drowning eyes and apologetic expression of a Hummel figurine", Mifflin found the fact that Fiona remains an ogre, fights, talks back and has more realistic body proportions to be ground-breaking, while describing her musical solo as one of the film's "hilarious" highlights. The Conversation's Michelle Smith was less impressed, writing that despite the character's fighting abilities, she is "desperate to follow the fairy tale script" and believes that "her ultimate reward [is] marrying her brave rescuer".
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