Shrek, Fiona, and the Glass Castle: Navigating Knapp’s Stages of Relationship Development

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The Glass Castle and Dreamworks’ Resurgence

Did you know the movie “Shrek” saved Dreamworks from extinction? The movie Shrek not only saved the company financially, but it opened up a door for Dreamworks and gave them the ability to use computer animation to develop other movies such as Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda. The movie Shrek is about an introverted Ogre who noticed that his swamp was invaded by fairytale creatures placed there by Lord Farquaad. Lord Farquaad made a deal with Shrek and said he must rescue Princess Fiona in order to get his swamp back.

Along the quest, Shrek and Princess Fiona developed a bond that can best be described by the coming together phase of Knapp’s theory of relationship development. Whether it be a romantic relationship or a strong friendship, Knapp’s theory of relationship development includes five stages that make up the first half of his theory. The five stages include initiating, experimenting, intensifying, integrating, and bonding.

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Initiation and the Unexpected Ogre: Shrek’s Unconventional First Impression

The half of Knapp’s theory of relationship development is known as the Coming together phase. The first stage is known as Initiation. In the movie, Shrek is sent on a quest by Lord Farquaad to rescue his Princess from the fire-breathing dragon. Fiona knew that one day, her brave knight in shining armor would come and rescue her from the castle. One of Fiona’s dreams was for her knight in shining armor to romantically wake her from her sleep by kissing her. However, Shrek had different things in mind.

When Shrek made his way to her bedroom in the tallest castle, he made his first contact with her by rapidly shaking her by the shoulders to wake her up. Shrek and Fiona had to make it out of the castle in time to escape from the fire-breathing dragon, so he threw Fiona over his shoulder and began running for the nearest exit. When Shrek and Fiona escaped the castle, Fiona insisted upon knowing who rescued her. Knapp once described that “in the initial contact, early impressions are made.

Although these may be inaccurate, they may well significantly influence whether the individuals want to progress the relationship to a further stage. For romantic relationships, physical impressions of appearance, dress, smell, and so on are often important.” Shrek took off his armor, and Fiona was shocked to see her rescuer was an Ogre rather than a knight.

Experimentation in Duloc: Uncovering Shared Acquaintances and Interests

Knapp’s second stage in the coming together phase is experimentation. In this stage, Knapp believes that “if the parties are interested, they may start exploring, looking for common interests, common acquaintances and other ground on which they can meet and share.” After rescuing the Princess, Shrek and Fiona began making their way towards Duloc to bring her to her Prince Lord Farquaad. Since Shrek has already met Lord Farquaad, Fiona becomes curious and begins to ask questions about her new prince charming. In this scene, Shrek and Fiona share a common acquaintance. Fiona is trying to obtain more information about lord Farquaad, and Shrek begins to describe his appearance and indicates she will not fall in love with such a short man.

The Intensifying Journey: From Battles to Bonding Moments

As their journey back to Duloc continues, Shrek and Fiona have finally entered the Intensifying stage. In this stage, they have finally developed a committed friendship, and they have been sharing more personal details about themselves. While traveling, Fiona was swooped up by the Merry Men in the forest, who wanted to keep her as their own Princess. Shrek stood up for her and said, “Hey! That’s my Princess, go get your own!” Little did Shrek know, Fiona shared a personal detail about herself by fighting off every man in the forest who was trying to take her. After fighting and defeating every man in the forest, Shrek was in shock about what Fiona was capable of. This stage of the coming together phase is what sparked Shrek’s feelings for Fiona and describes the beginning of their relational and emotional investment.

From Integration to Bonding: Shrek and Fiona’s Unforgettable Love Story

After spending multiple days together, Shrek and Fiona have entered the integration stage of the coming together phase. This is the stage “where they start seeing each other more often and integrate a number of parts of their lives.” In addition to bonding, this stage makes up the maintenance stage of the relationship. During this phase, a couple’s belongings, living spaces, and identities may be shared.

Also, this is the stage where “other verbal and nonverbal manifestations of the integration include the couple seeing their relationship in a special or unique way, the exchange of “trophies,” for the other to wear or display, and potentially similarities in manner, dress, and verbal behavior can be seen.” Still on their journey back to Duloc, Shrek, and Fiona have developed an intimate relationship full of nice gifts and gestures. While walking back, Fiona spotted a spider web, twirled it in the air to catch more spiders, and gave it to Shrek as a form of cotton candy. In exchange, Shrek blew up a frog for Fiona and tied a string to it so it would resemble a balloon. Shrek and Fiona continued these romantic gestures and gift-giving until they finally gave up and started romantically chasing each other through the fields.

Lastly, the final stage that concludes the coming together phase of Knapp’s theory of relationship development is the Bonding stage. This is the state where the relationship becomes public, and it is known that the two people are exclusive. Although marriage is not a vital form of bonding, this stage usually involves marriage or a public contract. Towards the end of the film, Fiona and Lord Farquaad supposedly “fall in love” and get married.

“The Glass Castle” Reflections: Shrek’s Unbreakable Bond.

During their wedding ceremony, Shrek interrupts the bride and the groom and shouts at Fiona, saying, “he is not your true love!” Shrek then goes on to tell Fiona that he loves her for the first time. Fiona responded with, “I love you too,” and they shared their first kiss in front of the entire wedding ceremony, including Lord Farquaad. As the couple shared their first kiss, sparks began to fly, and Fiona magically converted from a princess to an Ogre. Knapp points out that “reaching this stage does not guarantee the relationship will remain bonded, though many intimate relationships will remain in this stage until divorce, death, or another type of separation.”

In conclusion, whether it be romance or friendship, Knapp’s theory of relationship development can be seen in the early and final stages of relationships. Shrek and Fiona’s relationship throughout the movie is a direct reflection of the coming together phase of Knapp’s theory of relationship development. Throughout the movie, Shrek and Fiona demonstrate Knapp’s initiation stage, experimentation, intensifying, integration, and bonding stages. Although Shrek is on a quest to rescue the Princess and receive his swamp back, he and Fiona both end up living happily ever after.


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  2. Knapp’s relationship model, I. C. (2014, July 10). Knapp’s Relationship Model.
  3. S, B. (2018, January 10). Knapp’s model of interaction stages.
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  5. Thomas, L. (2015, November 30). Knapps Relationship Model.
  6. Knapp, M. L. (1978). Social Intercourse: From Greeting to Goodbye. Allyn and Bacon.

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Shrek, Fiona, and the Glass Castle: Navigating Knapp's Stages of Relationship Development. (2023, Aug 25). Retrieved from

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