Encanto: Singing Its Praises

Encanto: Singing Its Praises

Anne Elise Cairns, Contributor

Disney’s most recent animated feature Encanto set in the mountains of Colombia has not only performed well, but it has resonated with many viewers. The Madrigals family have each been blessed with an extraordinary gift. Whether that be super strength, shape-shifting, or even seeing the future, each family member works their hardest to make the family proud and serve those living in their paradise. The primary protagonist, Mirabel was not given a gift by the miracle when she came of age, leaving her feeling somewhat outcast in comparison to her family. Though unintentional, the family tends to push her away whilst she attempts to aid the family in their service to the community by saying “sometimes the best way for some of us to help is to step aside.”  However, the magic seems to be dwindling due to an unknown force, and Mirabel is determined to save the miracle and in turn make the family proud. Throughout the movie, she slowly discovers more about herself and her family. Disney approaches being more in touch with the reality of the characters rather than a quick happily ever after. 

When Mirabel confides in her siblings and extended family about the possibilities of what is causing the miracle to struggle, she learned many of them are dealing with more than she knew, especially her older sisters, Louisa and Isabella. Louisa was blessed with heightened strength and Isabella can grow beautiful plants and is referred to as the “perfect golden child”. Through her song, (thank you Lin Manuel Miranda) Lousia reveals that “under the surface” she feels a tremendous pressure of having to balance and carry the weight of the family’s expectations. Louisa’s song “Surface Pressure” is one that countless people have revealed they have a personal understanding of this and relate to her character. When questioned about a song they related to, a Bob Jones student stated, “Louisa wasn’t even the eldest child in her nuclear family, but good golly gosh, did I relate to her song as the eldest child. It is pressure like a drip drip drip that’ll never stop. I constantly have to take the responsibility for my younger sister and my family dumping issues down my back every other day.” For too many, it is a daily struggle to “measure up” or be “good enough” for their families, through movies like this maybe more people will realize that they shouldn’t have to feel less than themselves when they are doing their best.

Mirabel’s oldest sister, Isabella, reveals it is stressful for her to be expected to be perfect all the time. She longs to create anything other than perfect roses, and Mirabel helps her to discover that. A Bob Jones student said, “As the older sibling, I’m expected to always help my little sister with EVERYTHING, and though I of course and happy to help, my parents always have a tone that they will punish me if I don’t watch my sister for small things and make sure she doesn’t do something she isn’t supposed to. I also have the expectations of being the strong, smart one to do good in life, and it feels like they favor me more than my sister and treat her less than me.” As people who long for acceptance, we strive for going above and beyond expectations. So it is no wonder we feel like a burden to ourselves and others when we cannot achieve the extraordinary, but the truth is we need to meet each other where they are at, and this movie it shows us just that. Mirabel wants her family to feel confident in themselves and she does this by simply being there no matter what. It is wonderful to see Disney showing us these real-life situations while still allowing us to get lost in the magic. 

Lately, Disney has shifted from having just fantastical stories with a lesson learned theme and more into the issues of today. Especially with the chaos that we experience daily, it is a breath of fresh air to see these feelings and issues explored within a story and executed in a way that neither distracts nor takes away from the believability of the characters, though some may argue they do not go into watching a movie to deal with their daily struggles and instead are looking to escape them with fantasy. This is a reasonable approach, but perhaps that is what makes it so important. The feeling of weight and pressure within the expectation of perfection we have, even from our minds is better addressed than pushed away and ignored.

There is a time and a place for these themes and references and the way Disney has been continually shifting into more real-world tones may be exactly what people need. Bob Jones senior Brenna Oxley sums it up perfectly: “I thought Disney did a great job on expanding the reality of their characters. Disney is often credited for creating false realities and fictional stories but more recently they have written films that more accurately describe the world without losing its magic.” The story leaves us with many questions about what may happen to these characters next and many hope to see a sequel in the years to come.