Warning: This Review May Include Mild Spoilers!
This review may be a little different than some of my other reviews. As I write this, I am overwhelmed with emotions. Encanto is one of Disney’s few feature films or series that highlights Hispanic culture. The others include the half-Latina, Sophia the First, Princess Elena of Avalor, and The Emperor’s New Groove. The latter had a primarily caucasian cast voicing Peruvian and Colombian characters.
So, when I learned that Puerto Rican singer, actor, director, and writer Lin Manuel Miranda was helming Encanto, I was elated. Miranda did an excellent job in Moana and Mary Poppin., I felt confident he could showcase Hispanic culture for Disney in a way that hasn’t been done before. In a way, he does but at the same time, he does not.
Encanto is the story of how a magic candle grants several generations of family magical gifts on the day they come of age. Everyone receives different powers. Some receive superhuman strength, others can talk to animals, one can tell the future, and some can bring plants to life. And you thought your 3-wick from Bath and Bodyworks was something, huh? Everyone in the family gets powers except Mirabel.
As you may have seen in the trailers, something causes the magic to fade from the family home. The trailer makes you believe that Mirabel is the hero of the story, that only she can bring the magic back. Spoiler alert: Her family believes she is the reason why they are losing their magic. That’s right, they blame her. Mirabel isn’t on a grand journey to help her family. She is on a mission to exonerate herself. What evidence do they have? A vision from a family member, Bruno, who they exiled for said vision. After the vision, Mirabel is treated like a walking bomb. They are all waiting for her to explode and the vision to come true. She doesn’t learn that until later in the movie. Instead, she just has to adapt to being treated differently by her family.
Growing up in a Latin family, there are certain family structures that have been perpetuated for generations. I’m referring to the blatant misogyny that is being disguised as “traditional values.” I’m not entirely sure if Encanto’s main purpose was to spotlight the gender roles in Hispanic families and how they favor males over females, but it does.
Before I begin to dive deep, the film is colorful, the music is fun and catchy, and the characters are authentic to the real people who call Colombia home. However, as a Latina, the film was personally painful to watch. The women in the family are responsible for much of the work around the home. Luisa, Mirabel, and Isabela all are struggling with the weight of their family expectations. The family expected Mirabel was a living curse and treated her as such, Luisa received strength as her gift and was expected to use it for the sake of the family, and Isabela being as beautiful as a flower was expected to marry someone of status. Meanwhile, most of the male family members got to live their lives as they wanted.
There is a joke that goes, “if you are Latina and the oldest sibling, I offer my condolences.” Latinas face insurmountable pressure from the family to not only be perfect, but be responsible, and do what benefits the family. In Encanto, the family never considered if Isabela wanted to get married or tell Luisa that she is beautiful and can be feminine. And they certainly never tell Mirabel it’s ok that you don’t have magic but since you can’t, please help with these laborious chores. There is one male character who suffers an equally awful fate, Bruno. His exile is so wildly accepted they dedicate a whole song to it! Are you kidding me, Lin?
The solution to bringing back the magic is for the family to realize they put too much importance on the magic and not each other, specifically the Abuela aka the matriarch of the family. Eventually, she does and the magic comes back but Mirabel remains magicless and Bruno gets to come out of exile. Mirabel and Bruno receive the fakest apology I have ever seen.
Let me break down the movie to its bare bones, “Magical family is inconvenience by not having magic for 48 hours, that they force the one person who will never have magic figure out the solution so they can go back to being privileged. ”
Part of Encanto’s branding/marketing is “family is everything,” and “family first.” What it should be is “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one,” or my personal favorite “conform or get out!”
There is no benefit for Mirabel to bring back magic and why would Bruno want to return to living with the same people who cast him out? That’s your big happy ending?
Is the way the family treats each other authentic to how Hispanic families often treat each other — 100% yes. Does this movie offers a solution to break these chains of tradition– absolutely NOT!
I give Disney’s Encanto a D.
It truly breaks my heart that a movie that is supposed to give Hispanic culture its moment in the sun decided to double down on some of the most hurtful parts of our culture. Not only does it double down, but it also offers no solution to end these “traditions” that keep us from creating a healthier and accepting family dynamic. You’re telling me that film whose cast is predominately Hispanic saw this and said, “the people are going to be cheering and throwing their empanadas in the air with excitement.”¿ Estas loco?
Encanto is a missed opportunity to make a positive change in the Hispanic community and glorifies traditions that have held us back for generations. It does an impeccable job of representing the different skin tones, body types, hair texture, and color you see in Hispanic Culture. The music is lively and memorable. And there are comedic moments that children can enjoy. Little Antonio was my favorite part of the entire movie.
It is my hope that Disney will continue to give opportunities to Latin creators, so they may show the many Spanish-speaking cultures/countries.
Disney’ Encanto is currently in theaters and will be available on Disney Plus in the near future.