By now you have heard of or seen Disney’s newest movie “Encanto.” Or, at the very least, you have seen a lot of content unpacking the movie.
One example I’ve seen on my very niche, progressive Christian timeline is an enneagram breakdown of each character, which I strongly urge you to stop doing.
Why? First, I thought the cardinal rule of the enneagram – aside from talking about it incessantly – was never numbering people before they can number themselves.
Second, it feels oddly racist. I’m not sure how, but I’ll find a way it is tied to white supremacy.
I was excited for this movie to come out, as it was the second of two movies representing Latine culture. The first being “Coco.” Four years later, “Encanto” followed.
“Encanto” tells the story of a magical family that lives in a secluded village deep in the forests of Colombia. Each member is given a magical gift at their coming of age.
But this is not the case for the main character Mirabel of the family Madrigal. We find out at the end of the first musical number that Mirabel is left out and has no gift.
The movie follows the Madrigals on the day the next family member Antonio is to receive his gift. Abuela, the matriarch of the family, makes it quite clear to Mirabel that, due to her lack of magic, she is a threat to what the family has.
In one particular scene, Mirabel is left out of a family picture and the scene is heartbreaking. For any person who has felt like the outsider in space that is meant to be safe and caring, the grief was palpable.
Chaos ensues as they learn what it means to be “ordinary” as their magic fades. With the help of Mirabel and her estranged uncle Bruno, the family finds a way to restore the light of their magic.
The movie has so many themes that touch on how we operate in our communities and families.
From a sister who must be the strong one and hold it all in her hands to another sister who must be perfect at all times to the ostracized uncle they never speak of, there’s a musical number for every one.
I cried while Louisa sang about the pressure of being the strong one. For all my firstborn comrades of first generation families, that one was for us.
Mirabel’s gift, it turns out, is the gift of truth and tending. She finds a way to guide her family into their truth while also helping them explore ideas they would not have otherwise.
But as much as I loved the movie and have toyed with the idea of creating a “So You’ve Seen ‘Encanto’ and You Think You Might Need a Hug and Some Therapy” reading list, there was something that felt “off” about the movie.
So, I started group chat with friends and, of course, these wise mujeres were able to name what was missing.
One friend Jennifer wrote, “The creators went with the pan ethnic narrative story line and failed to capture actual Colombians. If you’re gonna have an enchanted something, let it be an actual place in Colombia — not a non-distinct secluded place.”
It was as if the creators and directors thought we would all be happy that Lin Manuel Miranda did the music and called it a day.
And while I recognize that no work of media will ever get representation right, the glaring blanket assumptions of “Latinidad ” was evident.
As I have written before, I love when mi gente are represented in mainstream media. Our music, our inside jokes, our many manifestations of a tamal-damelo.
Disney movies are no different. When “Coco” was released in 2017, it was one of the first times characters who spoke like me and my family were main characters, not just comedic relief.
But was there a need for the afterlife to be policed like the borders? As if it was some joke we all love that Mexicans measure cultural representation by how we are perceived by American policy?
In “Encanto,” Colombian friends felt like the culture was swapped out for a general representation of Latine culture. It seems that when it comes to representation, the details are oddly specific or far too broad.
Naturally, the themes of “Encanto” and my pushback on the production made me wonder about representation in the church.
How often have we heard churches yearn to be welcoming and diverse places for all people? And how often has the church missed the mark by either tokenizing one leader or only highlighting the diversity on Pentecost Sunday during the Acts 2 reading while casting misfits out because they don’t quite fit in?
Disney and downtown churches can learn a lot about what it means to think critically and with the intention of creating a diverse representation of the world.
If the church of Jesus Christ is the casita, then the cracks have started to show in the foundation. Will we continue to miss the mark? Or will we see the magic in each person while truly learning what that means?
In the end, I will continue to watch both “Coco” and “Encanto” and cry my eyes out, appreciating what they are while remaining hopeful for what can be. The stories in each are beautiful, and I need to make sure I have every detail of Mirabel’s outfit memorized for Halloween.
I can hold both the joy of Black and brown children screaming with joy when they see a character that looks like them on the screen, while also hoping and pushing for the gift of honest representation of my people.
MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic elements and mild peril.
Directors: Jared Bush, Byron Howard and Charise Castro Smith.
Writers: Screenplay by Charise Castro Smith and Jared Bush; story by Byron Howard.
Cast: Stephanie Beatriz: Mirabel; María Cecilia Botero: Abuela Alma; John Leguizamo: Bruno; Mauro Castillo: Félix; Jessica Darrow: Luisa; Angie Cepeda: Julieta; Carolina Gaitan: Pepa; Diane Guerrero: Isabela.
The movie’s website is here.