“Encanto,” an animated Disney film that explores the story of the Madrigals, a Colombian family with magical powers, premiered Nov. 24. The film and its soundtrack have taken the holiday season by storm and continue to dominate the graphics.
“Encanto” emphasizes the importance of family through the Latinx perspective and accurately portrays Latinx values such as strong family ties, community contribution, and resilience in the face of trauma. When the family’s magic begins to go awry, young Mirabel Madrigal sets out to save the enchanted candle, which stores their magical gifts and represents love and support within the family. Throughout the film, the Madrigals learn that they must resolve their family’s conflicts and traumas or risk losing their gifts and family ties completely. The unique portrayal of the Latinx experience is why “Encanto” resonates with many viewers.
Jasmine Velazco, a third-year journalism major and president of the Latin American Student Organization, said “Encanto” depicts traumatic experiences that many in the Latinx community are all too familiar with.
“The script is really good, which is why I think people are drawn to it because it’s very relevant,” Velazco said. “He’s particularly connected to the Latinx community because of the generational trauma of migration and immigration that they show in the film.”
Disney is notorious for its underrepresentation of various cultures through his cinema. “Cinderella,” “Tangled,” “Snow White” and “Frozen” are examples of Disney movies that prioritize white beauty standards and culture over minority-focused portrayal.
“If you think about Disney tradition – castles and princesses – it responds to a very northern European storytelling,” said Dr. Daniel Cuenca, an assistant professor of Northeastern Spanish and Portuguese who teaches classes. of Latin American cinema. “When you look at what we did before, then films like ‘Encanto’, there is a lot of progress. there is no doubt. The film is a huge step forward.
Latinx viewers feel like films like “Encanto” are imperative to the Disney franchise because they underscore the reality that society is not homogeneous. “Encanto” embraces various body types, skin colors and hair textures while portraying the real struggles some minorities face.
“[This] is important because Disney [has] not done before and it’s time they had it, especially [portraying] the dynamics of a Hispanic home and encompassing what it’s like to be part of an immigrant family,” said Parys Carrington, a freshman in international affairs and political science. “Disney managed to demonstrate the challenges that came with it in a child-friendly atmosphere.”
While Disney has ventured to represent Latinx cultures, viewers have found their representation limited, as it does not truly represent the diversity within Latinx groups. “Encanto” is one step away from this model.
“A lot of times in the Latinx community, it’s Mexican [culture being represented] but ‘Encanto’ is set in Colombia, which is great because we need more stories that aren’t just Mexican,” Velazco said. “For example, ‘Coco’ was great, but ‘Encanto’ created a space for people who aren’t Mexican but are Latina.”
Behind the film’s relatable plot is a culturally rich and catchy soundtrack that consistently tops the charts.
Since February 1, the “Encanto” the soundtrack is the number one album on the Billboard 200. The hit song, “We are not talking about Bruno” is now at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and is Disney’s first song to do so in nearly three decades.
The soundtrack is written by the respected Puerto Rican singer-songwriter and playwright Lin-Manuel Mirandawho is best known for his work in “Hamilton”, “In the Heights” and “Moana.” By introducing a distinct Latin sound to her songwriting in “Encanto”, Miranda captured attention and appealed to a wider and more diverse audience.
“Encanto” lyrics revealing the hidden story behind the Madrigals’ past and unresolved intergenerational trauma, displaying the characters’ raw frustrations. Velazco said they could personally relate to the struggles the Madrigals face from the experiences and expectations within their own homes.
“In a way, I encompass all the [Madrigal] siblings because I’m an only child and there’s this immigrant mentality that is perfection, helping the community, being strong and showing off,” Velazco said. “I see this with a lot of expectations from my mum and my family to do better than them and it’s a lot of pressure.”
The Madrigal family’s magical abilities include family empowerment, beauty, and strength. These powers are exaggerated versions of real-life expectations that members of Latinx families feel the need to embody.
“I bonded a lot with Isabella because being the only girl in my family, I was seen as the perfect girl, meeting the beauty standard while still getting A’s all the time,” Carrington said. “Beauty and intelligence have always been in my head. Feeling that I don’t need to be perfect was a tough step in my life and the movie summed up that feeling perfectly.
Representation in the media is a means for a wide range of individuals feel valued and recognized in society. It is especially important for all children, especially children of immigrants, because it validates and reflects personal experience, ultimately precipitating self-conviction.
“It’s really this idea of recognizing yourself. The word “represent” means to present back and the idea that the media reflects. A little kid can watch the movie and see someone who looks like him and experience things that he himself has experienced,” Cuenca said. “This type of mirror representation creates social ethnic confidence which is then used to assert oneself in society, especially as an immigrant or child of immigrants.”
“Encanta” is a must-see film that tells a gripping story from a culturally diverse perspective that’s new to the Disney canon. Velazco hopes the success of “Encanto” will inspire more Disney films that take on the all-important task of representing more cultures on the big screen.
“Representation is power,” Velazco said.