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Encanto, an important step forward

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

Image credit: Disney

A place of relation and representation. Something Latin people can finally relax into. A story of real Colombian people. A real Colombian family. That’s what Encanto portrays.

Coming out on November 24th, 2021, Encanto took the world by storm. It’s a film with POC characters and a tale that isn’t filled with Caucasian faces. This movie shows people who have yet to be represented in such a narrative – at least in a child’s classic Disney format. Many were rejoiced in being able to see themselves in this lovely film, but certain people couldn’t seem to let them enjoy that. You know who I’m talking about. The strict Camilo lovers. The white-washing artists. And so, so many more.

Let’s talk Encanto: Behind the Scenes

What is “Encanto” about? What is the excitement surrounding this Colombian film?

Well, first off we can see that this is Disney’s first Latinx musical. This is already a huge step towards the representation we need. Not only that, but the co-director, Charise Castro Smith, is the first Latina woman to have co-directed a Disney movie. Also, Lin Manuel Miranda, writer of In the Heights and Hamilton, wrote music for this story. Miranda is of Puerto Rican descent and he is very proud of that. His unique style attracted a plentiful amount of viewers from fans of the fantastical Broadway shows to many Disney enthusiasts. Disney’s choice of crew really makes a difference in the authenticity of this movie. Furthermore, the casting in this movie also showcased many Latin talents, starring Stephenie Beatrix (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), John Leguizamo (Ice Age), and more.

Image credit: Disney

Stories to Tell

In order to talk about the problems people create surrounding this picture, we need to know,

what is this story about? Well, it’s about a Colombian family with magic! At five years old, every member of the Madrigal family gets a gift. Mirabel, our protagonist, never got one. All the gifts differ, and almost seem random, but truly there's a reason behind each power. Each one is a metaphor, a twist of words to show the struggles of not only a Colombian family but just Latin families in general.

Image credit: Disney
Image credit: Disney

Let’s talk strictly about the characters who seem to be prime victims of harmful headcanons, Isabela and Luisa, Mirabel’s two sisters, the beauty and the brawn. Isabela’s gift allows her to grow flowers and vines from her fingertips. She’s the prettier among the sisters and is praised for her gorgeousness. On the contrary. Luisa can carry mountains. She’s the strongest of the Madrigals, keeping donkeys in their rightful place.

Think About It

I’ve been all talk no walk, we need to actually get into the point of this. What could possibly be so offensive about people having opinions? What even are these opinions?

Well, if you’re on Tik Tok even just a little bit, you’ve probably seen some sort of “My Encanto headcanons” video. Now, headcanons are completely fine! I have plenty and I love sharing them with people who’ll listen. Encanto is no different, at least to a certain extent. As mentioned, this movie is a perfect example of representation for a group of people that really needs it. It’s so important and even empowering to Latin people, like myself, to see our faces on the big screen. See, I used to almost deny my Hispanic roots, but now I want to embrace it. I’m sure this movie made many people feel this way.

Some certain people, mainly white queer people, tend to say the same things. “Luisa is a trans woman!” or “Isabela is a lesbian since she didn’t want to marry Mariano!” There are plenty of things about these statements that could be edited. Now, I’m not saying they can’t be these things, not at all! It’s more the reasoning for these statements I’m worried about. Why do you think Luisa is trans? Because she’s masculine? One, it seems pretty transphobic to me. If a woman is masculine she’s trans? Not only that, but Latin women have always been masculinized, and told they aren’t as feminine as women of other cultures. If your only reason behind that headcanon is that she’s “more masculine” it’s harmful to both queer and Hispanic people. If you have any other reason for your idea, talk away!

Image credit: Disney

Now for Isabela, many people may think she’s a lesbian since she didn’t want to marry Mariano. In any other story, say Cinderella or some other Disney movie, it would be reasonable to imagine that. But this is Encanto. It’s a story to show the struggles in Latin families, more specifically generational trauma. That really comes into play when talking about Isabela. For context, she had an arranged marriage with this guy named Mariano. She is considered “the perfect child” throughout the entire movie so it’s obvious she’s going to need a perfect man.

This is the product of social status. Families in Latin America usually have a standing in a community, the Madrigal’s are no different. They are the gifted family, they need to stay on the top. Isabela is the oldest sister so she needs to prove to the town the perfection she is. Everything about her needs to be flawless, her love life, her looks, her flowers, her voice. Mariano is the man the family chose to fulfill that. They didn’t let Isabela fall in love, she barely knew him. In the movie, while arguing with Mirabel she says, “I don’t want to marry him, I’m doing it for the family!” This is a big problem within Hispanic families, so it’s pretty harmful to take away the purpose of showing this issue.

Image credit: Disney

Moral of the Story

This movie was revolutionary, a well-rounded story with catchy music and relatable characters. A movie for those who want to see themselves on the big screen and a story for any who want an upbeat bop to sing along to.

There were many more headcanons that I didn’t get into that are just as harmful, but it wasn’t one I can talk about since they were regarding tics and ADHD and things like that (I’m not part of either of those spectrums so it would feel wrong to state my opinion). Although, I did find some content creators that went into both what I spoke about and more. Some were, @mxkanteven, @raquelwhatthehell, @marlunaa, @brianna_wilbon, and more on Tik Tok. Their content may not be all about this subject but the videos they did produce definitely explained a lot, so I would recommend looking into either one of them to feel more educated. Knowledge is the key to not making people mad.

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