We Need To Keep Talking About “Encanto”
The Madrigal family is a family of miracles who have found refuge in the mountains of Colombia, every member blessed with a unique power. Everyone that is, except Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz).
When their magical home, the Encanto, begins to crack, and their miracles begin to waver, Abuela Alma (María Cecilia Botero) suspects that Mirabel is the crack, the problem. It’s her fault. Problems must have simple solutions or else we truly despair.
Encanto may be set in Colombia, but it’s a film exploring themes that resonate everywhere right now. As the Encanto continues to crumble, Mirabel asks questions: What happened to Uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo)? It’s little surprise that “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” became the #1 song on Billboard. Of course we’ve rallied around a tune about denial. That’s America’s favorite pastime.
We don’t talk about Bruno because we don’t talk about the past. We don’t talk about the trauma. We learn to say nothing, because that is safer. We learn instead that we must be perfect, we must be strong, we must shapeshift to fit in. We bow to the pressure, expectations and responsibility of holding ourselves and our family and our home all together. We don’t upset the present by talking about the past. Everything is “so good,” why ruin it? The idea that we mustn’t speak of anything of importance highlights that that good is a fragile illusion and has been for a long time.
In the Madrigals’ case (and America’s), they’re broken. They need a new foundation. They need to rebuild.
When I returned home after college, I didn’t exactly know what my role in the family was. What was needed or required of me. Everyone appeared so high-functioning and “perfect,” a family of Isabels, it didn’t feel like I was adding anything. I felt like the court jester screw-up who was still waiting to figure it all out. Playing that role was easier than confronting my parents and my sister about our stale dynamic that left me feeling frustrated and unseen. Whenever we got together over the holidays, talk would drift to dreams of a family farm, a family business. I always grew silent and hid my dread, wondering how I fit into that plan, not wanting to be part of it.
It took therapy before I had the courage to talk to my family and be more vocal about my needs, about who I was and how I wanted to interact going forward.
Mirabel confronts the secrets hidden within Encanto’s walls alone. But a family isn’t a family without everyone in it — and that’s the secret: Mirabel isn’t the crack in the ceiling. She is exactly what her family needs. I am exactly what my family needs. We all are. A family only needs you to be yourself. That’s the only way we can be together, and as Encanto so movingly argues, there’s nothing so broken that we can’t fix together.