Lessons from Disney’s Encanto

My daughter’s newest favorite movie is Encanto. We originally watched it because my sister created a Math Parody Video based on one of the songs (seriously, you should watch it. You’ll learn an obscure math fact to a catchy tune). Like many people, we enjoyed the story, the songs, and the vibrance of this story, maybe more than any other Disney movie to date. As a social worker, I quickly became entranced by the culture and family dynamics in the story. Others have made videos or posts about the different characters and what type of mental illness they represent. My fascination is much more with the family roles, both within the cultural context of the story and the implications for all families. SPOILER ALERT if you have not watched the movie, some details will be included in this article.

Everyone in the Madrigal family has a magical gift, except Maribel. With the exception of her parents and youngest cousin, the rest of the family sees Mirabel as “less important” and “not special” due to her lack of a gift. In order to save her family and her village, Mirabel takes on the task of “saving the miracle” that has protected her family for many years. What the family learns is that not all gifts are “magical” and that sometimes the most ordinary people do the most extraordinary things. What the viewer learns is that all families have things in common. For example, families may label members (i.e. the smart one, the funny one, the pretty one). Most people are more than one thing, however, and labels without unconditional love and support may lead to an identity crisis of sorts. Here are my top three lessons from Disney’s Encanto

When trying to fit in a mold, you will eventually break.

The trouble with relying on your identity based on your own strength is that you can only keep it up for so long. You can be the strong one, the perfectionist, or the one who holds it all together for a certain amount of time. Eventually, our strength of will isn’t enough, we learn there is no such thing as perfect, and that we don’t have control over everything to really keep it together. The final song in the movie is my favorite because it is all about working together and relying on each other’s talents, rather than only on one’s own gift. 

Things are not always how they seem.

Every family seems to have a “black sheep.” Even though members say “we don’t talk about…” a whole lot of talking about that very thing, situation, or person occurs. Healing of relationships is not possible in every circumstance, but complaining about it will not bring peace.

Strong people can only carry the load for so long. Whether they cry behind closed doors or have a public meltdown, even the strongest person needs someone to hold them up. The one who seems perfect on the outside may be struggling to keep it all together on the inside. The one who seems to hear everything knows everyone’s business may not be listening and paying attention to what matters most. The one everyone discounts as “not special” might be the hero.

Not all Gifts are obvious.

Mirabel did not get a magical gift, but she possesses the greatest talent in her family. She could see each of them for who they are apart from their gift. She could see the faults and the cracks, but also the beauty in the imperfections. While she wasn’t innocent in the family squabbles it was her gift that brought resolution to the family and their community. Each character attempted to do everything on their own based on their own gifts. It was only through working together that their gifts were magical. 


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