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Encanto: The Disney Metaphor for Life Right Now

Preface: Encanto is a wonderful movie and well worth the $7.99 cost of a one-month subscription to Disney+ to watch, whether or not you have children to watch it with you.

*Includes movie spoilers*

Encanto started streaming on Disney+ at the end of December and immediately established itself as a fan favorite. In the briefest of summaries, the story follows heroine Maribel as she navigates her relationships within The Family Madrigal—most of whom have magical gifts—in a journey of self-discovery and healing. The movie has lots of feels, and it’s a good idea to keep the Kleenex handy.

But the love for this new movie isn’t limited to the catchiness of the chart-topping songs[1] that will play on repeat inside your head for the rest of time (I’m looking at you, We Don’t Talk About Bruno[2]) or the beautiful colors and artistic renditions of Colombian culture. The storyline and plot of the movie and the wide cast of relatable (and flawed) characters are speaking to our souls.

And in 2022, our souls desperately need to connect with something.

One of the key visual plot points of the movie is the family’s semi-sentient house (affectionally named Casita) developing cracks and—spoilers here—ultimately breaking apart. Every single person has felt those cracks growing within themselves. Those cracks keep showing up and keep growing, both internally and in your relationships. And these COVID times we’re living through have exacerbated or created a whole new level of internal cracking.

But the movie also visually demonstrates how those cracks can be fixed with love and support of family and those around you. And, maybe just a little, by sharing your honest self—flaws and all.

Or, you know, with a spackle-making alter ego named Jorge.

The songs themselves are another delightful chapter in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical legacy that brilliantly move the plot forward at every interval. These refrains allow for glimpses into the internal monologue of the different characters, enchantingly peeling away the masks people are wearing and showing the vulnerabilities underneath.

Vulnerabilities we all have, where we can see facets of ourselves in each of these revelations.

Sister Luisa’s Surface Pressure number brilliantly captures the feeling of having a strong exterior that is just barely staying in place over the constant, never-ending pressure of existence. Life is relentless, and so many of us feel like we are carrying the weight of the world (or at least a half-dozen donkeys) on our shoulders every day. The not-so-subtle undertones of self-reckoning with lines of “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service” and “Who am I if I don’t have what it takes” resonate so deeply for anyone who is carrying a heavy load in life.

Not to be completely outdone, sister Isabella’s What Else Can I Do includes the contemplation of “What could I do if I just knew it didn’t need to be perfect?” Anxious high achievers everywhere need the reminder that they don’t need to be perfect, they just need to be. And it’s ok to just grow what you’re feeling in the moment, and maybe not hide quite so much behind your smile and perfect, practiced poses.

In Waiting on a Miracle, Maribel herself goes through the affirmations “And I’m fine, I am totally fine” to be quickly followed with a wrenching “I’m not fine, I’m not fine.” And that my little friends is how just about all of us feel every single day. The heartfelt plea of “All I need is a change, all I need is a chance” cuts to the core of all of us who have “been patient, and steadfast, and steady” while longing every day to get to somewhere else in our lives.

And then there’s Bruno… but We Don’t Talk About Bruno. So at least it’s one song in this movie that (probably) won’t make you cry, so you can just enjoy the chart-toping ensemble musicality of it?

Life is hard. Stars don’t shine, they burn. Maintaining the strong exterior and hiding the growing cracks inside is exhausting, especially over the past few years. But you are not alone. In addition to the love and support available from friends and family members, professional resources like COLAP[3] and Colorado Crisis Services[4] are here for All of You.

Never forget, you can always build a new foundation.


[1] [2] [3] [4]


Marty Whalen Brown is a Staff Adjudicator at the Office of Appeals in the Colorado Department of Human Services. She holds a J.D. degree from the University of Colorado Law School and clerked at the Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge under the Colorado Supreme Court after graduating.

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Feb 11, 2022

What a timely and thoughtful piece. I don't have little kids, but my two year old granddaughter loves to sing (belt) We Don't Talk About Bruno, and the message of the movie is thought-provoking indeed.

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