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“Our families aren’t perfect, and they sometimes require sacrifice on our part to uphold, but they are special and valuable, despite their imperfections, and this movie definitely reflects that.” 

Above image: Courtesy of Disney Studios

Five Life Lessons For Teens From Disney’s ‘Encanto’

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Despite not being culturally or biologically Latinx, Hispanic, or anywhere in between, I was able to get some big takeaways from Disney’s “Encanto” (and, OK, I won’t lie, a little bit of helpful Spanish 3 practice).

Warning: Spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen “Encanto” yet, and you don’t want it spoiled, I’d recommend coming back after you’ve watched it!

Disney’s latest animated feature “Encanto” follows the story of a magical family (La familia Madrigal) and their community living in the mountains of Colombia. Everyone born in La familia Madrigal has received some sort of extraordinary gift from a magical candle — shapeshifting, ability to control the weather, you name it, they probably have it, and, to top it all off, they get to live in a magical, animated house (Casita). They all use their powers to help their village — that is, except for Mirabel, the teen protagonist of the movie. She can’t help because she doesn’t have any powers. In fact, she doesn’t seem to have anything super special about her. But when her family, house and town start to fall apart, she is the one who ends up saving all three. 

Here are some of my big takeaways from the movie: 

1. Our hurt doesn’t just affect us.

In the movie, Abuela, the family matriarch, fears losing her life and home, like she did so many years ago, and that propels her to make decisions that ultimately negatively affect others. As a young newlywed, she lost everything when her old village was invaded by evil forces: her husband, her old life, and her town. Enter: the magical candle, which gifts the one thing she still had (her triplets) with their powers, and gives Abuela a new, amazing life with Casita and her babies.

 Afraid of Mirabel’s lack of gift (and also of her life falling apart again), Abuela withholds her love from Mirabel, afraid that the teen’s “imperfectness” will end up hurting the family. For the same reasons, she blatantly lies about the magic to the townspeople, which just isn’t a great decision. In fact, here is the kicker: It isn’t the candle that destroys the family — it’s Abuela. Fear is a driving force that tends to have negative outcomes. Had Abuela been honest with everyone from the get-go, things would have turned out very different. 

2. Together > alone.

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Mirabel can’t save the magic by herself. The Madrigals can’t rebuild Casita by themselves. We don’t always have everything we need to complete something successfully on our own. This is a very overused cliche, but it’s true — we really are stronger in numbers. 

3. Everyone has something to give.

I’ve always been a firm believer that everyone has something good to share with the world, but watching “Encanto” only solidifies that idea. The Madrigals are firm believers that their talents and expertise are best used helping the community. Even Mirabel, despite not having a gift, ends up being able to do something really powerful for the people around her. 

4. Even people in power need help sometimes.

The Madrigals, when you think about it, are pretty much the leaders of their town in Colombia, with Abuela Alma being the mayor. How would you feel if you were in the villagers’ place? Their town (also formed in part by the magical candle), is collapsing, and they have to sit there and watch it unfold as the Madrigals avoid fixing the problem. Later in the movie, the townspeople end up helping the Madrigals rebuild Casita.

Another parallel to the “people in power aren’t perfect people” theme — Abuela, depending on opinion, may be seen as one of the family members struggling the most. And the one who makes the most mistakes in the movie, despite being in charge. 

5. Families aren’t perfect. 

If you haven’t realized, take a quick look and you’ll find that almost all the Disney princesses fit two main qualifications. 1) they wear a pretty outfit, and 2) they have 0-1 living parents. Though the first criteria was met in this movie (how could it not be?) the second was not, and what a joyous thing it is to see. Not only does Mirabel have a family, she has an amazing family. Her journey is less focused on “finding herself,” though that does happen eventually,  and more focused on finding a solution to save her family, which is pretty powerful. Our families aren’t perfect, and they sometimes require sacrifice on our part to uphold, but they are special and valuable, despite their imperfections, and this movie definitely reflects that. 

“Encanto” is currently available to stream on Disney+.

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