Encanto, the latest animated movie from Disney/Pixar, is a masterpiece of visuals, voice acting, musical numbers, and storytelling. This movie managed to capture the true essence of family expectations, intergenerational trauma, and hidden pressure in this movie.
Using superpowers, the Madrigal family helps the community living in their sanctuary (Encanto) but they have to wrestle with the responsibilities that come with that. At the heart of this is Mirabel, the only Madrigal descendant who doesn’t have powers, who discovers the danger the family is in and works to save them.
Given the massive number of media that feature superpowered people, Encanto manages to do something completely unique in that genre.
BETTERING THEIR COMMUNITY
The typical movie featuring a superpowered person shows them using their powers to help their community by fighting crime and evil. By fighting the bad that suppresses the good in their community, they inspire the people around them to rise up and become better.
Encanto bucks this trope by having the superpowered people directly contribute to their community. Instead of trying to fight crime, they help the people living in their Encanto. They provide medical aid, agricultural support, infrastructure assistance, etc.
This way, the Madrigal family creates a utopia free from any noticeable crime…except the parents who keep giving their son coffee.
THE PRESSURE IT BRINGS
The dark side to this is how reliant the people in the Encanto become reliant on the Madrigal family. Jobs that could be done by anyone, like herding donkeys, are foisted onto the Madrigals. Other tasks that arguably shouldn’t be done, like redirecting a river or moving a church, are again given to the Madrigals.
With the people in the Encanto so dependent on the Madrigal family, this puts pressure on the Madrigals to come through no matter what.
This is especially evident in “Surface Pressure” when Louisa expresses how she truly feels to Mirabel. She is so burdened by her great strength she can’t but feel like she can’t complain about the pressure she’s under.
When the pressure is to succeed is so great, some will crack under it.
HOW THE COMMUNITY RESPONDS
Superheroes in movies are typically apart from the people they serve and are treated with distrust and suspicion. There are exceptions but they are usually the silent minority.
In the movie’s climax, the Madrigal family loses their powers and their home and are left feeling despondent. Abuela finally admits how she pushed her family to their breaking point and Mirabel shows her how they can still be a family despite the loss of the Miracle.
In their lowest moment, the community that had benefited so much from the Madrigal family shows up to help them rebuild and regain what they have lost. All the good the Madrigals put into the community comes back to them.
Because the Madrigals are so involved in the community, they aren’t treated like unknown specters of terrifying power. They aren’t ostracized or left alone at the moment when they need help the most. The whole community backs them up without asking, just as the Madrigals have selflessly served them.
Encanto contains what has to be the purest depiction of superpowers and the superpowered in any media. By tying the use of these extraordinary abilities to the service of people in their community, Encanto tells a superhero story without the need of a villain’s machinations or a third-act throwdown.
Encanto is now available for home viewing.