We Don’t Talk About Bruno… except we do. In this episode, Aditi and Lionel discuss Disney’s Encanto, and how the epic music ties into a tale of generational trauma and each character’s struggle with it.
Aditi: Hey guys, Journsplit is back with another episode!
Lionel: Today, we’ll be talking about the newest Disney creation everyone’s been raving about! Encanto!
Aditi: That’s right! TLDW: Encanto follows the life of the Madrigals, an extraordinary family, living an extraordinary life which was a gift from a candle bestowed upon their matriarch, Abuela Alma when she lost her husband as she was fleeing her hometown years ago. Every child in the Madrigal family is blessed with a special gift, kind of like a superpower… well all of them except Mirabel, that is. (Sidetrack: is this really true? Well we’ll see later in this episode)
Lionel: When Mirabel discovers that the family is in danger, though, it’s all up to her to be their superhero.
Aditi: The movie begins with a scene where Abuela tells Mirabel the story of the Encanto, the candle and all the gifts.
Lionel: From the way Mirabel pipes in and completes the story, you can clearly see that she really couldn’t wait for her turn to get her gift, and that she’s really proud of her family’s history.
Aditi: Definitely! And this pride and loyalty to the Madrigal family will manifest itself in many of Mirabel’s actions and motivations throughout the movie!
Lionel: That’s right! The music is an absolutely integral part of the movie, so let’s talk about that first!
Aditi: Absolutely! There were so many good songs produced. By the way, did you know that the movie is set in Colombia and it explores many native genres?
Lionel: Really? That’s fascinating! one of the songs in the movie, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”, is currently in the Top 50 Global on spotify! It topped Let it Go on the charts! It’s really caught the attention of people worldwide!
Aditi: Silence! You know we can’t talk about Bruno… anyways the song highlights the terrible things that Bruno did before he went missing. Bruno seems to be portrayed as this harbinger of misfortune, bringing everyone into a state of disarray.
Lionel: Really, What’s a podcast on encanto without talking about bruno? There were mainly 6 people singing about bruno: dolores, camillo, mirabel, pepa, felix and isabela. Although their inputs were mainly about bruno, each of their parts gives us a clear peek into their lives and their personalities. Dolores was the only Madrigal who didn’t paint bruno in an extremely negative light. In fact, she induced a sense of pity in listeners’ hearts because she implied that “it was a heavy lift” for bruno “with a gift so humbling”. On a sidenote, she made allusions to the fact that she could still hear him but never told anyone. Maybe this is because she didn’t know what to make of it, and was raised being told never to mention her estranged uncle.
Aditi: or maybe… she did it on purpose. There’s this theory about Dolores actually being the antagonist of the story, where she chose to start a chain of events to diminish the magic by not telling anyone about the cracks she noticed forming and revealing to everyone that Mirabel was causing the magic to die, leading to the eventual loss of the magic, all to ease her pain from the man of her dreams being engaged to her sister.
Lionel: Wow! I never noticed that! Moving on to Pepa, her part reflects the immense pressure on the madrigal children – the way she describes her wedding day shows that she believed that it was her responsibility to make it perfect. (she sings “it was MY wedding day”) she made the hurricane that ensued sound disastrous. As a direct contrast, felix, who wasn’t born into the madrigal family and didn’t have any powers of his own, said he’d had a good time. His expectations for the wedding were visibly lower, and it’s clear that he doesn’t view events with such seriousness like the madrigal family does.
Aditi: Did you realise that not everything that bruno prophesied came true? Isabela’s prophecy, possibly one of the very few positive prophecies made by bruno, did. in what else can i do, her power grew and in the end, she finally got a life away from the demands of perfection looming over her head. dolores’ destiny was rewritten, though. mariano realised that he had feelings for her too, at the end of the movie.
Lionel: Also, like observant viewers would have noticed, when dolores was singing her part, bruno can be spotted in the background, vibing to the song about himself.
Aditi: The music, the elements and all the personalities really blend together, both in conflict, and in cohesion. At the end of the song there’s a captivating section where all the characters sing their seemingly different separate parts together and you could really feel the synergy despite the differences in emotions and opinions! Many iconic musicals have sections like these, which are technically termed Madrigals! Mirabel’s family name is a clever allusion to this!
Lionel: Another extremely impactful song from the movie is what else can I do. Up to that point, i’m sure many of us harboured a slight bit of dislike for Isabela’s character, but what else can i do certainly prodded us to understand her at a deeper level.
Aditi: The character arc was so well-written, and it was heart-wrenching when we realised that her resting grouchiness wasn’t due to her natural personality, but because she was sick and tired of being forced to use her spectacular gift just for perfection. This song indeed brought out the profound fact that there is beauty in imperfection too. Furthermore, in Isabela’s song, similar melodies heard in other songs like her scene in “We don’t talk about Bruno” had some overlaps, and this is more proof of how encanto managed to masterfully weave together its tiny details.
Lionel: Speaking of imperfection, here’s another reason why encanto really struck a chord – none of the characters were purely good or evil. They all had their own flaws and each of them had such a complex character which made the relationships and feelings in the movie so real and relatable. Even Mirabel, the main character, as empathetic and perceptive as she is, isn’t always the most understanding. Although she’d witnessed isabela and luisa’s lives growing up, she never realised the immense pressure that was on them for a long time. She was also insecure about her place in the family. This movie is a timely reminder that everyone is more than what you can see on the outside. We’re all complex and we can’t boil anyone down to a specific trait, or talent.
Aditi: That’s right! Apart from highlighting the importance of looking at people in totality and accepting them for their personality as a whole, this movie also embodies the familiar feeling of hiding problems under the surface. The pressure from abuela and the perfect family sort of forces the Madrigals to keep their problems and stress bottled up. The family members were too afraid to bring up or question why they had to be obsessed with perfection.
Lionel: When Luisa sang “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service”, it just hit so, so hard. The pressure to be of use and the issues deep down that were never brought up made for a toxic family environment. Not just for luisa and isabella but bruno too. However, the difference is that though isabella and luisa came very close, bruno actually cracked under the pressure and decided that instead of staying and potentially harming the family, he should leave.
Aditi: Yeah, and this was a result of Abuela being adamant on “perfection”, adding pressure in an attempt to keep the family and the magic strong. As antagonistic as it sounds, Abuela had her reasons, all stemming from the trauma she had which pushed her to keep the family safe and running well, which unfolded in Dos oruguitas. She was terrified of losing the miracle that kept her family together, but ironically, the miracle never weakened until Abuela started trying to solve this nonexistent problem by putting too much pressure on her children and grandchildren.
Lionel: Dos oruguitas was such an ethereal and haunting representation of what the madrigal family was going through. It talks about young alma and her husband pedro, how they were more than content with the quaint life they were living together, and how they found happiness in the smallest of things. But just as caterpillars must, they had to be separated in order to metamorphosize and enter the next stage of their lives.
Aditi: Stories like Abuela’s and Pedro’s don’t just happen in small towns created with the magic of a candle, though. Their story is very similar to the tragic stories of thousands of Colombian refugees fleeing from armed criminal groups. Just like Abuela, they had to make a new home for themselves, many of them losing their near and dear in the process.
Lionel: To sum up the songs, encanto has beautifully painted distinct and unique pictures of each character and each situation. Overlaps from songs hint at character development and how the themes blend with each other, yet contrast so well.
Aditi: That’s so true! They actually play such a monumental role in the plot of the movie, and showcase the generational trauma so well, which was the real antagonist of the show.
Lionel: Generational trauma and how the different characters dealt with it is arguably one of the most striking themes in encanto. It was really the neglect of compassion and empathy that resulted in all these problems in the first place, having to struggle with their problems when they didn’t need to do it alone. All the problems were caused by them bottling up their issues instead of confiding in family.
Aditi: Thankfully all the problems are resolved with an ending that nicely ties it all together. The family learns to let loose and look past perfection. The casita is rebuilt, Luisa can relax, Isabela no longer needs to be perfect with her gift, Dolores gets to be with her beloved, Bruno can live with his family again and Mirabel is finally content. It’s quite a neat ending that leaves no loose ends in the plot. Well except for a few holes that open up potential for fan theories
Lionel: oh yes! for example, many fans claim that mirabel was not giftless, but gifted since birth with the ability to control the casita the best, as if she was born to be Abuela’s successor as the matriarch of the family.
Aditi: In fact, many observant viewers have noticed that in family madrigal, everyone’s clothes had a symbol on them which was a nod towards their gift. Mirabel’s had butterflies on them, the same as the cryptic symbols on the candle, so many say that Mirabel was a human embodiment of the miracle whose power was bringing the family together.
Lionel: Did you also realise that the candle dimmed whenever she was upset and brightened when she fixed relationships? Her relationship with the casita was really something special.
Aditi: Apart from the theory that MIRAbel is the epitome of the MIRAcle (get it?) we believe that she’s special because she doesn’t explicitly have a power, so she’s grown up as a fighter, resilient and ready to take on challenges and this helps her save her family in the end!
Lionel: That’s true! Well, that’s it for now! Thanks so much for tuning in for this session of journsplit! Look out for more content and keep the magic strong.