A Love Letter to the Women of Encanto

I heard whispers about it before I knew what it was. A magical house. A gifted family. Some guy named Bruno that no one’s supposed to talk about {even though everyone does}. It was all I heard about at the playground, on Instagram, at the preschool pickup spot. Everyone seemed to be talking – and singing – about Encanto.
Disney Encanto
So even though my kids aren’t huge movie watchers, preferring the likes of Paw Patrol, Blippi and Blaze, we cued up the latest animated sensation on Disney+ and cuddled on the couch together to watch it. And again the next day. And the day after.
Now 6,892 viewings later, we’ve pretty much memorized the entire movie. We bought all the songs on iTunes. We, too, talk about Bruno. Regularly. And I can say I’m just as enthralled with the Madrigals as my children. Perhaps more so.
Because there’s so much to love about Encanto. The songs {good God Lin-Manuel Miranda, do you ever miss?}. The culture. The color and beauty of Colombia. Even the heartbreaking history that sets the stage for the Madrigals’ narrative. But it’s the women who really stand out in this stand out film, and pull me back in time and time again.


The matriarch of the family, Alma Madrigal possesses a core of strength few could ever match. She raised three gifted children on her own. She kept her community safe after violence ripped apart their lives. But the tragedy of her past and the resulting trauma she carries affects her family in long-lasting and harmful ways. She forces unattainable expectations on those she loves most and ostracizes the family members who can’t live up to them. It would be easy to see her as the villain of the story. How many of us have considered cutting someone out of our lives because of their toxic nature? But by facing her trauma and all the fallout it’s caused, by learning to let go of the past, her family is finally able to heal, move forward and begin a new chapter in their lives with renewed faith – and magic.


I’ll admit, I’ve had a soft spot for Tia Pepa since the moment I heard she was the Enneagram Four of Encanto. As a Four myself, I simply love the very tangible way her emotions are broadcast to the world via the clouds and rainbows she just can’t quite control. Women are so often critiqued for being emotional, and Pepa is not different. She’s constantly fighting to repress her feelings, afraid that her anger, frustration or sadness could cause a literal weather disaster. I’ve never caused a hurricane on my wedding day, but Lord do I understand the need to constantly fight for emotional control around others.
And side note: the scene where the cloud over her head is immediately banished by her first sip of coffee for the day? What a mood, Pepa.


I doubt there is a single mom out there who doesn’t relate to Luisa. The member of the household that carries the heavy load. And the feeling of pressure that drip, drip, drips and never stops. As a stay at home mother making no financial contribution to my family, the line I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service hits a chord deep inside me. And from the conversations I’ve seen making their way across the internet, I know I’m not the only one. Not the only woman who, like Luisa, feels the weight of the family burden carried upon her shoulders.
But can we all just take a moment to thank those artists who fought for Luisa’s muscles? Who fought the ideal image of delicate femininity to give all the little girls out there a different version of womanhood to look up to? Those artists – who rumor has it faced an uphill battle against Disney execs when designing Luisa’s physique – are the true heroes of the day.


Oh Isabela. Dear, prissy, stuck up Isabela. The lovely girl who hides her own insecurities behind a facade of perfection. Who feels suffocated and trapped by that same facade. I’ve always been more a hot mess Pepa or fish out of water Mirabel myself. But I can’t help but wonder how many of the flawlessly put together women who intimidate me at my son’s school pick up, or the Instagram influencers who make me feel inferior on the daily . . . I wonder how many of them feel like Isabela.


And last but never least, Mirabel. The heart of the story. The misfit. The only “unspecial” member of an extraordinary family {though I’d argue that her selflessness is a gift itself}. Her love for the Madrigals runs deep despite the circumstances that keep her slightly apart from them. As someone who’s felt deeply unspecial from time to time, I can’t help but identify with the bespectacled youngest granddaughter. When she belts out I will stand on the side as you shine during “Waiting on a Miracle”, my heart breaks for her, and for all of us who’ve felt overlooked or forgotten.
But it’s this very distinction that allows Mirabel to see more clearly than those around her. It’s only Mirabel – well, and fellow black sheep Bruno – that see the cracks in the Casita. Both the literally fractures in their home’s foundation and the metaphorical fissures amongst the family within. She takes the time to see past the facade, to recognize Luisa’s anxiety over her impossible burden, Isabela’s bitterness at being shoehorned into perfection, even Abuela’s unacknowledged trauma. It’s Mirabel who helps them recognize what’s truly important, that they are more than just their gift. And in doing so finds recognition for her contributions to the family as well.
These women of Encanto. The messy and the restrained. The maternal healers. The ones who fight to control their overwhelming emotions and carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.
These women feel so real. The relationships between them feel so honest. And despite their magical gifts, their skin tone, or their nationality, they feel like the everyman – or everywoman as it were. Encanto is a love letter to women everywhere. And we love them right back.

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Lauren M. is a native Houstonian who now lives one street over from the house where she grew up in Sugar Land. After a brief fling with Austin where she received her Bachelors Degree in English Lit from Southwestern University, she returned home to attempt to write the great American novel {or, you know, the next Harry Potter series}. A short while later a friend recruited her for a kickball league where she met a tall, handsome engineer who quite literally swept her off her feet. After tying the knot in 2014, they soon welcomed their first son Raleigh {October 2015}, and little brothers Renner {January 2018} and Rafe {September 2021}. When not chasing around her three crazy Texas tornados and reveling in the boy mom life, Lauren has discovered a newfound passion for photography and Photoshop, creating whimsical family portraits at @andwhetherpigshavewings on Instagram. You can also find her at @polyjuiceandpixiedust .


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