Encanto: A Step Towards Hispanic Representation

Written by: Mehek

Edited by: Jessica

Visual by: Ethan

For many of us, Disney movies have played a vital role in our childhood. Some of our favorite childhood memories include watching our favorite Disney movies for the first time, or dressing up as our favorite Disney character. With Disney being a personal favorite for many of us over the years,  we may fail to notice its flaws. However, as more Disney movies have been released over the years, many have put their biases aside, and noticed the lack of diversity within the company’s movies. The majority of Disney’s most successful and popular movies have predominantly been non-POC characters with movies like the classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, or the animated film:“Frozen”. Many people of color, especially kids, have struggled to identify themselves in the mainstream media content put out for younger children like Disney movies, and this has made it difficult for a lot of them to be comfortable with themselves and accept who they are. 

In recent years, Disney has acknowledged the lack of diversity and has begun to create movies that feature protagonists with different cultural backgrounds such as the “Princess and the Frog”, “Moana ”, and “Coco”. The latest movie to join this group is “Encanto”, which tells the story of the Madrigal family who lives in the hidden mountains of Columbia in a place called Encanto. Thanks to the power of Encanto, each child bears a gift or an ability; like Pepa’s ability to control the weather with her emotions, or Julieta’s ability to heal people with her food. Each child possesses a gift – except for Mirabel. As Mirabel struggles to find her place within her family, she finds out that she may be her family’s last hope when she discovers the magic surrounding Encanto is in danger. “Encanto” following a Colombian family and being one of the few Disney movies with large Hispanic representation had many noticing that this movie rejected many of the stereotypes that have been projected onto South Americans in the limited exposure they have received in mainstream media. By showing more depth and dimension to Hispanic characters, it debunks the stereotypes and finally displays the diversity we have been waiting to see in children’s movies.   

Since its release, “Encanto” has received accolades from film critics. The film has managed to achieve a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, with one critic saying, “Encanto beautifully carries on a new tradition of containing multitudes, enabling the stories to challenge as they entertain.” One audience member thought highly of how “Encanto ” displayed family and the issues they go through very well, noting that “Encanto” is a movie that should, “absolutely be seen by families”. Student’s from ISM also thought highly of the film, with one sophomore, Gladys saying “The animations were so bright and lively” and that the characters “were all so unique to one another”. Along with its plethora of positive reviews, Encanto grossed $92.4 million in the U.S and $216 million globally since its release. 

One of the biggest reasons for Encanto’s popularity is its lively soundtrack. eleased on Disney Plus last month, the movie has been available for many to watch from the comfort of their own homes which has helped the film’s soundtrack to explode and become viral on social media. The movie’s soundtrack currently sits at number 1 on the Billboard Album Chart, and its most popular song: “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” soared to the number 5 spot on the Billboard Top 100. Thanks to “Hamilton” creator Lin – Manuel Miranda’s signature touch, and a blend of traditional and contemporary influences, the soundtrack has been created to celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of Colombian culture. With many comparing the soundtrack’s success to that of “Frozen” and “Frozen 2”, it is exciting to finally see how Hispanic Disney songs are gaining attention, and that the songs from this movie have reached a wide audience across the globe.

Encanto only being Disney’s second movie (“Coco” being the first, though released only in 2017) with significant representation of Latinx culture puts a spotlight on the lack of Hispanic representation in mainstream media. A study done by USC Annenberg found that in 2018, only 5% of speaker roles were awarded to Hispanic characters in Hollywood films. While the statistic by itself is already disappointing, the same study found that Hispanics and Latinos are often cast in roles that include criminality. Even though Hispanic speaking characters are already rarely displayed in mainstream media, they are often cast into characters that just reinforce the harmful stereotypes that have been pushed onto the Latinx communities. When looking at Netflix’s selection, the only representation from this ethnic group is a show about drug lord Pablo Escobar, which shows that most content on Hispanic characters pushes forward the already-pervasive negative stereotypes onto viewers. This misrepresentation not only affects viewers outside of the Latino community, but also Latinx youth who see that these negative portrayals are the only representation of their community. This lack of proper representation can make the youth possibly feel ashamed or even embarrassed of their culture, which makes the problem even worse. Around the world are a variety of different cultures that make the world diverse and each individual unique; suppressing one’s culture takes away from their identity and the diversity of our society. 

In “Encanto ”, presents, not only larger Hispanic representation, but a more diverse representation of the Hispanic community in terms of appearance. While most in the mainstream media industry cast characters that have predominantly caucasian features, “Encanto ” ensured to display characters with diverse and different appearances. The film showed that although each character is Hispanic, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they all look the same, which we can see with Dolores being Afro – Latina, Mirabel having curly hair, or Luisa’s muscular build. Showing characters with a range of appearances from similar cultural backgrounds, rejects the idea that everyone from the same place looks the same. It let’s the youth know that whether or not they look similar to the characters that they see on the screen, their identities are still valid and real. By seeing their favorite character who looks like them on screen, it could give the youth the confidence to be proud of who they are and what they look like, even if it doesn’t necessarily fit the caucasian beauty standards.  

All of these negative stereotypes reinforced by the majority of content on Latinx communities in mainstream media show just how important a movie like “Encanto” is. Though it may not represent every Colombian family, “Encanto” is a step to turning away from these harmful stereotypes, showing the beauty of Latino cultures in the simplest of ways, such as food, family, and life. It provides Latinx youth a way to see themselves and relate to characters on the screen from mainstream companies like Disneyand provides the confidence and strength to be proud of their identity and where they come from.  

Works Cited

Breakthrough U.S., 9 Jan. 2022, letsbreakthrough.org/encanto-rejects-harmful-stereotypes-and-embraces-authenticity/.

Butler, Bethonie. “How ‘Encanto’ and Its Vibrant Soundtrack Became a Viral Phenomenon.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Jan. 2022, http://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2022/01/15/encanto-soundtrack-disney/.

Davidson, Douglas. “No More Waiting on a Miracle. ‘Encanto’ Is Available for Home Viewing.” Elements of Madness, 4 Jan. 2022, elementsofmadness.com/2022/01/04/encanto/.

Davis, Rebecca. “China Box Office: Disney’s ‘Encanto’ Draws $3.22 Million in Quiet Debut.” Variety, Variety, 9 Jan. 2022, variety.com/2022/film/global/disney-encanto-china-opening-box-office-1235149863/.

“Encanto.” Rotten Tomatoes, http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/encanto_2021.Ramos, Dino-Ray. “Hollywood Fails To Make The Grade With Latinx Representation In Film, USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative & NALIP Study Finds.” Deadline, Deadline, 26 Aug. 2019, deadline.com/2019/08/usc-annenberg-inclusion-initiative-nalip-wise-entertainment-latinx-representation-film-hollywood-diversity-inlcusion-representation-1202703848/.