Updated: Sep 20
So there's one moment in Encanto that stands out to me and NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT.
I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist who has now watched Encanto three times a day for.... a long time. It's genius on SO MANY LEVELS. The family dynamics, mental health issues/coping skills thinly disguised as special powers, the commentary on immigration and multi-generational trauma response...
Not to mention - we all love the music!!! I can't tell you how many memes I've seen from people identifying with how much pressure Luisa's under, or living with the expectations of a family like Isabella. But there is one moment that no one seems to be talking about that is SO POIGNANT from this therapist's perspective!
It's the moment where Mirabel’s dad walks in to see her glowing green vision from Bruno. They freeze. AND HE IMMEDIATELY TRIES TO COVER IT UP.
This. This moment. This moment is the crucial moment in so many families.
The cover-up-with-kindness from someone who loves you. As a therapist, I have held the pain of so many women who struggled to understand why the parents who loved them, the sisters who loved them, the family that loved them, wouldn’t say something or do something when they found out about abuse or a trauma within a family.
Why would someone who loves you try to cover up the truth?
When something is so painful for my client, how can their loving family member think that sweeping it under the rug is helpful?
Because they benefit from the system - even if they don't realize it.
Mirabel's dad, Agustin, shows up on film multiple times with bee stings making his hands and face swollen. His wife, Juliete, heals him with her food. This is a ridiculously spot-on example of a dynamic where he benefits from the family system.
The family system is the one where they get gifts and use it to help others. He is clumsy and requires healing - a lot. Her gift is to heal with cooking. It's in his favor to "keep the miracle burning." It isn't malicious, but it is insidious.
If the vision Mirabel uncovers somehow shatters the system... he comes tumbling down with it. Better to keep the status quo. Better to keep everything in place. Better to quiet her - it's better for her anyway. It will keep her from being a target, from shame or embarrassment... it's easy to justify it as a loving move.
But big picture? Covering up something your kid is telling you is important? Not helpful, not healthy. It sends an incredibly powerful message: you are not valuable. You are not worth standing up for. We are willing to sacrifice you for the appearance/outward health of this family system.
I'm licensed narrative therapist Roya Dedeaux, and it brings me great joy to watch a ton of TV and talk about how it represents our lives with my clients. If you want more about the brilliance of Encanto, check out the webinar below!
Roya Dedeaux is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with several decades of working with teens and their families. She especially loves to work with homeschoolers and folks who feel like they don’t quite “fit the mold.” She is also the author of Connect with Courage: how to release fear and find joy in the places your kids take you. Check out her work, webinars, games, and other projects at www.royadedeaux.com
For more ideas for your own creative exploration or playful parenting, check out my Patreon. For just $1.00/month you get access to journal prompts and podcasts. Each tier provides even more!