In Disney’s new animated musical Encanto, the magical Madrigal family has been blessed with miraculous powers. They have a living house that caters to their needs, and each member of the family is blessed with some supernatural gift. Oh, and they sing and dance about it. They seem like the perfect family, even sharing their gifts to bless their community. But beneath the surface, there are literal and metaphorical cracks showing. Only Mirabel, the sole magic-less Madrigal, seems to notice.
We swear to always
Help those around us
And earn the miracle
That somehow found us
The town keeps growing
The world keeps turning
But work and dedication will keep the miracle burning
And each new generation must keep the miracle burning
from Encanto‘s “The Family Madrigal“
Ultimately, Encanto asks us “What does it mean to see others as more than what they can produce?” What does it mean to see ourselves beyond our successes or skills? The entire Madrigal clan was blessed, filled up with tangible miracles. But their gifts became a sort of pressure crushing down on them. What began in gratitude for what was given slipped into a toxic game of constant output, evaluation, and critique. Their gifts were no longer a source of joy but something that forced them to continuously validate their worth and justify their very existence.Ultimately, Encanto asks us “What does it mean to see others as more than what they can produce?” What does it mean to see ourselves beyond our successes or skills?
Under the surface
I feel berserk as a tightrope walker in a three-ring circus
Under the surface
Was Hercules ever like “Yo, I don’t wanna fight Cerberus”?
Under the surface
I’m prеtty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of sеrvice
from Encanto‘s “Surface Pressure“
It wasn’t just the seemingly un-magical Mirabel who was crushed by the pressure. The danger of endless comparison and evaluation is such that even the most exceptional gifts can start to seem insufficient. Luisa, with her supernatural strength, is still desperately afraid of even the slightest hint of weakness. Isabela crushes her own dreams and desires under the need to live up to her own reputation for perfection. Poor Bruno’s gift doesn’t produce in ways that were expected. And even Abuela, the first recipient of the miracle, passes down her own personal trauma and desperate need to prove her worthiness to her children and grandchildren. The threat that cracks and crumbles the Casita isn’t some evil outside force but the very weight of expectation crashing down across the generations.
We don’t have to have magical powers to understand the weight of these sorts of pressures. We fill our lives (or have them filled) with so many metrics to evaluate us. Grades, awards, salaries, likes, achievements, views—they all can make life feel like we constantly have to prove our worth to ourselves and others. And these pressures can come from so many angles—from our friends, teachers, jobs, cultures, and even families—sometimes out of a desire to help rather than hurt. Still, we eventually internalize these pressures, like the characters in Encanto, so they just spill out from our own minds. Even (or perhaps especially) when we give the best parts of ourselves, we can be left feeling like we haven’t given enough or done enough to be loved and cared for.
I just made something unexpected
It’s not symmetrical or perfect
But it’s beautiful
And it’s mine
What else can I do?
What could I do if I just grew what I was feeling in the moment?
What could I do if I just knew it didn’t need to be perfect?
It just needed to be? And they let me be?
from Encanto‘s “What Else Can I Do?“
But thankfully, despite our own protests, our worthiness and value are never truly in question. One of the most powerful statements of human worth in the Christian faith is the concept of the Imago Dei—the “Image of God”—is indelibly impressed into every human being. Before our first contribution, before the first thing we can make or give or do, we are beloved. God calls us “good.” I hear this echoed in Abuela’s verse in the story’s closing song, her hard-won revelation from the family’s struggles.
The miracle is not some magic that you’ve got
The miracle is you, not some gift, just you
The miracle is you
All of you, all of you
from Encanto‘s “All of You“Before our first contribution, before the first thing we can make or give or do, we are beloved. God calls us “good.”
When the world presses down, when critique from within and without feels overwhelming, remember that the miracle is you. You don’t have to prove your worthiness to exist—to earn identity or love—like it’s a privilege. You are a miracle just in being you, and you are loved more than you can know.