Encanto seems ripe for villainy. The magical Madrigal family at the heart of the film begins to lose the magic that made them special — surely someone is to blame! But no one lurks in the shadows, twirling a mustache and absconding with magic. Instead, the story of Encanto is one of families, systems, and prophets — one that can serve as a warning and a balm to churches struggling to cope with a changing world.
In her big opening number, Mirabel introduces us to her family. Led by their abuela, each person in the family has a magical ability. Mama Julieta heals people with food and Isabela conjures flowers, for instance. Mirabel begins to notice cracks in the casita, the magical house the Madrigals call home. When she tries to point them out, Alma dismisses her concerns: “There is nothing wrong with la Casa Madrigal. The magic is strong!”
As she dives into the secret of the magic, Mirabel begins to see the cracks in her family. Mirabel begins to suspect that the magic mirrors the health of the family, and the problem is the family’s health. She raises this concern to Abuela, who snaps, “I don’t know why you weren’t given a gift. But it’s not an excuse for you to hurt this family.”
Abuela’s anger is familiar to anyone who’s been part of a toxic group — a family, a business, a church. The more established and successful any system becomes, the harder it is to remain open and responsive to change.