If you need more evidence that representation matters in the films and TV series that audiences consume every day, look no further than what Encanto has done during the short time it has been playing at theaters and streaming on Disney+.
No, we’re not talking about how “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” has taken over everyone’s eardrums. We’re looking at the examples of how something as simple as an animated character can bring a smile and sense of belonging to a child when they see themselves on the screen.
A 2021 report from Common Sense titled, “The Inclusion Imperative: Why Media Representation Matters for Kids’ Ethnic-Racial Development,” revealed that the media children consume plays an important role in their sense of identity.
“Media has a profound influence on how we see, understand, and treat people, especially those within and different from our own race or ethnicity, and this is no different for kids,” said Onnie Rogers, Ph.D., a co-author of the report from Northwestern University.
So, while it’s true that the Madrigal family at the center of Encanto is fun to watch sing and dance, there’s a much deeper and lasting effect that takes place in a child’s mind when they see them on screen. Whether it’s Isabela making flowers bloom or Luisa bench pressing donkeys, it’s impactful.
Here’s a look at a few examples of kids (and adults) who watched Encanto and came away knowing that they can be part of the magical worlds they love.
The adorable 2-year-old was all smiles when he saw how much he resembled the character Antonio in Encanto. Kenzo’s mother captured the reaction on camera and shared pictures of her son on social media. “He was able to see someone that looks like him,” his father told ABC7 New York. “For me, it did make me feel a little bit emotional to think that my son was able to see this and have this experience. Just for so many other Black and brown boys and girls to be able to have that same experience now, I think that was amazing.”
Manu Araújo Marques
Another cutie from Brazil was delighted when she saw that she looked like Mirabel Madrigal from Encanto. “It’s me, mommy!” Manu tells her mother in Portuguese. “There’s nothing better than seeing your child’s joy, especially being represented in a Disney movie!” her mother told Buzzfeed. “My biggest fear when I learned that Manu would wear glasses would be bullying at school! But over the course of the movie, I completely changed my mind and saw that princesses wear glasses too!”
View this post on Instagram
Kids aren’t the only ones who are seeing themselves in Encanto. This mom might have the same name as the main protagonist in the film, but her resemblance to another character is uncanny. She looks like the brawny sister of the Madrigal family, Luisa, and she’s not afraid to show off her muscles either. “I was shocked because I was so glad to see that I could see myself in somebody else,” Martinez told TODAY. “Not only was I physically the appearance of this character, but the song just related to me so much in my own livelihood.”
Dilcia Guzman got the short curly hair and round frame and her outfit is very similar to the one Mirabel wears, so we’re giving this young woman a big two thumbs up as a cosplayer. Plus, she gets bonus points for actually taking photos at Disney Land. She could probably call herself an unofficial Disney character while she’s there and charge for selfies.
It looks like Maribel is a super popular character to cosplay these days. Here’s Madi Rivera pulling off the look flawlessly and finding time to get to Disney World to take a few photos surrounded by castles. We’ll wait for Disney to build a full-sized replica of the Madrigal’s house, then we’re off to Orlando ourselves!