Unpopular Opinion: Abuela Alma Madrigal from ‘Encanto’ Is *NOT* a Villain
Jan 20, 2022   •   Meryl Medel
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Jan 20, 2022   •   Meryl Medel
Disney’s Encanto got all of us hooked with its cute art and catchy songs (We don’t talk about Brunooo~ No no no~~~), but we’ve all definitely stayed for how relatable it is — even if the most relatable thing is trauma. But one thing that divided most viewers about the film is perhaps the question of Abuela Alma Madrigal: is she the villain or is she not? Well, we’re here to tell you that we’re with the unpopular opinion of ~No, No, No~, and here’s why.
As the matriarch of the Madrigals and the leader of the refugee community, Abuela felt she had to be perfect and strong and that she can never appear weak to others, even her own family. She thinks even her descendants had to be perfect, leading her to pressure her family so much that they put themselves in little boxes.
Pepa was always a nervous wreck, trying to stay calm like Abuela said she should. Luisa felt like she couldn’t say no to anyone asking for her help. Isabela needed to be perfect to live up to Abuela’s expectations. And Mirabel felt like she doesn’t belong in her gifted family.
Abuela was definitely going about things the wrong way. There is no doubt about that. During the first half of the movie, Abuela was either telling Mirabel off or tuning her out. She also kept on comparing her grandchildren with one another, creating rifts between them.
Before being blessed with magic, Abuela suffered as a victim of war. She watched her husband get killed right in front of her and her three babies, but she immediately had to get up on her feet without a moment to grieve because she had to lead so many people that were suddenly looking to her for guidance, and because the magic came to her. The circumstances surrounding her shaped her.
This might be one of the biggest reasons behind Abuela’s actions. She believed she and her family had to be worthy to keep the miracle of magic in their family. And she actually explicitly states this at the beginning of the film, during the song ‘Family Madrigal.’ She sings:
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.
Her lines in the song implied that there’s more to the pressure she’s putting on her family. Because for Abuela, if the miracle is lost, she and her family and the whole Encanto could lose everything they’ve built together. So the whole community — but most especially her family — needed to work hard to keep the miracle burning.
She was doing what she thought she had to do to protect her family and the refugees who came with her. Abuela lost her husband and became a single mother to three babies when she was so young. She probably never had time to stop and breathe because she was always thinking about the good of the family and the village. She thought she needed to hold onto everything tightly so as not to lose them. She could never appear weak, and she thought the same for her descendants. Until Mirabel made her realize she was going about it the wrong way.
There’s no excuse for the hurt she has done to her family, especially her grandkids. But we need to understand where she’s coming from and acknowledge how she admitted to her faults. In the aftermath of the Casita crashing down, Abuela told Mirabel: “I thought I would be a different woman.” It was a simple line, but it was an expression that said Abuela didn’t purposefully want to pressure and hurt her family, but she did it inadvertently through her desire to protect them and hold them close.
A villain is someone with an evil intent who wants to put others, particularly the protagonist, in harm’s way. Which Abuela definitely did not. In fact, she wanted to protect her family and village so much that she pushed them to work harder (which, yes, hurt them).
On the other hand, an antagonist works as a contrast to the protagonist, as someone who opposes them and has different opinions. Which is what Abuela was to Mirabel — or at least she was a representation of the film’s antagonist: trauma.
ABUELA IS NOT THE VILLAIN IN ENCANTO !! THE VILLAIN IS GENERATIONAL TRAUMA !! pic.twitter.com/i7xSLXz3fT
— Trang Dong (@tranganhdong) January 12, 2022
There is no real villain in Encanto, which makes the film unique in its own way. And if there is, it’s definitely the generational trauma and not one specific. The Madrigals, especially Abuela, were products of the circumstances surrounding them, and those circumstances definitely had a lot of trauma. And to get past that, they needed to process their trauma and learn to forgive — each other and themselves.
Do you agree with this unpopular opinion? Why or why not?
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