Generational Trauma in Encanto (2021)

Generational trauma is a trauma formed through the transmission of traumatic events from parents to their children. The causes of generational trauma can come from various triggering experiences and events (Marilyn and Martin 2010, #94). Some of the causes of secondary trauma include torture in war and domestic violence. Generational trauma often occurs in families whose older generations have experienced traumatic events in their past. A movie called Encanto (2021) is a product of the pop culture that raises the issue of generational trauma in a family. This article will discuss further the representation of generational trauma in a movie called Encanto (2021).


Encanto is a movie released by Disney Studios in November 24, 2021. This movie is about a Colombian family that has various kinds of magical blessings that come from the miracle candle. However, there is one family member who does not get the blessing of a miracle candle, Mirabel. Due to her shortcomings, Abuela considers Mirabel a burden to the family. Although Mirabel is different from the rest of the family, she is a character who has the will to stop the toxic circle in the Madrigal family.


As a Disney Studio movie released during a pandemic, Encanto managed to carve extraordinary achievements. One of the prestigious awards received by this film is the title of Best Animated Feature at the 2022 Academy Awards. Moreover, one of Encanto’s original soundtracks, We Don’t Talk About Bruno, also managed to rank No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Monday. It became the second song from a Disney animated film after Let It Go by Frozen (2013), reaching the top spot on the chart (Marisa 2022). Apart from the great storyline, ear-catching songs, and eye-pleasing animation, Encanto has also become the public’s favorite because of the issue raised in this movie, namely generational trauma.


The secondary trauma in the Madrigal family started when Abuela or Alma Madrigal lost her beloved home and husband due to war. When Abuela’s husband, Pedro, sacrificed himself to save his family and villagers, she received a miracle candle. The candle is a blessing that brings her a house and gives her descendants various magical powers to protect the whole family from harm. After getting what she needed, Abuela tried hard to keep what she had. As the head of the Madrigal family, Abuela always teaches her offspring to use their blessings to help and protect the villagers around the Casa Madrigal. However, without realizing it, Abuela’s upbringing to her children and grandchildren to always do good and be strong for the family’s sake makes them feel pressured and unable to express their emotions freely.


The impact of Abuela’s pressure on her family members can be seen in their behavior in the movie. Take a look at one of Abuela’s daughters, Pepa Madrigal, who can control the weather according to her feelings. She tends to push her negative emotions because it can make the weather cloudy, rainy, and even stormy. Another example can be seen in Isabela Madrigal’s behavior. She is the oldest grandchild of Madrigal, who can grow various beautiful flowers and has the image of a perfect golden child. Because of her image, Isabela felt she had to do everything her family wanted to avoid disappointing them, including marrying a man she did not love. Many more behaviors of the Encanto characters show that they are affected by the trauma of Abuela’s past.


Among the members of the Madrigal family, Mirabel is a character who tries to stop the traumatic cycle in her family through her rebellion against Abuela. Mirabel’s rebellion began when she discovered the cause of the crack in her family’s house, Casita, by meeting Bruno. Bruno’s prophecy says that one way to overcome the crack in Casita for Mirabel must make up with her sister, Isabela, considering the two do not get along previously. Casita is a metaphor for the Madrigal family itself. The crack in Casita symbolizes the strained relationship between family members. When Mirabel and Isabela made up, the crack disappeared. However, a more extensive fracture appeared. It was a sign of the strained relationship between Abuela and Mirabel because they argued towards the end of the film.


After the fight between Mirabel and Abuela, they had an in-depth conversation about past events that made Abuela feel compelled to protect everything she already had. It was also that event that made her unconsciously put excessive pressure on members of the Madrigal family. The conversation made Abuela soften herself. She realizes that the pressure she puts on her family was formed due to her fear of losing her home and family again. The movie ends with Mirabel making up with Abuela and some character developments of each figure in the movie. It is also represented by Casita, which was successfully rebuilt just like the Madrigal family’s relationship.


Encanto teaches us not to treat the traumatic things that happened in the past as trivial because they can affect our behavior in the future. Generational trauma can cause strained relationships between family members and affect their traits and characters. Furthermore, this movie also provides a realistic image of the generational trauma that is often not realized by many families in the world. We can also learn something from Mirabel. In every family that experiences generational trauma, there must be at least one person who dares to stop it. However, suppose generational trauma occurs in a family. In that case, it is still essential to seek help from experts to help out of this situation. That is what is not shown in Encanto, considering the setting of the place and time. Despite its shortcomings, this film is worth watching as a spectacle to strengthen family relationships.



Marilyn, Doucet, and Rovers Martin. 2010. “Generational Trauma, Attachment, and Spiritual/Religious Interventions.” Journal of Loss and Trauma: International Perspectives on Stress & Coping 15, no. 2 (March): 93-105. 10.1080/15325020903373078.

Marisa, Dellato. 2022. “‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ Hits No. 1—Only The 2nd Song From Disney Animated Film To Hit The Top Spot.” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/marisadellatto/2022/01/31/we-dont-talk-about-bruno-hits-no-1-only-the-2nd-disney-song-to-hit-the-top-spot/?sh=5357d0c968bf.

Writer: Redita Diah Firanti

Editor: Amalia P