By now I’m guessing you’ve all seen Encanto, a beautifully animated movie full of catchy songs and family drama. It’s the latest in a long line of Disney cartoons where they “explore” different cultures and countries. However, it’s also the worst of the bunch. Moana, Raya, and especially Coco felt much more complex and engaging. The writing seems lazy and although the songs are catchy they don’t fit work well with the storytelling efforts. A definition of show-don’t-tell gone wrong.

When it comes to Encanto fan theories, I know this is a wild one but just hear me out. So, let’s find out why I think that Abuela Alma is actually a head of a drug cartel. And while the first part of this rant is pretty light and hopefully funny, I couldn’t help but expand on the reasons why I wrote it in the first place. Reasons that are much darker.

Encanto: Setting The Stage

The Madrigal Family House

First of all, you should know where we are and we are in motherfucking Colombia! Yes, the story in Encanto is set in the country of Colombia, a beautiful country known for having the best coffee, bananas, and roses. Among other exports, if you catch my drift. Actually, key members of the production undertook an extensive trip to Colombia to immerse themselves in the culture. I wonder if they immersed themselves too much in the culture if you know what I mean.

To be more precise, the story takes place in a small village hidden in a valley surrounded by huge mountains. So, we got inhospitable terrain, remoteness, and lack of contact with the outside world. Hey, this is starting to sound a bit familiar. Here, we find the Madrigal family living in their magical and lavish mansion. Before Abuela Alma settled on this land, it was just a wild piece of jungle. However, as soon as she appeared with her “magic”, the village prospered.

House of the average villager

All of the villagers but Madrigals live in small concrete shacks but they still love the family. Mostly because their livelihoods depend on them. To quote Alma: “The whole town relies on our family, on our gifts”. Something that becomes apparent when the “magic” starts running out. When that happens for the first time, I’m guessing someone’s been cutting the merchandise too much, she says: “The magic is strong, and so are the drinks”. The supplier seems to be not answering his phone and the cartel is in trouble. And we know who’s to blame for that. That hijo de puta Judy Moncada!

Madrigal Magic

I just want to make something clear, Madrigal Magic is not in any way connected to a Madrigal Electromotive. You might remember that certain Walter White had dealings with this company but I do not believe that these Madrigals have anything to do with that. They are a large and seemingly friendly family living a peaceful life in their village.

When they “come of age” each member of the family is given a special magical gift. Alma’s three kids Bruno, Julieta and Pepa were among the first to get them. At this point, we can just cut the bullshit and say that these magical gifts are slang for different types of drugs. Don’t believe me, well, let’s just go through the list shall we:

  • Julieta – Her food heals everything – I’m guessing Heroin
  • Pepa – Manifests weather – I’m guessing MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)
  • Bruno – Keeps having visions – I’m guessing LSD or DMT
  • Isabela – Creates flowers – Definitely cocaine
  • Luisa – Supernatural strength – I’m guessing PCP or simply Steroids
  • Antonio – Talks to animals – Ayahuasca
  • Camilo – Shapeshifter – Psilocybin
  • Dolores – Incredible hearing – Marijuana (it’s a stretch, I know)

So, grandma likes to keep things in the family. However, you’ll notice that there’s no Mirabel on this chart. This is because she’s aiming at the top spot and looking to replace Alma as the head of the Madrigal cartel. This is also why she’s the most dangerous member of the family and why Alma focuses her rage on the poor girl.

Abuela Alma, The Ruthless Leader

If you’re wondering just how ruthless this seemingly cute little grandma is, you just need to look at the story of Bruno, her only son. After she got angry at him for telling the truth he saw in his visions, he was cast away. And while the exile is apparently self-imposed, it’s very clear why it happened and because of whom. I found the scene where poor Bruno sits alone at his table and watches the family through the hole in the wall incredibly touching.

I feel like his story is a blend of a son who got addicted to something and a son who failed to meet the expectations. Something quite common in cartel business. I mean this could be addiction or he could’ve just fucked up a couple of shipments. If you thought she treats her son bad just wait ’till you find out what she has planned for her granddaughter.

Well, since you’ve seen the movie you know it’s arranged marriage but I had to make it a bit more dramatic. An arranged marriage with most likely a member of the neighboring cartel, to strengthen the home base. Abuela Alma does not fuck around, I’ll tell you that. Finally, let’s go a step further and call that “magical candle” for what it actually is, a satellite phone she uses to contact her suppliers.

The Future of The Encanto Cartel

You’ve probably noticed that inhabitants of this remote village oftentimes break out into songs. Well, you would too if you were right at the source of the supply. Shit’s probably handed out for free to keep the populous happy and docile. Mirabela tried to bond with them and was immediately met with resistance. Just after she finished her opening song, Alma asks her what is she doing scoldingly.

I think she’s trying to move away from this model where the faith of every villager rests solely on one family. A family that throws lavish parties that I’m guessing everyone has to attend. Just think about this situation in reality and what those same villagers would be talking about behind her back. And what about the children? I’m talking about “regular” children, without any “gifts”, imagine how they must feel upon seeing the chosen ones.

Only after everything was destroyed did Alma finally step down as the head of the cartel. Of course, not before blaming Mirabel for everything and trying to both gaslight and guilt-trip her into submission. Now, she’s that wise advisor, carefully biding her time and waiting for the first sign of trouble to step in. With louder and louder rumors of a possible sequel, I guess we’ll see if that’s going to really happen.

Patronizing attitude towards Latino culture

So, let me just paint you a stereotypical picture of a Latin American family. Family is the most important thing, everything bad is brushed away and not talked about and the focus is firmly placed on the next generation. This means marriage, children, and everything that goes with that package. Everybody has roles they need to play and there’s no room for deviation. Usually, there’s a strong matriarch or more often patriarch who “runs” the family with a heavy hand. This is a simple but honest life with this ethereal quality permeating every aspect of it. Does this sound familiar to you?

It’s the same outlook that many Western cultures had of everyone else about a century ago. And I’m guessing most of them still do. It took a lot to wake people up to realize they don’t have to be slaves to this myth. That the world is much more magical and full of growth opportunities. And that you’re an individual that can define meaning, values, perception of yourself and others independently of the official system of values. A system where you’re pushed into a role you must play for the “entity” or an abomination to continue.

The identity of “cultured “Western” citizen” is not as potent without someone to look down on. Someone you might publicly say is happier with his “uncomplicated” life enjoying the simple pleasures. And all the while thinking something entirely else in your head. All of this is still happening within the same set of rules. The truth is that all cultures, countries, and other structures have the tribal system of values at the core of their systems. Every single one without any exceptions. We’re all fucked in the head and that’s just a fact.

Slavoj Zizek on the identity issues

Philosopher Slavoj Zizek talked about this issue while discussing Native Americans. We western white people have this imperials attitude towards nature, we just exploit it. But Native Americans have this organic link with nature, before they mine the mountain they ask the spirit of the mountain for permission and so on. This patronizing attitude is very popular nowadays. Zizek continues to tell a funny story about his Native American friend who hates that term because if they are Native then what are the colonists, Cultured Americans? He says he prefers the term Indians because at least it’s a monument to white man’s stupidity.

Now, Zizek also talked about the influence of colonialism in Africa but I cannot find the exact quotes. I mean, the interview is out there, I just can’t find it. While talking about war crimes and ethnic cleansing, he mentions the notion of evil. An evil that was brought on by the white colonialists and is now part of the perceived African identity. The counter-argument that one of his friends made is that they won’t even let us be just evil. Even that has something to do with the white man. A white man who undoubtedly brought immeasurable pain and suffering but I hope you get what I’m saying. I want to know what do you think about this, so do comment below. And check out Zizek’s The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology.

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