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The "Actual" meaning of Encanto

Encanto as a film was one of the better received Disney animation in recent memory, from the music, to the character designs, to the narrative resolution and heartwarming interplay of all of the characters in the family Madrigal.

Though, for all of the popularity of the film there was a bit of controversy in the "proper" reading of the plot. While there is a clear examination of intergenerational trauma from Abuela to Mirabel and all of the family in-between, some have read the film with as allegorical to the experience some in LGBTQ community have experienced.

This disagreement led to a decent amount of intercommunal conflict on many social networks about the proper way of reading the text, but is their an actual proper meaning to a film? Does authorial intent matter? Is it "wrong" to read the text in a way more relative to oneself?

There is quite a lot of room to discuss the racial and cultural perspectives of the various angles of the argument of the actual meaning of the movie.

  • Death of the Author is essentially whats going on here. I like this topic as this is a reoccurring issue in the Anime community, as femboy/Trap characters are often read as trans by western audiences, while in Japan they are read as effeminate men. Even when authors directly comment on issues like this they are often ignored by fans and localizers. This often leads to heated debates online. I'm not a fan of the idea that text can be interpreted in any way possible, but that often becomes the case when authors note or thoughts are not available. It is why I believe whenever possible journals and notes should be preserved. But, in the event that evidence is not available, I was taught in my college classes interpretations of text need to be backed by evidence either from the author or evidence in the text, which is something that is often lacking in LGBTQ readings of text. An example that comes to mind is when Dreamworks Voltron was announced a lot of people assumed Pidge (Katie Holt) was trans. When the character was just pretending to be boy to find her brother. Same deal with Keith and Lance, as many people assumed the characters were gay, despite the show showing multiple times that Lance had feelings for princess Alura. – Blackcat130 2 years ago
  • I don't disagree about it being death of the author I was moreso interested in the backlash the DOA side of the discourse received for subverting the "intent" of the movie. I also don't see an inherent flaw with queer readings of media, I myself am guilty of it with characters in some of my favorite shows. That said, I can't say I'm sympathetic to the idea of a culture being ignored for the sake of others reading themselves into a text. I do think it is a topic worth discussion. – SunnyAgo 2 years ago
  • I just want to clarify that I am not saying that there is anything wrong with doing a queer reading of a text. My issue is as you put it "people reading themselves into the text" Another example of this is in My Hero Academia. Many fans believe Bakugo and Deku are gay for one another, despite the author clearly stating certain characters having romantic feelings for one another. Even without author input the text at certain points states how the characters feel about one another. This also becomes obnoxious to me, as often times these text actually have LGBTQ characters (Tiger and Magne are trans) in it that get ignored for fan canon. One theory that I've heard for why this happens comes from YouTuber Dimitri Monroe. They believe its not about whether or not a character is gay or Trans, but metaphorical point scoring. They believe the reason modern queer reading often alter characters is because some LGBTQ activist simply want a more prominent character as opposed to the side character (which Tiger and Magne both are.). Dimitri uses Astolfo from the fate series as an example, as not only in the lore Astolfo is canonically and stated multiple times to be an androgynous male who doesn't care about gender norms. Despite that many will say he's trans. Which once again fate does have actual trans/gay characters, Astolfo is just considered one of the more popular characters and that why he's often subject to this debate. You can see the same thing with P4's Naoto who states both their gender and sexual preferences, but fans created a mod to turn the character Trans. I think this more about politics as apposed to trying to understand the message of a story. (Also I might take this topic.) – Blackcat130 2 years ago
  • I think what you're talking about here is "reader response criticism," where a reader (or viewer in this case) interacts with a "text" relative to his/her/their own experiences. For instance, as an autistic woman, I very much "read" Encanto as a commentary on disability, giftedness, and twice-exceptionality. So no, there is nothing wrong with looking for or finding deeper or truer meaning in the plot. The challenge here is going to be choosing which deeper readings to focus on, because as you mention, there are so many. – Stephanie M. 2 years ago
  • The whole concept of interpreting creative works has been academically discussed for centuries by this point, so there's not exactly much new ground to tread, other than to perform case studies on specific modern works like you're trying to do with Encanto. I personally believe, especially in a medium like film, that the idea of any one interpretation being correct is absurd, even if it's one that has been publicly stated by a key creative such as the director or writer. Therefore I think that were you to continue this article in any direction where are you providing your own personal interpretation, the key point is providing evidence from the source itself, Encanto, to defend and support your case. If you are instead headed in the direction of using Encanto as a talking point to further the general discussion of artistic interpretation, then it would definitely be interesting to see you critically analyse some of the different 'theories' and 'arguments' circulating the Internet in regards to what the films 'true meaning' is. Irrespective of whatever path you take with this topic, I wish you the best and look forward to reading your work :) – LucasR 2 years ago