When Disney Preaches the Gospel
'Encanto' miraculously illustrates how grace defeats legalism
In my original defense of Disney’s Encanto, I made the briefest of comments on how the movie shows two different responses to the legalistic demand for perfection:
The demand from an authority figure to be perfect…is a burden no child can bear without pride (in the face of perceived success) or despondency (in the face of perceived failure). (Interestingly enough, as we get to know these characters, Isabela demonstrates the former, while Luisa demonstrates the latter.)
In the movie, Isabela exudes a smug self-confidence because of her perfection, whereas Luisa displays a woeful despondency over her lack of perfection. Both of them (along with the rest of the Madrigal family) have shouldered an impossible burden, and both of them respond differently, based on their perceived success or failure.
My wife Shannon recently expanded on this aspect of the film in an article for Lorehaven Magazine. Encanto, as shown through Shannon’s piece, “explores more than general redemption by comparing works-righteousness with refreshing Gospel solutions.” The article briefly evaluates five components of the film:
Abuelo Pedro’s miracle
Abuela Alma’s mistake
Luisa, the failing legalist
Isabela, the ‘successful’ legalist
The finale of a family unburdened
Encanto, Shannon says, portrays an “inherently beautiful contrast between earning and receiving, and between legalism and the Gospel.” The Madrigal family members ultimately “have nothing to prove because Abuelo Pedro already established and proved it all with his sacrifice. Trying to earn what he’d already given them only ruined the whole miracle.”
I may be biased, but Shannon’s piece is the best and most insightful article I have yet read on Encanto—and that includes my own. In fact, her analysis of the film’s gospel imagery almost made me cry.
Her insights further solidify why this movie has become not only my favorite animated Disney film of the last few decades, but also my favorite musical as well (sorry, The Greatest Showman—although I still love you).
Yes, the rich gospel themes of Encanto may very well have been unintentional, but they are nonetheless present and potent, providing for a rewarding viewing experience. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I highly recommend doing so.