Encanto has taken over the internet with hundreds of theories about the Madrigal family and their powers. One that sparked a lot of interest on TikTok was the theory that Mirabel would become the family’s next leader, taking over from Abuela. While the theory is not new and has been cited many times on the app, here are some clues we’ve spotted that support this view.
While Abuela Madrigal has a magical door like the rest of the family, it’s not an expansive ‘bigger on the inside’ utopia like some of her grandchildren—take Antonio’s expansive jungle, Isabella’s floral garden and Bruno’s mystical desert. In the introductory song ‘The Family Madrigal’, where Mirabel lists off her family members and their respective magic powers, we get the tiniest glimpse into Abuela’s living quarters. As Mirabel chants ‘Whoa, let’s be clear Abuela runs this show’, the grandmother is seen exiting her room. In these incredibly short frames, peeping through the closing door, we see what appears to be a regularly sized room, what looks like a chest of drawers and a standing lamp. A normal room so to speak, a room much like Mirabel’s—well, minus the glowing door.
Mirabel’s own glowing door eventually becomes the front door of the home.
While they are both definitely magical, this seemingly ‘normal’ room is perhaps an indication of Abuela’s lack of overt magical gifts like her misunderstood granddaughter. In fact, the matriarch fails to realise the uncanny likeness between them, they both share the same abilities, ones that seem murky to fans of course, but nonetheless appear rooted in family.
While the family believe Mirabel to have no powers, she actually displays many similarities to the role Abuela plays. One of which involves this idea of keeping the family together—of nurturing them and their powers. Abuela, widowed with three newly-born babies, faced a challenging battle to raise her children alone but did so with such strength and determination. Though simplistically seen as a villain in the story, making some admittedly pretty bad parenting decisions, she was the successful courier that led her children to their powers. Mirabel does the same throughout the movie.
From the start, Mirabel is set as an integral part of her family as she aides a terrified Antonio up the stairs to his waiting glowing door on his ‘gift day’. When her cousin’s young, shaking voice begs ‘I need you’, she puts aside her fear to hold his hand in the walk through the crowd. She does the same work for her two sisters where Abuela fails.
She listens to older sister Luisa’s never-ending burdens that are forced onto her shoulders in the infamous, and perhaps Disney’s most relatable, song ‘Surface Pressure’. Mirabel sees first-hand that her sister—whose power is super strength—is unsupported, stressed and vulnerable. She gives her a hug saying, ‘I think you’re carrying way too much’. For her other sister, Mirabel puts to bed a feud that rang between them and helps Isabella—who can conjure up flowers—to free herself from the constraint of being ‘perfect’. In doing so, Isabella’s powers actually grow stronger.
Casita—the name of the family’s seemingly alive home—is as much a part of the family as the human members. Its Beauty and the Beast-like magical movement creates the perfect backdrop for the Madrigals, with many fans theorising that it’s the spirit of their deceased Abuelo Pedro. Casita interacts with requests, responds to questions and helps the family where needed. However, there are only two people that we see who have visible, verbal communication with Casita. Can you guess who? Yes. It’s Mirabel and Abuela Alma.
This could be another little hint of their shared gifts, perhaps indicating that Mirabel is the next in the family line to step into Abuela’s shoes to take care of the family as the keeper of their gifts and their home.
Speaking of home, they both lose theirs. While the fate of the home resting on Mirabel (in Bruno’s vision) is another obvious indication of her being the root of the family’s stability, I want to focus on another overlooked element that binds the grandmother to her grandchild—they both lose their home. Though Abuela’s backstory is obviously infinitely more tragic, traumatising and painful, Mirabel shares a taste of what it means to have your home destroyed.
When Casita crumbles, the impact of what they have lost appears to initially hit Mirabel the hardest and she flees the scene. For both Abuela and Mirabel, they are found at the moment their home was destroyed as well as at the moment it was reborn.
The most overt displays of their gifts parallel each other in the movie. For Abuela Alma, in her more accurate and vulnerable retelling of her trauma towards the end of the film, her husband Pedro is slain before her eyes by the colonialists that pushed them out of their home. The painful, tear-stricken scream that she releases is what sparks the magic that ignites her candle, creating Casita and the rural safe-haven it exists in—their Encanto. The inverse happens with Mirabel; her intense argument with Alma in the main lobby of their home exacerbates the cracks breaking Casita—Mirabel’s anger and pain in that moment becomes the catalyst that brings the home down.
Not only could this show that their powers are rooted in their emotions but this imagery perhaps also symbolises how they mirror each other—or better yet, how they balance each other. They are capable of both creation and destruction.
Following Casita’s downfall, Mirabel unknowingly flees to the exact place Abuela once stood watching her husband die. It is the same spot she receives the ‘gift’ that is the family’s magic and their home was born. This provides another clue that Mirabel becomes the next keeper of the family’s magic, their reconciliation and Abuela’s realisation of her mistakes ushers in the family’s new beginning. The pair become surrounded by yellow butterflies much like the butterfly that appeared on Alma’s candle years ago.
The theory surrounding Mirabel’s relationship to the butterfly is by no means new. The theme of the butterfly is littered throughout the film: in structural elements of Casita, on Mirabel’s clothes, in Bruno’s and Mirabel’s journey through his vision and of course, Abuela’s candle. It ties Mirabel so intrinsically to her grandmother as she appears a living embodiment of the miracle that is the candle.
As mentioned, following the death of her husband Abuela’s scream ignites the miracle of the magic that possesses her candle—in this process forming the image of a butterfly on the wax. While this retelling of Pedro and Alma’s story is happening, Sebastián Yatra’s voice can be heard singing the theme song ‘Dos Oruguitas’, which translates to ‘two caterpillars’. The two caterpillars transform in the song to ‘two butterflies’ half way through. It is here that I believe the song is referencing not Alma and Pedro but Alma and her granddaughter.
The sections of the caterpillars and the butterflies in the song are separated by the line, ‘Nuestra milagro, nuestra milagro’ (Our miracle, our miracle), entering a world where the miracle already exists. Pedro dies before the lyrics change to butterflies, it is perhaps not about him anymore but rather the two butterflies who keep the magic—Abuela and Mirabel.
OMG, are you caught up with Euphoria? I’m willing to bet my knock-off Prada that’s not the first time you’ve been asked this question in the last few days. Back for a second season, HBO’s teen drama is saturating our timelines faster than you can say Omicron and has cemented itself as the latest must-watch TV show.
If you’ve seen it then perhaps you’ll understand why it is such a success. Euphoria’s vibrant characters, exhilarating storylines and intoxicatingly sexy aesthetic make the perfect recipe for a hit show among gen Z. But there’s a more complex reason why we love it so much, beyond the obvious production value.
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Euphoria belongs to that trite yet inevitably addictive canon of the ‘High School drama’. From Grease to Glee, for decades we haven’t been able to get enough of the stuff. But have you ever stopped to wonder why the lives of students are so fascinating to us?
I’d argue it’s a matter of fantasy. Shows like Euphoria give us an embellished reflection of our high school years, showing us teenage life with adult freedoms.
This is plain to see in the recent ‘And why aren’t you in uniform?’ trend on TikTok. These videos see users dressed in casual hoodies and jeans, only to ‘remember they go to Euphoria High’ and reappear in a sexy I.AM.GIA two-piece and stripper pleasers. These exaggerated impersonations of the show’s fiercely iconic Maddy Perez (played by Alexa Demie) affectionately mock the notion of being allowed to wear the outfits to school that the Euphoria characters don so casually.
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Don’t get me wrong, Euphoria’s audience acknowledges that the characters’ lifestyles are unrealistic—but that’s exactly the appeal. Maddy, Jules and Cassie are playing out our fantasies of looking our absolute best at a time in our lives when our self-consciousness is at its most crippling. Don’t even get me started on my girl Rue…
Alongside fashion, characters in our beloved high school dramas are shown to be as romantically preoccupied as some of us dreamt we were back in those hormone-charged years. Burgeoning sexuality has been a core theme of teen dramas since the 60s, with the likes of Rebel Without a Cause and, again, Grease celebrating the rise of youth culture and the rejection of pre-war sexual conservatism.
Angsty teenage years are defined by the desire to enjoy these mature freedoms. As was the case with Glee, Euphoria shows us teen characters performed by actors several years older and gorgeous. They wield the power we strived to possess in our teen years and we can’t help but admire them for it. The contrast of their cultivated style and allure with the green high school environment gives us the fantasy we unknowingly craved all along.
While Euphoria and similar shows are pedallers of dazzling fantasy, they are also vehicles of that oh-so-needed catharsis. At first, we might label the high school drama appeal as merely nostalgia; a rose-tinted reminiscence of the ‘best times of our lives’. But those formative years are often when we experience traumas that we carry with us for the rest of our lives.
As we shed the skin of prepubescence, the skin of adolescence beneath is raw and scar-prone. Watching these traumas happen to someone else in dramas creates enough distance to make the experience cathartic and almost purging. This is where fantasy comes into play.
Exaggeration and embellishment in these productions act as a cushion against the harsh truths we are revisiting. Watching Quinn Fabray get kicked out by her parents for getting pregnant in Glee is made somewhat easier when you’re singing along to Avril Lavigne’s ‘Keep Holding On’ minutes later.
Trivial problems feel like the end of the world when you’re a teenager, so serious problems are truly earth-shattering. Watching characters experience these emotions on-screen, among the glamour, validates the impact events had on us at the time. They also remind us that we still experience these same traumas in our adult lives, and although the sting of adolescence may be dimmed, we still relate to them all the same.
Take the most recent episode of Euphoria (season two, episode two), for example, where we see Kat struggling with self-loathing and body dysmorphia. Sadly, toxic body standards are a common issue, especially for cis-women, trans-women and genderqueer people at that age. Audiences relate to the memory of such feelings, but also because they are still dealing with similar events in their current age. The same goes for the depictions of abusive relationships, depression and drug addiction.
While for many of us our teen years were more popping oxytetracycline than OxyContin, addiction is a worrying possibility for us all, if not a reality. Teen dramas reflect our lives, past and present; they depict both the worrying realities and the dreaded possibilities.
Euphoria shows us who we wish we were at high school, and perhaps who we still wish we were now. Gloriously gritty and sexy fantasy is an addictive escapism, so it’s no wonder we tune in to the show each week. And why shouldn’t we? Teenage dreams dwell as long as teenage traumas.