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'Encanto' gave me a newfound appreciation for older sisters

By AYIE LICSI Published Jan 20, 2022 8:35 pm

A lot of animated movies have been made about how tricky family can be—there's Coco, The Mitchells vs. The Machines, and Frozen, to name a few—but none (so far) have gone deeper into the nuances of these ties like Disney's Encanto.

While Encanto told the story of three generations of the Madrigal family, I want to focus on the relationship of siblings Isabela, who can make flowers bloom; Luisa, who possesses immense strength; and Mirabel, who didn't get any powers. Since we'll be diving into their story, there'll be spoilers for the movie ahead.

Isabela, Luisa, and Mirabel.

When the quirky Mirabel discovers that the magic surrounding their household is in danger, she takes up the task of saving their home. To do this, she reaches out to her older sisters who reveal in songs their vulnerabilities as members of the family that they dare never speak of. Their candor came as a shock to Mirabel and viewers as the two were portrayed as seemingly perfect individuals: "The beauty and the brawn do no wrong."

The burdens of being an Ate

I share the responsibilities of being the eldest child with my twin sister, so I found myself resonating with both Isabela and Luisa and how they're expected by people in the family (and outside it) to be perfect and strong, respectively. More than that, I saw my older-by-a-minute Ate in the two characters since she's treated as the eldest in our family.

The song Surface Pressure, in particular, made me realize how the weight of the responsibilities as an Ate can make someone snap, but since she has people relying on her, she can't crack or bend under the pressure like the strong Luisa.

Give it to your sister, your sister's older. Give her all the heavy things we can't shoulder. Who am I if I can't run with the ball?

I'm guilty of passing off some Ate duties but I salute my sister for being a champ about it—running errands, checking up on our younger siblings, helping around the house, and dealing with family fights even while she was working or going through personal stuff herself.

On the other end of the spectrum, other older sisters are burdened with expectations of perfection like what "golden child" Isabela sings about in What Else Can I Do. At times, these standards come at the expense of not being able to pursue their own dreams because they're afraid of disappointing family.

What could I do if I just knew it didn't need to be perfect? It just needed to be? And they'd let me be?

As older sisters, we were expected to have the best grades and be the most obedient kids because we had to be role models for our younger siblings. It was like there was no room for mistakes.

After watching Encanto, I found a new appreciation for the Ates in my life. I never really dwelled on how heavy the weight and expectations they carry can be since they never show any instance of them breaking a sweat. But they are human and things can get too much, too. They might not have powers like Isabela and Luisa but they're gifts in their own right. Even though they're strong or seemingly perfect, they can buckle under the pressure and need help, too.

Mirabel made sure to listen to her sisters after they expressed their struggles within their household and recognized the expectations they strived to fulfill every day for the sake of the family—a conversation you can also have with your sisters. Their candid discussions changed the way Mirable viewed her sisters—Isabela isn't just the snooty golden child in her mind anymore, and Luisa isn't as invincible as she thought.

You might not be able to do everything your Ate does, but a simple check-in from time to time to see if she's doing okay can go a long way.