“We don’t talk about Bruno, No, no no”, I sang to my toddler for the 86th time on a recent snow day. There is a lot of people talking about the new Disney film Encanto. Therapists have not had so much buzz for a movie since Inside Out. Here is why I think we should be talking about Bruno.
Sure Encanto has impressive animation, catchy songs, and the warm and fuzzies that Disney movies are made of but it’s also a story of healed generational trauma. Trauma can be any scary or stressful event. In the movie Abuela experiences trauma fleeing from the Columbian civil war. Her family experiences generational trauma because the trauma Abuela experienced influenced how she raised her kids and how she related to her grandkids. She felt immense responsibility not only to keep her family safe, but also the entire community. Abuela’s reaction to trauma manifested as her high standards for her family that leaves no one room to make mistakes and little tolerance for anyone that wants something different. Isabela felt stuck in her identity of being perfect and always acting as expected. Luisa has incredible physical strength. Her song “Under Pressure” has many people with high functioning anxiety feeling seen. Both sisters were unhappy, but they felt they can’t show it because they need to keep it together for the family. The lack of communication about struggles has them feeling isolated in their pain and breeds further shame and family dysfunction.
Now let’s talk about Bruno. Anyone else see Bruno’s character and think scapegoat? He is not the evil entity that we are led to believe, rather he is different than this family and some in his community. He’s most likely neurodiverse; his brain works in a different way. His gift of predicting the future did not always predict positive outcomes. His gift tarnished the family’s ideal of perfection, and he was outcast.
Spoiler alert… the movie has a happy ending. Mirabel turns out to have the most special gift of all: the gift of love and support for her family. She aided her family in improving communication, acceptance for others’ different views and perspectives, problem solving, and helped them be a better functioning family unit. All are common goals for family therapy.
Believe me if I had a magic candle that could heal generational trauma, I would mass produce it. It’s not just those effected by war, as Abeula was, who can pass down generational trauma. Generational trauma could be impacted by any situation that causes fear, helplessness, or distress and then impacts how you relate to family. Events like financial stress, loss of a loved one, or intense humiliation can impact how we view the world and interact with our loved ones. Even though healing and growth looks different in real life from Disney movies it’s still possible for people to change and heal from mental illness. Talking about it seems like a good place to start.
Written by: Devon Simpson, LPC, CRC