When you have a big mouth in an immigrant family and no filter, you will get called out for it. It especially applies when you spill a big secret on a regular basis. So you learn to keep secrets, as a means of survival. If someone ventures into adulthood still not keeping their mouth shut, people don’t trust him.
Encanto manages to nail the aspects of being part of an immigrant family. You get a matriarch who suffered trauma and as a result, thinks that she needs to control every aspect of her family’s individual lives. We also have siblings that love each other but face unequal power dynamics, metaphorically and literally. You also have the one person that cannot keep their mouth shut. Dolores Madrigal is that person. She frustrated me while watching the movie.
Dolores messed up with her gift of superhearing. It is hard to ignore that fact on a rewatch. She tells the neighbor kids bluntly that Mirabel has no gift, and later tactlessly spills the beans about Bruno’s prophecy. This contributes to Abuela continuously isolating Mirabel and making her feel “other”. Then there are her actions later in the movie. Are they good intentions, or are they motivated by selfish pettiness?
Dolores’s Motives Aren’t Pure
Dolores is a gossip. She tries to be friendly to Mirabel but also excludes her as much as Abuela does, revealing to the neighbor kids that her cousin has no powers when Mirabel is sidestepping the subject. Later she lies to Mirabel that no one cares about the cracks growing, though Mirabel overheard her grandmother fretting about them. The one moment where one could argue that she’s being genuinely helpful is when she tells Mirabel that she feels sorry for their Uncle Bruno, who vanished under mysterious circumstances. But in the rest of the movie? She’s useless and harmful.
There is also the fact that Dolores is in love with the man that Abuela wants to marry Isabela, her cousin. Bruno once told her that her love would be just out of her sight. She ruins the engagement party by whispering around the table just as Mariano is about to formally propose to Isabela. Many viewers, including myself, interpreted that she didn’t give in to an anxiety attack but sabotaged the festivities out of the fear that Mariano would actually go through with it. She threw her own cousin under the bus for her benefit, knowing that Abuela and Isabela would scapegoat Mirabel. Cousin Antonio is the only one who helps out Mirabel actively when she needs a vision from Bruno.
You could argue, “Dolores didn’t mean it. She was stressed out.” Uh no, she meant it. After all, why was it easier for her to keep a secret that her uncle was living in the walls and starving himself so as to look after the cracks in La Casita? Dolores confirms that she always knew that Bruno was hiding in the walls, based on her verse in “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” and she leads Mirabel away from seeing Bruno dancing on the balcony above them.
There are some things that you do not do during an important family event. One of them is to toss your teenage cousin under the bus because of your impending heartbreak. Dolores is an adult who knows better; Mirabel is 15 and considered a child since she has to stay in the nursery after her gift never emerged. There was an unequal power dynamic even excluding the gifts, and only Mirabel’s parents try to offer comfort about being the black sheep. Dolores also never apologizes to Mirabel for this.
When The Karma Kicks In
For most of the movie, Dolores has a useless gift. It keeps her up at night because she can hear her cousins’ eyes twitching, and it makes her privy to secrets all around the town. No one has privacy in the house because of her big mouth. It’s implied no one trusts her to keep secrets, except maybe Bruno. They don’t exactly shun her, as her little brother Camilo impersonates her to get extra helpings of breakfast, but it’s not like anyone trusts her. She doesn’t have the confidence in Luisa that Mirabel does. People cringe when she indicates that she’s heard their secrets, and her eyes grow wide with horror.
Dolores despite knowing what it’s like to be othered says nothing when Abuela lashes out at Mirabel. She listens from a distance and when you would expect her to speak up, she doesn’t. You can make a drinking game out of every time this berating happens.
Then Mirabel disappears in the third act. La Casita has collapsed and used the last of its strength to protect Mirabel as she attempted to rescue the miraculous candle. She wanders off as her parents try to get help, and the whole family spends an entire night searching for her. Dolores cocks her ears but gets a saddened expression. The one time that her gift would have been useful is when it has vanished, along with the miracle. Karma is a bitch that she can’t even make things better after making them worse.
The movie ends with La Casita being rebuilt, and everyone working to fix their unintended emotional abuse toward Mirabel. Isabela shoves Mariano towards Dolores, who gets what she wants without apologizing to Mirabel for scapegoating her. He doesn’t mind that the rest of his life will have no secrets.
This wouldn’t be a problem, except that everyone else in the movie pays consequences for their actions. Isabela is forced to confront that unless she stands up for who she wants to be, her family will see her as a vapid golden child. Abuela has to step back and acknowledge she fudged it, with people working to include Mirabel instead of excluding and othering her.
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