Chronicles of the Muse

Chronicles of the Muse, Movies

Encanto is the Best Disney Movie: An Analysis

We watched Encanto together over Scener this January. Disney movies lately haven’t been great, but this one had great reviews, so we decided to check it out. This was a good decision. Encanto has stunning animation, a great soundtrack, well developed and likable characters, and portrays Columbian culture with accuracy. The writers also weren’t afraid to dive into serious issues like the effect of generational trauma. Encanto is available to watch on Disney+.

The story of the Madrigal family began when Abuela Alma and Abuelo Pedro were forced to leave their homes due to violence in their area. The conflict depicted in the film is likely based on the Thousand Days War in Columbia. Pedro sacrifices his life to save Alma and their triplets. A miracle manifested in a magical candle that builds them a gorgeous house and all her children and grandchildren–except Mirabel–are given magical powers. Their powers provide for the town around them and Alma puts pressure on the kids to use their powers to take care of everyone.

Generational Trauma

Abuela lost her husband to violence, and then this magic candle granted her family magical powers. They don’t know how the candle became magic, but they do know their powers can provide for the entire town. The town flourishes with Luisa’s strength, Pepa’s weather controlling abilities, Julieta’s healing, Dolores’ hearing, and Isabela’s beautiful flowers that decorate the town. Their powers provide safety and security to their community. Alma believes that through hard work and determination, they can keep this town flourishing. Because the children’s abilities help everyone survive, Alma values her children’s and grandchildren’s powers more than the kids. She holds high expectations because she is afraid of losing everything. The miracle is unknown and she desperately wants to keep the miracle going. Alma insists on perfection and is hard on Mirabel in particular, who didn’t receive magical powers. Alma repeats that her children and grandchildren must “Make your family proud,” but treats their efforts as unsatisfactory no matter how hard they try–especially with Mirabel.

Music

The music from Encanto is fantastic and it is topping the charts. The movie’s songs were composed by Germaine Franco and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Franco said that she read Columbian history, music, and literature to prepare to get inspiration. Both writers are of Latin American descent, and so are all the actors playing the characters. In addition, the songs “Colombia, Mi Encanto” and “Dos Oroguitas” were sung by two of Colombia’s current biggest artists, Carlos Vives and Sebastian Yatra.

We Don’t Talk about Bruno

We Don’t Talk About Bruno was #1 on the music charts, and it is the first Disney movie since Aladdin to do so. Remember when Let it Go was all the rage and felt super popular? Encanto‘s music tops Frozen, and for a good reason. The song begins with Pepa and Felix singing and then the song flashes to Dolores and then Camilo. The story of Bruno’s disappearance is told through the perspective of the Madrigal family and also the townspeople. People are also talking about Bruno when they say they don’t talk about him. The irony! Then the family gets ready for Mariano to come.

Dolores’ part makes Bruno sound mysterious, and we learn that she does hear Bruno. She says, “I always hear him muttering and mumbling, I associate him with the sound of falling sand.” Dolores clearly knows where Bruno is and can hear him, but the family doesn’t listen. It is also worth noting that sounds like footsteps are louder in Dolores’ part, emphasizing her hearing power.

Bruno is seen through the eyes of the family, and he’s basically a myth to the kids. “Seven foot frame, rats along his back, when he calls your name it all fades to black. Yeah he sees your dreams and feasts on your screams” is obviously exaggeration. The song is a hit, it makes you want to listen again. It also builds mystery about Bruno. The more we hear about Bruno, the more the myth builds and the suspense grows as Mirabel starts to regret bringing him up in the first place.

Surface Pressure

This song is relatable for many people, especially older siblings and those who feel like they are under a lot of pressure from their family. I love how the donkeys Luisa was carrying are incorporated into the scenes as spectators, dancers, or as part of the weight she has to carry. There are references to Hercules, who fought Cerberus, as well as Atlas, who held the weight of the world on his shoulders. Another familiar reference is one to the Titanic, as she imagines her family not swerving from danger even when they “heard how big the iceberg is.” This sense of impending doom weighs on her a lot. “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless, if I can’t be of service” is a line that hits so hard. People often measure themselves by how much they have accomplished for others, but for Luisa, this amount of service is never enough even if it is constant. I wonder if the donkeys are included because Luisa’s family treats her like some sort of beast of burden–or at least Abuela Alma does. This may not be at the top of the charts like We Don’t Talk About Bruno, but it is still remarkable as an anthem of the stressed.

What Else Can I Do?

Isabela is supposed to be the perfect sibling. Abuela adores her and she has a power to grow gorgeous flowers. One youtuber noted that Abuela actually smiles in the portrait of her and Isabela. She is the golden child, so she has to be perfect. Isabela previously thought that she could only create pretty, perfect flowers. But she lives under her grandmother’s expectations and any deviation from that plan is a failure. She’s also suppressing her emotions other than total joy, “I’m so sick of pretty, I want something true, don’t you?” Isabela creates a cactus and carnivorous plants. She isn’t allowed to be angry, but here she can finally express herself. The line “I wonder how far these roots go down” seems to hint at the family trauma. How far do the roots of their problems lie? But just as Isabella talks about roots, she grows a giant palm tree over the roof of the house. It shows her potential, and Mirabel is amazed at first. She is jealous of her sister because her grandmother favors her the most, but really, she feels trapped under the weight of her expectations. She realizes that imperfect things are even more beautiful. Her powers are also fun when she doesn’t have to be perfect. Isabela discovers the joy of creating, of using her powers for her and for the first time, she can escape those expectations and truly live in the moment. With her powers growing so much, perhaps she could change the world.

Animation

The animation in this film is colorful. Everything is incredibly detailed and just gorgeous. It brings you into the magical world of the Madrigal family and the audience shares Mirabel’s excitement and wonder.

Clothing Details

There are representations of the character’s powers on each of their clothes.

Bruno has an hourglass pattern that represents his ability to see the future.

Camilo has chameleons on his clothes that represent his ability to shapeshift.

There are sound waves for Dolores, representing her ability to hear well.

Louisa has barbells representing her strength.

Mirabel has representations of all her family members embroidered on her dress. A chameleon for Camilo, animals for Antonio, flowers for Isabela, weights for Luisa, a sun for Pepa, etc. Butterflies on her dress connect her to the candle and Abuela Alma also has them on her dress.

Observations

The line “Coffee is for grownups” isn’t accurate. Colombian coffee is super popular, and it is pretty common for kids to drink coffee there. Although the coffee the children drink is weaker, they still frequently drink coffee.

The film was partially inspired by Gabriel García Márquez’s book One Hundred Years of Solitude. In that book, a village is secluded from the rest of the world and gradually gets more contact with the outside. The family home sometimes behaves in mysterious ways. The book is about the downfall of a family. These are all aspects that One Hundred Years of Solitude has in common with Encanto.

Every time Pepa had storm clouds above her on numerous occasions. Abuela Alma was always telling her that they were there, as if she didn’t know. It’s frustrating, kind of like when someone just says to relax to someone who is chronically stressed–not only is it annoying, it is also ignorant. The first time Pepa had a storm cloud above her head and Abuela did not scold her was at the end.

Pepa and her husband Félix are really cute together. Their relationship is sweet, and this was especially evident during the song We Don’t Talk About Bruno, where Félix played a supporting role to Pepa’s part. Their son Camilo is really nice to Pepa–he brought her a drink and tried to comfort her.

One parallel in the film is how Mirabel holds Antonio’s hand as he approaches his door in the beginning, and Antonio holds her hand to approach her door at the end.

Chronicles of the Muse, Shows

Violet Evergarden Shows That Empathy Can Be Learned Through Writing

Violet Evergarden Shows That Empathy Can Be Learned Through Writing

Anime Review (with spoilers):

Violet Evergarden Season 1

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Trigger Warning: This show covers a suicide attempt, PTSD, and war violence.

Written by Paige Wilson and Ashley Ostrowski.

Overview

Pros

  • Shows the power of writing
  • Beautiful animation
  • Amazing art style
  • Accurate depictions of trauma and PTSD
  • Emotionally impactful episodes
  • Realistic development of empathy through interaction with others
  • Great music

Cons

  • Many viewers found it boring, at least at first
  • It would have been a bit better to get more character development for characters other than Violet
  • It was never explained how she became a killing machine or why she became a weapon
  • Episodic feel can leave one wanting more

Observations

  • Violet’s experiences are not very relatable for most people

Warning: Spoilers below!

Review

Violet Evergarden Season 1 is an anime that was released in 2018. It can currently be streamed on Netflix.

Violet is a 14-year-old orphan who was trained to be a weapon of the military in the fictional country of Leiden. Even though Leiden exists in a fictional universe, the anime feels like it takes place in 19th century Europe.

After a pivotal battle in which Violet loses her arms, she wakes up in the hospital and immediately wants to return to her post. The war, however, has been declared over. Having lived her whole life as a soldier as long as she can remember, she does not know how to live a civilian life and act without taking orders. She chooses to work as an “auto memory doll,” which is basically a nickname for the ghostwriters who write other people’s letters for them. Her reasoning behind this is that it will help her to learn the meaning of the words “I love you,” which are the last words spoken to her by Major Gilbert. Gilbert was the one who taught her to read and write and treated her like a person when other officials in the military treated her like a tool.

Gilbert gave her the name Violet; before that she didn’t have any name. Violets can symbolize truth, loyalty, grace, and gentleness. These are all qualities Gilbert wanted for Violet. He wanted her to just be able to live her life well, to not be resigned to a life of violence, and to grow up to be a wonderful young woman.

Violet already has some of the qualities symbolized by the color and the flower violet. She is very honest and straightforward. She does not lie and cannot understand when other people are lying. She is intensely loyal to Major Gilbert. And she is kind of graceful in a way, in the way that martial artists are graceful even when meting out violence. Gentleness is not a quality she has in great supply–she only knows how to be a soldier.

Major Gilbert helps her transition to civilian life even while in the military by treating her like a person rather than a machine. For example, he takes Violet into town and says that she can buy anything that she likes at the market. Violet is confused at first and doesn’t know what to get. She spots an emerald broach at a street corner that is the precise color of the Major’s eyes and she wants it. He buys it for her and she wears it all the time to remember him.

Violet is 14 when we meet her and she is stunted emotionally. At the beginning she is also expressionless nearly all of the time. It is not until she hears the sad story of a father who lost his daughter that she cries for the first time ever.

It is the process of writing letters for people that teaches her empathy. At first, her letters are excessively formal to the point of being more like a technical report than a heartfelt message.

As she continues to write letters, she grows in empathy and in her fluency of writing emotions on paper. She begins to feel regret and guilt for the deeds she did as a weapon of the military. She gains a much deeper understanding of human emotions with every letter she writes.

Violet develops short but meaningful relationships with several of the people who ask her to write letters over the course of each episode. Her episode with Clara Magnolia stands out in particular. Clara is a dying widow with a young daughter, Ann, who asks Violet to write several letters over the course of a week. Violet acts as a sort of babysitter to Ann, as Ann wants to spend time with her mother in the last days of her life, but her mother insists on writing letters. We as an audience get more and more frustrated with the mother for not spending more time with her child. It turns out that Clara was writing birthday letters to her daughter for the next fifty years. It was so sad. Did you cry? We both cried. The audience sees Ann receiving her first letter on the next birthday and we see Ann read more letters as she reaches a new birthday. It is a twist we hadn’t guessed, and it hits hard.

Princess Charlotte’s episode is also particularly memorable. Charlotte is going to be in an arranged marriage with Prince Damian of Flugel. When she is first on-screen, it seems like she is a young girl who is put into a marriage that she does not want to a man she has never met. She tells Violet she has no idea what to say in her letters, which are supposed to be flowery and romantic so that the public can see them. It turns out that Damian was the one who comforted her at a party when she was upset, and she really appreciated him. She did not know what to say because she liked him. Violet’s letters to Damian seem emotionless, and Damian’s letters to her also seem overly formal. She knows how she feels about Damian, but she doesn’t know if he feels the same. Princess Charlotte is upset. Violet suggests that they should write their own letters and it turns out he does. The kingdoms are intrigued by their passionate letters to each other and their wedding is a big celebration of love.

After a while, Violet finds out that Gilbert is presumed dead. It devastates her at first and it takes her a long time to recover. Nevertheless, she never truly accepts or believes that he is dead. It takes her a while to form relationships with the new people in her life, her new coworkers.

The first person to care about Violet is Claudia Hodgins, a man Gilbert asked to take care of Violet for him. He helps her find her first job. Violet meets many people when she gets her new job. Cattleya Baudelaire, Benedict Blue, Iris Canary, and Erica Brown are her coworkers. We get to know Iris in an episode, but the others aren’t as developed. They are likable, but they don’t get much screentime.

Is Gilbert alive? The story ends with an airshow where letters are dropped from the sky. Violet writes a letter for the Major where she tells him she believes that he is alive. We see Gilbert’s wounded body and we see him tell Violet to live, but we never see Gilbert dead. We see Violet at the end visiting a person to write a letter for them, and see a look of surprise when she sees their face, but we are not shown for sure whether this is Gilbert or if she is surprised for some other reason.

Another thing to note is the realism of the series. On Youtube, there is an excellent video where a veteran was interviewed about whether Violet Evergarden’s experience during and after the war was accurate compared to the experience of actual soldiers and veterans.

The veteran said her experience was exaggerated and yet largely accurate.

Some points that stood out to him:

Violet at one point tries to strangle herself. Her suicide attempt was true of many veteran experiences since suicide rates are relatively high among that demographic. The veteran said the episode with the suicide attempt “nailed it,” and was one of the hardest parts for him to watch because he lost several of his own war buddies to suicide.

When Violet tries to save the Major in the last battle before the end of the war, she fails to think straight and clear the area before rushing in to save him. The veteran said that was an instance of her emotions getting the better of her and said that was probably part of the reason she lost her arms and had to have them replaced with metal prosthetics.

The veteran also said that the way she crushed her emotions down was very understandable based on his own experience, and that he could appreciate why she had trouble interacting empathetically after living her entire life in the military.

He also said that he was annoyed about Violet saluting civilians randomly. He said that sort of thing didn’t really carry over into civilian life, but he could see why the creators chose to do this since all Violet ever knew was the military.

A final thing he noted as important was Violet’s nightmares–he said he experienced many nightmares and could relate to that.

The music in this anime is absolutely beautiful, the intro especially.

The intro song is called “Sincerely” by TRUE. It is about the power of words. The singer sings about learning words she didn’t know, which brings memories to the surface. She explains that there are words she may be incapable of understanding without the help of others. Specifically, the words “goodbye” and “I love you” are held up as special and powerful. They cause longing. The lyrics say that words do not have to be spoken to hold weight, they can cut to the heart even while they are unspoken but felt or read.

The outro song is called Michishirube and is by Minori Chihara. One of the lines from it, when translated into English describes a nameless flower that has found peace. This, to us, really describes Violet as she comes to terms with her actions during the war and accepts her new life as an auto memory doll.

The art style and animation are beautiful, especially when they show water or light as you can see above. The attention to detail is excellent and the character design is stunning. We see the characters in the snow, farmland, below the starry sky, and on the lake–among other settings.

In conclusion, we fully recommend this anime. We are aware that many people found the beginning boring, but we found that the development, in the beginning, was necessary and not really that boring. Although the anime has a very episodic feel that at times left us wanting more, there was a continued theme of Violet developing empathy. It is confusing why the military would choose a random 14-year-old orphan girl to use as a weapon, but we hold out hope that this will be explained in later seasons.

We will be putting out a podcast episode next week where we will share our opinions, so keep an eye out!

Chronicles of the Muse

7 Things I Learned from Creating My First Podcast Episode with Chronicles of PA Wilson

7 Things I Learned from Creating My First Podcast Episode with Chronicles of PA Wilson

 So, I did a thing. I’m starting a podcast with my friend, a fellow blogger and fellow English major, Paige Wilson, also known as Chronicles of PA Wilson. We wrote a study guide on a book we read in our 20th Century Novel Class at Grove City College a month back. It is a challenging but rewarding read. We wanted to help students and interested readers as they read this novel. We also wanted to talk about all our favorite and least favorite parts.

We’ve always enjoyed talking about books, shows, movies, and everything else, so we decided to make a podcast. Although I’ve had a bit of experience creating videos and video editing and I’ve used Audacity a little, making a podcast was not like I’d expected. Making a podcast is like jumping out of a hundred-story window and learning how to land. Here are seven things I learned from making the first episode.

  1. Being Recorded isn’t too bad

I’m not used to being on camera, and I’ve never been a fan of putting myself out there, so I was a little nervous before filming a podcast. To my surprise, it wasn’t so bad. After a few minutes, it felt normal. Paige and I were a little uncertain at times, but I think I’ll get more comfortable with it as time goes on. We used our study guide as a sort of script, so that helped me remember what to say

2. You need a good microphone 

We both recorded the first episode using our computer microphones. Paige’s microphone picked up background sound, so we had to cancel the noise on Audacity. We both bought microphones and plan to use them for our next episode.

3. Have a backup just in case

Paige and I set up our podcast by calling each other on Zoom. We recorded ourselves using Audacity and on Zoom. We each recorded ourselves on Audacity and later synched the audios together. It is important to have backup audio just in case something goes wrong with Audacity or the recording. Luckily, there were no problems.

4. Editing is tedious and time-consuming.

 I sent Paige the recording of my audio and she edited them together. She uploaded them to an MP3 and then created a second edit. In the second recording, we edited out long poses and the “um” and the “likes.” Since I did not have a good mic yet, unnecessary background noise. She edited the first ten minutes or so of the second recording and I finished it. It took us at least 8 hours between the two of us. Reducing the background noise took a lot of time. If you have a good microphone, editing should not take as long, but it is still tiring.

5. I say “like” a lot when I talk, Paige said “um a few times

I barely notice these things when I speak out loud, and I know it’s what happens when we talk normally, but wow. I use filler words a lot. I didn’t even want to try counting them

6. Editing isn’t too bad

Although editing feels like it takes ages sometimes, I enjoyed listening to us talk again and remembering all the points we made. It is so satisfying to cut out that extra “um” and make the audio sound better. When I finished, I felt like I created something cool. I loved making progress as I went along and then listening to the final project. 

7. Podcasting is fun and it is not just for extraverts

I had a blast making the first episode. I used to think podcasts were for more outgoing people, but anyone can do it. I don’t worry about other people listening because it is prerecorded. It feels like a conversation with a friend. I also loved the opportunity to talk about books! The Sound and the Fury is one of my favorites, and I love talking about the characters and all the complicated questions it asks.

Check out The Chronicles of a Muse podcast on my podcast page!

We plan to create another episode soon. We are introducing Chronicles of the Muse, talking a little about ourselves and our plans for this podcast. Keep listening, folks. We plan on getting more into literature soon. We also love to analyze books, shows, music, and movies on our separate blogs. Check out my blog and Paige’s at chroniclesofpawilson.com.