Representation Matters in Disney Pixar's Coco
Updated: Mar 9, 2019
- By Abby Ojeda, Staff Writer -
Charming, creative, and warm-hearted, Disney Pixar’s Coco is another phenomenal family movie. However, this particular Pixar film extends beyond traditional depictions of American family life to embrace the Hispanic community, specifically Mexican families and culture. Focusing on the Mexican tradition of Día de los Muertos, the film follows a boy, Miguel, who pursues his dream to play guitar on stage and reconnects with his ancestors, learning the importance of strong family ties.
Coco powerfully resonated with me as a Colombian-American, even though I was born and raised in North Carolina. For the first time, I saw a movie in theatres that connected with significant aspects of my childhood: my abuelita making tamales, my abuelito and abuelita strumming a guitar to Colombian music, and my family telling the same stories (in Spanish and English) over and over again. Spanish was beautifully interwoven throughout the script without explicit translation, reflecting Pixar’s focus towards their Spanish speaking and bilingual audiences.
The overwhelmingly positive depiction of Mexican culture struck me the most. Growing up, my Colombian father would become frustrated with Hollywood depictions of Colombia solely as a corrupt, drug-ridden country. In many movies, Spanish is used as a language of “the other” to cause the viewer to experience cognitive dissonance. However, Pixar’s entirely Latinx cast and careful research to avoid stereotypes resulted in a movie that counteracts crude portrayals of the Latinx community in media and politics.
Juanisdeli Muñoz, a junior, says she was “super excited” to hear that Pixar was going to set their next movie in Mexico, but acknowledges her doubts: “I was a bit skeptical and hoped they wouldn’t mock my culture,” she said. After watching Coco, she sees the movie as “a welcome change from most representations of Mexicans in pop culture,” and as an encouragement to feel proud of her Mexican heritage. Ultimately, Muñoz was able to learn about more aspects of her culture that she was not particularly familiar with, specifically regarding El Día de los Muertos.
On the other hand, sophomore Jennifer Lopez, who is Mexican, was born in North Carolina, and has lived in Mexico, wishes she had seen more colloquialisms tied to Mexican culture beyond common Spanish words: “I do understand that the movie was made to capture a wide audience of both English and Spanish speakers, and Pixar did the best they could,” she said. In the end, the movie stood out to her because “it has been the only movie my parents were able to see in theatres and understand everything.”
Many reviewers have noted the timely contribution Coco makes to combat current harsh political policies towards Mexican people. The beauty of Coco is that it builds up and gives abundant life not only to the movie’s characters, but also to its audience, reminding me and my Meredith peers to connect with our families and be proud of our cultural backgrounds. We all want to be able to point at the screen and say, “Look, they’re just like us.”