Family Pressure in “Encanto” and “Witch Boy” Artworks

Pages: 6
Words: 1740

Individuals develop certain beliefs and identities from early childhood as a direct influence of the family’s culture, religion, traditions, and rites of passage which shape the family member’s identity. Growing up with specific cultural and societal expectations requires displaying specific skills which must conform to the community and its traditions. In ancient times, communities believed in gender roles and specific attributes, such as boys becoming brave warriors and girls practicing magic to identify with a particular community or family. As a result, children had pressure to develop a unique set of skills that identified them as part of the family.

In modern times, the trend still exists where families dictate their children’s behavior by imposing specific academic achievement and career choice expectations. At times, the pressure to fulfill the family’s demands has adverse effects such as depression, self-consciousness, and identity issues resulting from indifference from family members (Heithaus et al. 20). In the graphical book The Witch Boy and the animated movie Encanto, the stories highlight family pressure and its effects on different characters. Importantly, though, is the ability of the characters to find their identities and overcome the adverse impacts of the conflict. This essay illustrates the effects of family pressure in the two stories by comparing different characters’ experiences and how they handled the situation to overcome the negativity while relating the circumstances to modern-day family pressure and conflicts.

Family pressure can lead to an identity crisis in children trying to fulfill the laid down rules and expectations. Masterson defines identity crisis as an individual’s psychosocial conflict over their role in society and sense of losing one’s sense of self and personality (Brezgina 107). Thus, the individual questions their place and worth in society, leading to numerous emotional and mental disturbances.

Children are a source of pride for their parents, and each family has a desire to see their children flourishing in certain aspects which are acceptable culturally or socially. The expectations can be gender-based or family traits that identify the particular group (Thompson et al. 189). Although some of the demands are meant to bring positive outcomes in one’s life, other family members may find it difficult to practice or achieve the desired outcomes. Pressuring the incapable members affects their well-being emotionally, socially, and cognitively.

In Encanto, Mirabel comes from the Madrigal family consisting of family members with unique magical gifts except for Mirabel. The family members acquire the gift through coming-of-age family practices, giving the child a magical power. Although the transition is a must, it comes with conflicting issues when the transitional outcomes are different from the family’s expectations (Hardstaff 184). Mirabel does not receive magic affecting her social life and family relations. Alma, the family’s grandmother and founder of the magic, does not hide her contempt for Mirabel’s lack of magic which strains the family’s relationships.

Likewise, in Ostertag’s graphic novel The Witch Boy, the main character, Aster, suffers a similar ordeal to Mirabel. Although Aster wants to practice magic, his family’s expectations differ due to gender roles. Boys are shapeshifters to provide protection, while girls become magicians (Ostertag). However, the young boy is not comfortable with shape-shifting and struggles with his family over their demands and desires. Like Mirabel, the family despises him for being interested in a girl’s role, which is stereotypical of their culture and traditions. Aster and Mirabel’s families are the same in pushing children to meet their expectations despite being different.

A child lacking the attributes identifying them to the family feels lost due to a need to belong while being different from others. A child with an identity crisis risks developing depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, isolation, and social awareness (Brezgina 107). Children and adolescents with identity issues try hard to prove their worth from external sources and seek outside help to find a sense of belonging (Thompson et al. 188). However, seeking external reassurances leads to overworking and pleasing people, affecting social and mental well-being.

Since the community depends on the Madrigal’s magic to accomplish manual tasks, Mirabel feels useless, leading to low self-esteem. Mirabel wants to feel useful by being good and doing more favors to the community while compromising her happiness which Masterson believes is a sign of losing self-identity (Brezgina 108). Consequently, the young girl also avoids her sister Isabella, an epitome of perfection for making the most beautiful magical sceneries full of colorful flowers. Her grandmother’s rejection isolates Mirabel from her loved ones, and she feels more depressed and worthless. Mirabel is alone and expresses her sorrow and frustration through her songs.

Similarly, Aster has psychological difficulties which affect his social interactions. He tries to get external help and assurance, which always leads him to trouble. Aster and Mirabel are not alone in experiencing an identity crisis due to family pressure. Mikasi, Aster’s family member, also suffered from the inability to shape-shift during the coming-of-age ceremony. He tries practicing magic to prove his worth, leading to a monstrous shift, unlike his peers who changed form, resembling common animals (Ostertag). Mikasi would not have practiced magic if his family had accepted that he could not shape-shift like the others.

Conversely, family pressure causes feelings of aggression and anger outbursts due to rejection and ostracization. Families and communities usually alienate children with inadequacies or inability to meet their expectations (Thompson et al. 189). Sometimes, families brand the rejected children as a bad influence on others, causing social alienation from family and peers (Heithaus et al. 26). In other cultures, the children are seen as a bad omen and isolated from the family to promote good fortune. Thus, children who face family rejection become uncertain, hopeless, and angry toward family members leading to aggressiveness.

Additionally, ostracization leads to aggression when individuals struggle with identity crisis and self-control from isolation. Ostracized individuals tend to have antisocial behavior and avoid social bonds, which affects their emotional well-being (Heithaus et al. 22). The Madrigal family ostracizes Bruno for his ability to foresee tragic incidents in the future. Alma considers him a bad omen and influence in their family despite possessing magical powers. As a result, Bruno lives in isolation and shuns social contact.

When Maribel stumbles into his lair accidentally, she encounters several traps that keep invaders away. Bruno is aggressive and odd, which illustrates the impact of living in isolation (Howard and Bush). Bruno’s resentment for his mother is evident as he warns Maribel of her actions. Mikasi’s experience in the witch Boy is similar to Bruno’s and illustrates how family pressure leads to ostracization. Since Mikasi’s interest in magic led to his downfall, his family members consider him an outcast.

Mikasi represents what would happen to Aster if he disobeys the gender roles and practices magic. Shape-shifting into a monstrous animal and isolation influence his aggressiveness, and he warns Aster of the dangers of going against the family’s wishes (Ostertag). The characters’ experiences would be different if their families accepted that children are born different, and family pressure to act according to particular demands worsens the situation rather than making it better.

Nowadays, families demand specific achievements from their children regardless of their wishes. Parents decide their children’s academic outcomes, career paths, and extra-curricular activities, which are influenced by numerous factors such as social status, societal expectations, and family culture (Wesselmann & Kipling 702). Most children suffer silently due to family pressure and trying to find their place in a society which does not consider the child’s feelings or wants.

Children and adolescents develop depression from parental pressure leading to poor academic achievement, antisocial behaviors, and substance abuse. Additionally, many children and adolescents develop psychological issues such as aggressiveness, chronic loneliness, and anxiety disorders due to pressure and societal demands (Wesselmann & Kipling 698). Many parents pressure children to maintain public displays of a perfect family and adherence to societal expectations without realizing the adverse effects it can cause on children.

Nevertheless, the two stories present a silver lining of finding amicable solutions regarding the challenges of family pressure. The characters face numerous challenges but find ways of dealing with each difficulty until they find self-identification and belonging in the family. Despite the lacking powers, which brings contempt and conflict with family members, Mirabel strives to do good and avoids resenting her family, which helps her emotional well-being. Utilizing one’s strengths, such as having compassion and helping others despite lacking magical powers, is a crucial component of self-discovery (Brezgina 108). Through hard work and a forgiving heart, Mirabel identifies herself, leading to discovering her true power, which saves the whole family.

The Madrigal family realizes that magic is not the only way to prosperity and get things done efficiently. After losing their powers, Alma reflects on societal values and evaluates her choices regarding the attributes that define a Madrigal (Howard and Bush). According to Brezgina, re-evaluating family expectations and choices helps harmonize individual desires and the demands of the family (108). Mirabel’s family reunites after accepting each other’s strengths and weaknesses which define their identities.

Similarly, in The Witch Boy, Aster and Mikasi embark on a self-discovery journey to help each other fulfill their goals despite family expectations. The two characters accept their fate as outcasts which is an amicable way of finding one’s sense of self in circumstances of an identity crisis. Family pressure on children is a significant threat to a child’s behavioral, social, and emotional development, which parents must re-think to ensure children do not suffer from their demands (Heithaus et al. 28 and, Wesselmann & Kipling 700). Children need understanding and guidance during transitional periods, and imposing particular demands may affect how they transition and their adult lives.

Encanto and The Witch Boy clearly illustrate family pressure and its effects on a child’s social interactions and emotions. The stories explain how family and societal pressure pushes children into situations and activities with adverse effects. In Encanto, Mirabel and Bruno face rejection and contempt from their family because their coming-of-age transition resulted in contradictory expectations. The witch boy illustrates how Mikasi and Aster are ostracized due to interests that contradict the family’s gender roles and responsibilities. The four characters face identity crises and emotional turmoil because of their family’s pressure to have particular attributes that define their identity. However, they triumph after finding solutions to self-discovery despite societal demands and pressure. Although both stories were meant for children’s entertainment, they present an important message to parents regarding parental and family influences on children’s emotional well-being.

Works Cited

Brezgina, Olga. “Identity Crisis as Impetus to Acquire and Develop New Identity.” The European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences, 2017, pp 106-108.

Hardstaff, Sarah. “Identity, Representation, and Coming-of-Age in Football Fiction for Children.” The Lion and the Unicorn, vol. 44, no. 2, 2020, pp. 181–190.

Heithaus L, J., Twyman A. K., Braddock A. B. Ostracism and Peer Victimization in Adolescents with and Without Mental Health Diagnoses in a Public Middle School Setting. Sage Journals, vol. 56, no. 14, 2017, pp. 17-28.

Howard, Byron, and Bush, Jared directors. Encanto. Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures, 2021.

Ostertag, Molly. The Witch Boy. Graphix, an Imprint of Scholastic, 2019.

Thompson, Merideth J., et al. “The Cost of Being Ignored: Emotional Exhaustion in the Work and Family Domains.” Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 105, no. 2, 2020, pp. 186–195.

Wesselmann, Eric D., and Kipling D. Williams. “Social Life and Social Death: Inclusion, Ostracism, and Rejection in Groups.” Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, vol. 20, no. 5, 2017, pp. 693–706.