Shame on Disney/Pixar: Observations on Coco

ETA: Mr Gustavo Arellano was not involved in consulting of this movie, so that was totally on me, and my faulty ass memory re: Reforma articles throughout the filming of this.

I’ll be responding to comments after work so, 1) Thanks for everyone holding me accountable on the mistakes i.e. The Riveras + Mr Arellano and 2) Thanks to all those engaging in conversations that have brought interesting points to the story, especially to those who have kept it to the writing/ pov.

 

Coco-pélicula-de-Pixar-6

 

The following review contains multiple spoilers, so sobre aviso no hay engaño.
I will also be focusing mainly on the world presented and offered to us by Coco, and not on the actual merits or construction of the writing per se.

Disney/Pixar’s “Coco” follows the story of the Rivera family, as experienced by Miguel Rivera, our 12 year old, music loving lead. The story’s starting point focuses on Imelda Rivera, Miguel’s great great grandmother, who was a music lover until her husband decided to leave her and their small child (Coco) to play music for the world. He never returns. Imelda then does away with everything musical and takes up shoemaking to make ends meet and to succeed for her family, which then grows, and the tradition of shoe making and music rejecting goes on.

This story was actually a poingnant moment for me, because I know (and have lived) through women giving up their dreams to put food on the table, women whose trauma has informed the reactions to the choices I made. I understand this small (and big) story. At this point of the movie (5 minutes in!) I was already impressed because it felt so thoughtful- of course, I thought to myself, these people did 10 years of research. Look at how they capture the spirit of this particular struggle. This feeling would be very short lived.

Miguel is kept away from music by a cartoonishly cliche Abuelita (who is only known by this moniker and gets no name of her own; there’s something to unpack there for sure), a chancla wielding woman who constantly insists that Miguel eat more tamales (I did laugh at that because it’s cannonical Latina abuela) and chases down street dogs and mariachis alike to stay away from her precious Miguel. Miguel wants to be a musician, but his family grows very upset (and at several points physical) everytime he so much as holds at a guitar; an act that culminates when Miguel’s secret altar to Miguel De La Cruz (an amalgamation of Pedro Infante + Jorge Negrete) is found and Abuelita drags everything out to the trash, including Miguel’s guitar which she then breaks in front of him. It is a moment that echoes a lot of Disney parental strife storylines (Triton’s destruction of Ariel’s human memorabilia cave, Cinderella’s dress shredding before the ball) but it misses the beat when Abuelita immediately brushes off Miguel’s heartache by having her act as though nothing happened, and telling him he will be fine after eating. It was a a sign of things to come for sure (honestly, no abuela would have cooled off that fast which shows you how none of the people in charge have ever interacted w one).

Miguel then goes to the cementery to try and get a guitar to enter a music contest, sneaks into a mausoleum, plays a dead mans guitar and is suddenly part of the world of the dead who come and visit their offerings every year for Día de los Muertos. His family finds him accidentally, and they assume this is the reason why Imelda (Miguel’s great great grandmother) cannot cross to the world of the living for the anual celebrations. Miguel is walked across a cempasúchil bridge, one where we see people going back and forth and entering some type of station which we are then shown in detail- every year, there are various agents who have a camera takes pictures of your features and sees if anyone has placed your picture on an altar. If the system recognizes your face, you are allowed to cross. If not, the cempasuchil bridge will make you sink in.

Essentially, immigration & customs for the dead.

The dead have immigration agencies and policies.

There is literally no other way to interpet it- what else is an entire bureacratic system that controls movement at a border? It’s immigration. The DEAD HAVE IMMIGRATION. It feels heavy to type that and it was a moment of horror- to hear a theater laughing at jokes that were playing out in people’s everyday lives, a lot of them their fellow country men, and one of them specifically sitting in that theater. Was nobody really seeing this, and was I going insane?

Large parts of the scene in this crossing point where played to laughter, but it felt so sinister- because, even in death apparently, life would be the same; we would be constrained by a system that allowed certain folks to enter or forcibly keep them out, and spirituality and magic aided in this. The weight of this permeates the entire story, because this is a major plot point for two characters- mama Imelda (Miguel’s great great grandmother) and Hector, who puts a magnifying lens on the injustices and horrors of the afterlife presented by the movie.

Hector is a character who cannot cross the bridge. He is seen as a charlatan of sorts, one of those downtrodden underdogs Disney loves to give a good resolution to (see also: Aladdin, Nick Wilde, Simba, etc). At some point in the story Hector and Miguel join forces to try and get Miguel to meet Ernesto de la Cruz; this is where the second most egregious and horrifying point of the story is revealed. Hector takes Miguel to the part of town where he lives, a part that cannot be defined in any other way aside from slums. It is where all the people who have no one put their picture on an altar reside.

Class, and social hierarchy exist in the Coco after life.

There are interesting ways this point could have been tackled- this whole idea of a capitalist after life, where the rich and the poor exist in very contrasting ways. It could have been a moment to turn bootstrap ideology on its head, or to explore how power dynamics affect our souls (afterall, it is souls that exist in the Coco world, they just happen to be skeleton shaped), but Disney/ Pixar were not the ones to tackle said territory.

Instead we are shown what happens to those in this section of the afterlife- after being regaled to living in slums because of their family’s unwillingness or inability to put their picture on an altar (this is also never explored), souls dissapear. Miguel gets to witness first hand through a character sputtering, moaning in pain and vanishing before his very eyes, a moment that is disturbing and violent.

When Miguel asks “Where did he go?” a question that could be examined, the answer he receives is “No one knows”. This is never mentioned again in the movie.

The most perturbing realization in the afterlife offered by Coco was the idea that there is no divine justice. During one of Coco’s main reveals, we are informed that the most regaled, wealthiest and beloved character in the afterlife (Ernesto de la Cruz) is also a really evil person. In a world where divine justice exists- the one religion always insists on- De La Cruz would have never had a mansion in the afterlife, never had material comfort, and yet, here he is, living the best and most grandest life IN SPITE of being an evil, lying, murderous man. What does this say of the hierarchy of fairness to those who suffer here, if they are to be poor and trampled on after death too?

There are several moments that tie back into these two main causes for concern in the movie and I could not help but wonder, where exactly had those 10 years of research gone? One of my favorite parts of Día de los Muertos is the offerings of salt and a glass of water (in fact, Miguel’s altar to De La Cruz sports a cup, informal and I assume, with water)- these offerings are placed for those whose relatives did not place them an altar, for whatever reason, so that they may be nourished when they visit too. Coffee beans are also included in these offerings for those whose names we may not know but who we still honor.

It is that very knowledge that ran through my head- did they just decide to skip on a basic part of the altar? Did they even know? Because these offerings would undo the main problems being faced by the characters of Coco.

Mainly this speaks to the fact that this horror story (which was mentioned as a love letter) was helmed by people who will never face challenges of separation or extreme class violence and hence can view them as far away problems to be transferred on to another cultures spiritual tradition. What Pixar does is obscene and violent and an afront to the very tradition that sacredly remembers and holds space for those whom we cannot name.

There are several troubling implications and questions that come from a setting where the entire possibility of your existence is at the mercy of someone else. For example:

  • If a trans person is not accepted by their family unless they present in the way they deem acceptable, what happens then? Will they only be allowed if they are dead named? Can they come back at all?
  • What about other folks in the LGBTQIA world? If their family did not accept their choice in life and they are not put upon the altar, are they also erased altogether?

These are choices we have to consider because LGBTQIA people who celebrate Día de los Muertos and who face some of the highest death rates in the world would face an additional reality of violence beyond this life. What were Lalo Alcaraz and Gustavo Arellano counseling on specifically? Did they really give any input when there is an entire animated feature with immigration & customs? Does Arellano, who wrote Taco USA not know the most basic parts of an offering he purports to love? (Mr Arellano was not involved in consulting for this movie, but I do want to keep that in here for the sake of accountability. I messed that up, and that is solely on me. Apologies on that)

There are other horrific and offensive gripes:

  • The portrayal of Frida Khalo as an eccentric, cooky artist- Frida was by and large a very focused artist, who was also a queer, disabled, communist woman. She hated Americans, and she hated art that glorified capitalism. She has been reduced to a joke. Fuck Disney/Pixar for that disrespectful shit on top of their hideous use of Mexican tradition to wipe their asses.
  • When I heard this movie was a musical I was excited, but buyer beware- this movie has musical numbers but is not a musical at all. The only styles of music covered and the same old mariachi stuff and one banda song. In a country with huapango, marimba, son Jarocho, etc etc they did the one style everyone knows and a single Norteño song. How is this covering any new ground?
  • Again, it is obvious that the people telling these stories are the ones who decry Donald Trump’s comment about Mexicans and cover their ears at the knowledge of Obama deporting more undocumented immigrants than any president before him. It is the only logical reasoning for including immigration & customs not only as a main plotline, but as a place for laughing; afterall if you have not confronted the trauma, what is it really to build a structure about it?
  • How are there only light brown people in the Coco afterlife? Black Mexicans exist. The entire tradition of Día de los Muertos is rooted in indigenous rites (idk if the scene where Miguel ends up in a cenote is a wink to that but I doubt it, the writers are not that self aware)
  • Jorge Negrete and Pedro Infante both have cameos which, if that’s the case, why even invent De La Cruz? Maybe royalties? This one’s a lot murkier.
  • For those of you who keep track of it- Coco does not pass the Bedchel test, or the Mako Mori test.
  • There is a moment where Mamá Imelda who has a been in the world of the dead for quite some time, and who has agreed to take down the villain asks Miguel (a 12 year old boy!) how they should do it. So, way to completely ruin that interesting set up of women as authority figures.
  • Santa Cecilia (cute wink to the patron saint of musicians there) is a made up town, which I get is part of creating a new world, but there is not enough Latin American representation to put together a geographical hodge podge and consider it a good deed- it makes for lazy story telling, and lax research because if you don’t adhere or study one place too closely, then you can’t be called out too harshly for fudging it, right? (Except surprise assholes, here I am!)
  • There are legitimately no black people or dark brown people or any indigenous folx which all exist within the Mexican nationality, so good job on erasure of folks, again.

The movie had a few moments of interest, which could have made for a better story if only they had been pressed on a little more:

  • The women in this family are the main decision makers- in the world of the living it is Abuelita who runs the family, in the world of the dead, it is Mamá Imelda. This was fascinating and worth exploring but, why do that when we can have a main part of the story be Mamá Imelda asking her 12 year old grandchild how to execute a plan in the afterlife?
  • The alebrijes were cute and there was an interesting thread there on how they become one (as touched on by Dante, the xoloitzcuintle) but no one has time for that apparently
  • This is the most brightly colored Disney movie that comes to mind. It is beautiful to look at.
  • The singing of “La Llorona” was remarkable, as was the big Mariachi voice out of both Anthony Gonzalez and  Luis Ángel Gómez Jaramillo. It was a moment of solace in this blasphemous shitshow of a movie.
  • The characters in the afterworld maintain their personalities- there is stubbornness and fear, anger, timidness. This was interesting. Is this the reason for so many of the systems that the living had in this world? It would seem like a last minute excuse to cover tracks- the movie is not nuanced enough for this.
  • That was a nice nod to the role of cenotes, I guess? Cenotes are generally seen as windows into the afterlife. Including one and doing exactly nothing with it more than using it as a backdrop was a waste.
  • Better yet, why not make a Latin America movie that doesn’t settle on the most exploited American trope as it concerns Mexican culture? There are seriously wonderful traditions and wonderful countries outside of Mexico- El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Perú, the list goes on.

 

I cannot think of any other movie where Disney has tackled religious aspects only to remove all religion and replace the afterlife with a complete carbon copy of life as it is experienced by the living, without any consideration for those who face the daily oppression that is used as a convenient storyline.

At the end of Coco I was sobbing- but out of complete horror and sorrow, because in the afterlife of Coco, I am still trapped by a border that is not of my own making, I am still subject to laws I have no control or say to, and even in death I do not get to be with my family and have rest from sorrow or violence.

Disney would do better to let Mexicans helm their own traditions, instead of giving us love letters that are really a slap in the face.

There is no hope in the Coco afterlife.
Fuck them for robbing those who face the daily violence and separation from our families of a narrative that empowers us. Coco felt like a good argument on atheism, because truly, Coco is not a restful afterlife so much as it is a frightening prospect if you are poor, disabled, undocumented, black, LGBTQIA or otherwise disenfranchised.

I am angry but most of all, I don’t want people to touch the sanctity of my traditions while they use my life as a joke for the dead.

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75 thoughts on “Shame on Disney/Pixar: Observations on Coco

  1. Im Mexican, %110, and i loved the movie, i think that all of this racial conflict exploited by the media has damaged your point of view, this movie shows very precise the Mexican traditions, and your criteria is based on superficial thinking and ultra “P.C” chill and enjoy the good work many people made for Mexico and the world

    1. Soy Mexicana, vivo en Mexico, y me vale lo que pienses. Obviamente no sabes nada de mi punto de vista, o de mi vida viniendo a comentar con esta basura. Mi pensamiento y razonamiento esta basado en mi experiencia vivida. Vete con tu malinchismo a otro lado wey.

    2. I’m Jewish and I have lived in the life of anti-Semitism mine tire life. I would freaking love this movie it’s about not being forgotten and it’s a PG kids movie I think you’re reading into it way too much. You really take the fun out of everything lighten up

      1. thank you for coming in to my personal blog and telling me how to feel for sure (no shade). it is interesting to me that you’d come on my personal page, read through the entirety of my entirely specified emotional reaction and then sit down to type to tell me to be less emotional. I don’t know what the logic is behind that, but you still read the article, no? Greetings!

      2. I’m Jewish and brown. I have experienced more racism than anti Semitism. Way to go using you’ marginalized identity to dismiss the exerience of other more systemically oppressed identities. If you’ve been so oppressed as a Jew why the hell are you perpetuating oppressive ideals by saying “lighten up” when people are calling out bullshit.

  2. The people commenting saying to “just chill” have probably never faced the toll that being undocumented, of color, and queer in this country takes on the body and mind.

      1. undocu lesbian here, and i think Azul has excellent points. i still love the movie so i understand the immediate defensiveness but seriously, the part where Hector was dragged away from the bridge by the security just for wanting to see his daughter was… too real, and clearly not in an intentional way.

      2. I’m a gay white Mexican and I loved the movie. Que trauma tiene esta persona que escribió esto? Es una escenificación poética de la cultura mexicana. Y Frida, si, frida era la representación de su personalidad, excéntrica y deshinibida. El mundo de las calaveras propuesto por el creador de la caricatura de la catrina, era una sátira al que en el mundo de los muertos la posición social sigue presente. Muy bien planteado por el estudio de Disney. Solo se respira odio en este post, y falta de conocimiento de la cultura mexicana representada esta vez fielmente en una obra de arte digital.

      3. I am sort of fine not chilling on my personal blog, but thank you for reading it and feeling invested enough to tell me to do so (no shade for real, this aspect of commenting is fascinating to me).

        Artemis that part was heart rending, and legitimately caused my palms to gets weaty and my stomach to fill up with knots because LORD, if this is not the experience of so many of the 2 million back here!

        As for Carlos, hey, I’m a deportee, that’s my trauma! It’s actually not a secret, you can read that in my about me page or just by clicking in about anywhere else on my blog. Si tanto odio siente en el aire de este post, hay lugares donde huele como a usted le gusta. Solo para hacerle saber, me crie en Mexico, y radico en Mexico, pero pues no creo que le importe. White Mexicans being gate keepers of the culture are never a surprise though.

      1. Hey Jeremy, you commented twice! Thank you for being so invested in this, truly. I don’t get it, but it’s still cool.

  3. Thank you for writing this. I have not seen the movie yet. However, your words have prompted me to setup my viewing with a more critical eye. Cartoons, anyone can enjoy. But a billion-dollar company capitalizing on a reduction of culture and history to say “you’ve been served”, nah, not cool. While no effort will ever please 100%, more thought and purpose expected.

    Everyone who says “just chill”, remember that some of the major advances in history only happened because some people did not chill, they were critical, they did not comply with the status quo… Jesus, Socrates, Jackie Robinson, Cesar Chavez, MLK, the Founding Founders, those protestants who complained a lot and whose efforts set off a ripple that changed the world forever, including this, your country, the not so United States of America.

    1. I think accountability from billion dollar companies is important too, especially as it relates to our narrative, and I too believe in the power of stories to lead us to a fuller humanity.

      Thank you for this comment, truly.

  4. Creo que al final de la película, cuando la abuelita Coco momentariamente re-gana el conocimiento, luego de que Miguel le cante, ella mira a su hija (la abuela de Coco) y la llama “Elena.” Entiendo y agradezco sus críticas de la película. Entro a la discusión que yo, aunque fui criada por mi abuela, no supe su nombre de verdad hasta mi adolescencia. Definitivamente le añade a su argumento de el borrar de la identidad maternal historicamente.

    1. Este es un muy buen punto- gracias por recalcarlo! Muchos de nosotros venimos de hogares mixtos, o de situaciones en las cuales nuestra familia nuclear se veia diferente.

      Me hizo pensar mucho su comentario de no saber el nombre de su abuela hasta adolescente porque creo que es el caso de muchos (si no todos de nostros)- que en verdad no sabes el nombre no solo de nuestros abuelos, pero de nuestros padres ya que somos mas grandes.

      De nuevo, gracias por la observacion!

  5. “At the end of Coco I was sobbing- but out of complete horror and sorrow, because in the afterlife of Coco, I am still trapped by a border that is not of my own making, I am still subject to laws I have no control or say to, and even in death I do not get to be with my family and have rest from sorrow or violence.” – I’m a filipino man married to a mexican woman. I initially dismissed the author from seemingly nitpicking at a child’s film — but this gave me pause as this is a real poignant point. Death was once about the “great equalizer” for many cultures such as mine. It’a a place where one can find rest from life and its injustices (both systemic and familial), but in Coco, it’s become another place entirely where there is no rest for the forgotten and injustices forever remain. I know from my culture and religion, we hope to be reunited with family again someday in heaven. If someone messed with that and just re-imagined this tradition for me without understanding the nuance, I would be offended. I can see why the author takes great offense at this. I still truly loved the film, as it is a masterpiece in storytelling, it was beautiful and moving, intoxicatingly in its aesthetic…but I can certainly empathize with the author on the point that this portrayal can be experienced as a dissonant over-simplification and an overt caricature of cultures one holds dear.

    1. I loved this movie and so did it seem the other 99% of the people in the movie theater. My son who is in theater and film talked to me about the history of the film and the multiple Latino interns & culturally sensitive activist that assisted in the films creation. Like it or don’t like it, this film may not have been a perfect depiction of the Latino culture but it made a valiant attempt that I appreciate. It portrayed stronger positive models of Latino familias more so than I have seen in the mainstream media in a long time. It was about keeping those who go before us close to our hearts and forever in our thoughts. The authors comments seem to try and compel the reader to assume that her depiction of the Latino experience should mimic what she feels is a one size fits all ideal. It’s a sweet CARTOON.-Dr. Renee Marquez

      1. This is a Mexican movie depicting a Mexican story, lets remember that. Calling this a Latino movie is talking over all of our Central and South American siblings. Mexican and Latino are not interchangeable.

        Being more inclusive helps us tell more complete stories. Cheers!

    2. Thank you for this- it brought to mind La Catrina who is known as a great equalizer in terms of the dead, because she comes for the rich, the poor, the sick and healthy, young and old, male or female and does not discriminate.

      It was an apt reminder for me of the symbols that emphasize death as the great equalizer. Thank you for this!

  6. Agreed about the depictions of immigration and afterlife. Also, the lack of native/black features in the characters. Thank you for the critical analysis. I also wasn’t expecting much from a Disney film. Gotta be realistic with gabas at the helm of a multimillion dollar corporation, even if they hire POC as “cultural consultants.” Whatever that means.

  7. You said it in a word. White Supremacy spitting on culture again. This time in the form of child’s entertainment. I also love how you said that at the end….there are other countries down there. But I am from El Salvador–think…if they cannot get basic facts right after “10 years of research” in a country right next door, how will they not insult more and more good POC (who historically experienced mass genocide and other atrocities) if given half a chance? I am not holding my breath for respect for respect from white people for my African or South American sides. Indigenous and Tribal people have to be constantly at war with white people because of shit like this. Spending million to insult us in the name of their own entertainment in 2017.

    1. I think that depictions of stories from south + central American are sorely needed, not just for Americans but for Mexicans to see too. Stories are a way to grant humanity, and I think the lack of them is one of the reasons so many are just desperately needing Coco to fill in those gaps.
      Solidarity to you in this constant erasure and muting of your humanity. Here’s to pushing against that in whatever small ways. I see you.

  8. I took my parents to see it in Mexico & i thought it was a beautiful movie. After reading this I realized why sometimes people say that “people get offended so easily nowadays”. I always thought that these people said that because they didn’t understand the struggle. However after reading this i realized the author did knitpick at things just to have something to be angry about. Honestly, this movies is meant to be watched in Spanish. Stop being angry and just enjoy the movie.

    1. I did watch the movie, in Spanish too, a month before it even came out Stateside (you can check the time stamp on this review/observation) but my lived experiences (I’m a deportee and my religion very deeply advocates to engage with ancestry in a religious setting) very much determined how I engaged just like everyone on here.

      I’ll be as angry as I want on my blog, and enjoy things the way I want to and wish you the same in your personal spaces.

  9. And this is why the Mexican community is always looked down upon as less. I respect the opinion presented in the paper and agree that the author has every right to be mad. We should not be contempt with migajas, a valiant effort isn’t enough. Our culture is so much more than what is presented in the film. We deserve more. Being contempt will only ever get us valiant effort in representations. The movie is good story wise but it is not a representation of my culture. It is an appropriation. It should not be marketed as a proper representation of Mexican culture. It is just a made up story with stolen aesthetics and scenery.

  10. I’m glad that you wrote this critique, it brought up many valid points I hadn’t considered, and will definitely inform me if I rewatch! My main gripe about this article is your point about a lack of divine justice. “The most perturbing realization in the afterlife offered by Coco was the idea that there is no divine justice.” The movie totally forgoes any religious interpretation of the afterlife, but were there divine justice it should not only prevent a malicious man the likes of Ernesto de la Cruz from retaining such peak social status, but eliminate class hierarchy and capitalism and ultimately suffering all together (for at least those deemed worthy). Unfortunately, an afterlife where fucked up things can and do occur is necessary for story conflict, and divine justice leaves no room for such things. Movies where conflict occurs in the afterlife do in fact seem to hinge on the inhabitants typically retaining the mortal flaws they lived with, something that you briefly acknowledge but immediately discredit, positing that “It would seem like a last minute excuse to cover tracks- the movie is not nuanced enough for this.” I honestly doubt this was given much thought, because if the characters were not represented in this way, how would they be represented? There is a saying that goes, ‘There is no empathy in heaven.’ My point: divine justice would have made for a terribly stagnant film.

    Just some thoughts, let me know what you think.

    1. Exactly. With a divine justice afterlife, I’d love to see how this author and any other critic would structure or storyline with enough conflict to make it interesting. Drama belongs to the Land of the Living and our imagination. Ernesto de la Cruz is actually a huge lesson in idol worship.

      As for cultural consultants, it’s hilarious to see Gustavo Arellano dragged when he literally had nothing to do with the film! Swing and a miss! I guess it’s harder to knock Octavio Solis, a critically acclaimed playwright, who actually served in that role, yeah?

      The big and simple social context of Coco is that Mexicans have been shitted on by Trump and his supporters in very overt ways. Along comes an animated feature that treats Mexicans with respect and droves of them going to watch the film to feel good.

      Side note: Finding Dory was a good tale for many disabled folks.

      1. Hey, thank you for your correction on Mr Arellano- I went and corrected that! So, my mistake there.

        Mr Solis may be critically acclaimed, but part of being a writer is sort of having pushback and refining your process. I mean, Iñarritu has a couple of Oscars under his belt and his latest efforts have been (personally) disappointing in regards to story telling and no amount of Oscars will make me feel differently.

        I think the story treats some Mexicans and aspects of the experience with respect, sure, but I’m not about giving a story a pass simply because there were good intention and people with good intentions behind it. We need to look at stories critically to really understand what they say to us about ourselves.

        Wider representation could solve this gap, but we’re still not at a place where this is happening. Hopefully, this might be a push. But who knows?

        Again, thanks for your correction regarding Gustavo Arellano.

        As a side note: I have disabled friends who love Dory and some who think Dory is terrible misrepresentation because disabled folks (like Mexican ones!) have differences of opinion.

    2. I’ve thought about this one a bit too- is there anyway to have conflict and make you care about the characters without twisting divine justice? I also wonder if my attempts at tweaking the story (in my head) have not been diminished or influenced by the fact that I have already seen Coco and am working off of those assumptions.

      At the same time, I keep reverting to “Inside Out was a movie about feelings who had feelings…surely we can stretch out imaginations, right?”. So, yeah, I can get this. I think I just want to sit with it some more because it *did* drive the action, you’re right.

      Do you think there’s any way this could have been done differently? I want to say yes, but I think it would involve a different story altogether. And I honestly did think it was fascinating that mama Imelda retained her stubbornness and her anger- maintaining personality traits after we have passed! There’s something lovely in that. There has to be a way to have both, right?

  11. I appreciated reading your comments. On the whole I really enjoyed the movie, but felt like there was a thing or two that didn’t feel quite right at the time. I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but you did very well, mostly centering around the idea of justice and classism in the afterlife.

    There was a point or two where your critique really felt like piling on too much, particularly for me with this:

    “The only styles of music covered and the same old mariachi stuff and one banda song. In a country with huapango, marimba, son Jarocho, etc etc they did the one style everyone knows and a single Norteño song. How is this covering any new ground?”

    As one who particularly follows and appreciates all the varied styles of Mexican music and even performs mariachi, I was pleased and grateful that the music presented got some respectful treatment. That itself was new ground for Disney/Pixar in my opinion.

    1. “There was a point or two where your critique really felt like piling on too much, particularly for me with this:

      “The only styles of music covered and the same old mariachi stuff and one banda song. In a country with huapango, marimba, son Jarocho, etc etc they did the one style everyone knows and a single Norteño song. How is this covering any new ground?”

      This was a really interesting point and I have been thinking about this all day actually, because this is valid- I didn’t see it that way, but I wonder if the reason why it played that way specifically was because I hardly ever interact with Norteño in my corner of Mexico (Yucatan) and so it felt like an omission of sorts. Honestly it made me think of all my time in Sonora, because that was what I heard in abundance while living there.

      I think part of why I ended up leaning on that side has to do that maybe, in some aspects I expected the movie to cover more ground which is absolutely not fair to it, but which ends up happening since there is so little representation anyway.

      Either way, thank you for pointing that out. It’s given me something to mull over and think through.

    1. Thank you for pointing that out, I’ve made corrections/added notes to the piece, leaving the original mistakes (for the sake of accountability).
      My mistake on that one!

  12. I saw the reference to immigration as both intentional and cathartic. I didn’t see it as a realistic representation of what the afterlife is. Instead, I saw it as an exploration of what our life is, including the reality of borders and walls between cultures. Yes it did come with a joke, but laughter is often a way to to bridge the divide and lower defenses. For me, someone who has dealt with painful immigration issues, it was cathartic to see the pain of being separated from loved ones often because of political or rigid divides. It showed how that pain can be lessened by sticking close to your roots and remembering what’s important. to me it was a story about why we should tear down walls, not build them. I don’t think it’s intendend to be a 1:1 representation of the afterlife. moreso a representation of our life, through the lens of dia de los muertos. that was my personal takeaway

    1. I think laughter can be a way to deal with trauma, but often it has to be personal i.e. dead baby jokes- I can make a dead baby joke if I have a dead baby, but someone else making a dead baby joke is crossing a line.

      Hence, why it rubbed me the wrong way- I’m a deportee with a ban. Seeing that played out by folks who have no experience with it felt traumatic, especially in regards to how Dia de los Muertos has taken new meaning to a lot of deportees/returnees and migrants passing through.

      So, that was my lens in regards to that.

  13. Hi Azul,

    Just wanted to say, thanks for calling this out.

    I went into the movie concerned, worried it was going to be a repeat of the Book of Life shit show. I walked away from the film in tears, having lost my grandmother and great-grandparents, it really called out to me in a way I didn’t expect.

    That said, I absolutely can see how the treatment of immigration, the classism, and the lack of justice are plot points that should’ve been better explored, or were flat-out insensitive. While I enjoyed not seeing strong ties to the Catholic religion, I think that the roots of this tradition in pre-columbian beliefs could have been highlighted better.

    Anyway, I appreciate you making me think long and hard about the systemic injustices displayed in this film, and wanted to tell you how important it’s been to me to have read your words. I genuinely believe that being critical of the media you love is essential, and I thank you sincerely for arming us with better media literacy.

    Kindly,

    V

    1. Hey, I am really thankful it spoke to such a tender part of you (i.e. with your grandmother and great grand parents) and so sorry for your loss. Those are hard waters to wade through and stories are so good at helping us navigate that- I’m thankful Coco could be a part of your process with that, en verdad.

      I have wondered these last few days how the division between pre-columbian beliefs and the Catholic religion might have been handled in better ways (and is it possible?), but I keep landing on different sides of it.

      Thank you so much for reading, and for your engagement with the piece, and for taking the time to comment- deconstructing the stories we are given and looking at the ways they give us tools to navigate our lives and mirrors in which to see ourselves is an important part of our humanity.

      Love to you during this tender time <3

    2. My son, Marco (25 yrs old) and I loved the movie..However we noticed that the people who were consulted about Mexican culture were Probably not pure Mexicans and are influenced by American Dream Ideologies rooted in Calvinism and now we are sure after seeing articles published at #Tucson.com about a woman who was consulted about Mexican Culture from Tucson, Arizona, originally from Nogales, Arizona, meaning their intentions were good but their experience in life is that of striving to live the American Ideological Dream. Which is easily seen from the family ideals that are Calvinistic more so than Mexican Traditions–Specifically that the family woks so hard and refuse to listen to music or socialize with their neighbor villagers, music and art are like corn and salsa in Mexico its part of life. Putting money first is so far from what life is like in Mexico; community, working together, being there for your neighbor, enjoying music by the fire after a long days work, where is that in this movie. Then for the Dead to enter the Afterlife they have to go thru a process and their photo must be in a database–too much like trying to cross the border..Also the Dead’s family must have a photo on their altar for the person to be able to enter the afterlife, if no photo then the person is not allowed to enter and their memory whithers away which is absolutely absurd and represents the cruelty of American Family values of Tough Love and conditions an American attitude which does not follow the welcoming and loving family values of Mexico! The Digital photo video reminded me of my city’s public event to celebrate our loved ones, the #Tucson #AllSoulsProcession, which plays a photo video of peoples loved ones at the end of the event. Our procession is regarded in high esteem for being non-commercialized and supported solely thru donations and volunteers and is not based on nor tries to copy any #DiaDeLosMuertos festivities or Mexican Culture. Back to #CrictiquingofCoco, The guilt trips that several scenes raised and placed on my heart did feel very normal to me, being from my crazy mixed Mexican Native American American family of culture and class. I agree with your article that this movie has things in it i would not want my young child to see…#GlitterGirlAZ #DayoftheDead #DiadelosMuertos #Coco #Alebrijes

  14. I appreciate the critical analysis. Let’s not forget however that this is a children’s movie, done by an American studio for, let’s be honest, American audiences. The Pixar and Disney producers do not hold degrees in Mexican indigenous history, nor does exploring and explaining every single aspect of the tradition make for a good movie. The fact that there was a sense of respect in the representation of rural Mexico, a homage to one of the most beloved holidays, that Latinos were given a prominent place in all facets of the movie creating process, and that it fulfilled its purpose to entertain and to be the gateway to learn more about the culture (see the message in the credits to “visit your local library” to learn more about the holiday) should be commended.

    1. I can appreciate the aspect that it is done by an American crowd (even though that is not the argument given by any of the defenders of Coco), and I get that not everyone consulting or working on this film had history degrees. I also get that explaining every single aspect of a movie is not conducive to good story telling.

      There are a few telling things though- a sense of respect can mean a myriad of things to a myriad of folks, and I would say that “a sense of respect” now a days means a centering of privilege, and for the best example of this, you cans ee Trxmp and his cronies.

      The movie specifically caters to (I would say Xicanx audiences? I think Mexicans here might have a different understand and would reject it inherently on those grounds, but that’s something else to unpack altogether) to a very privileged crown- to be honest, I think it my religious background did not have such strong emphasis on interacting with the dead, and if I wasn’t deported I might have read this with some blissfull unawareness. And yet.

      It is troubling to me that Mexican and Latino are being thrown around interchangeably in regards to this movie and the team behind the cameras- Coco is a Mexican story. Saying otherwise is talking over Central American and South American folks who were not represented during this movie (that some may feel that way is sweet? troubling? sad?) and who continue to be without representation in media. Lets get our language straight in regards to this.

      I did see the “visit your local library” but if we can’t get a multibillion studio to have nuance, what dow e expect out of government funded programs?

      1. Let us not forget that day of the dead is also celebrated throughout other south American countries. Therefore having a Latino cast should not be as out of place as you seem to paint it. If anything this movie is a start in the right direction of representing diversity in mainstream US media. But I return to my point, we can’t expect another country to completely understand and represent another. It’s just not a realistic goal. Hell, you can’t event expect a Mexican media outlet to do the same for all the diversity in the country.

      2. this is a depiction of day of the dead as Mexicans celebrate it- Latnx and Mexican are not interchangeable.

        Pixar/Disney consulted w Chicanx/ Mexican writers, and the movie is an amalgamation of parts of the Mexican culture. Yes other countries celebrate it, but they were not heavily consulted in this.

        It’s sort of wild to read this comment because then you go in to say “we can’t expect another country to completely understand and represent another” which absolutely discredits that swapping of Latinx + Mexican you are doing.

        Central and South Americans have a right to expect representation, and we need to fight for their stories as well, especially when our country inflicts so much violence on them in the name of culture and country.

  15. Thank you for this important critique. It’s helped me have meaningful conversations with my family about the ongoing normalization of colonial ideals and the dangers of being seduced by them. As Mexicans, we’ve been erased for so long that we are sometimes eager to embrace a feel-good cartoon that pretends to represent “us.”

    1. Vicky. Awesome comments.
      Coloniaztion runs so deep in Native People, many jump at any pendejada crums that the Euro American corporations & politicians drop on the floor.
      The countless Native traditions of what is currently called Mexico, deserve to told with total control from each of the Tribes’ perspective. That goes for traditions from all Native People anywhere. No interference & misinterpretation from Euro Americans.

      1. I honestly think that an exploration/division between native observances might have made for a more interesting subject? but that would have been botched at best, considering the lack of nuance of Native stories by anyone who is not Native.

        Thank you for your thoughts on this though, I’ll be thinking about them.

    2. I do think erasure is a huge part of the love (and in my case, sorrow) of this story because 1) this story would not have to be everything to everyone if there was more representation 2) it *has* to exist in the space of being everything to everyone because so many of us have bought the lie that otherwise we won’t get anything.

      Someone else commented that we deserve the best, and I honestly feel that way too. We deserve better. Thank you for your comment.

  16. This is a good example of any representation not necessarily being good representation. There’s no real reason they can’t rep culture 100% accurate. Who’s feelings are they going to hurt by getting it right? Cutting corners never ever makes any sense to me, my work ethic won’t let it. If you’re going to do something, do it 100% right.
    That said, as soon as I saw the first trailer I knew Disney would stick their foot in their mouth, yet again. It’s what they do best. I grew up with their films, and I love the classics – Snow White, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, etc – but that doesn’t mean they don’t have issues, aren’t dated by their social structures, or that the company isn’t still doing all the wrong things in terms of truely supporting minorities and the lgbt+ community.
    *You clearly wrote this because you were upset after watching the film.* I am sorry that it hurt you so deeply. It is not anyone’s place to tell you to get over it. Not speaking up about injustice allows it to continue and worsen. People who are hurt and victimized must speak up loudly and be heard to make things change for the better of everyone. I commend you for sharing these thoughts and feelings, and I wish you peace and healing in your life.
    And if others think it’s just a kids film, these films teach kids about the world around them, at the very least to a certain extent, if not in full. Showing them damaging falsehoods about cultures isn’t teaching them about those cultures, and can actually teach very harmful behaviors and thought patterns. Often, the subtext of these things is more harmful than the overt violence shown so often. And yes, kids do pick up on that stuff. They are always observing. :)
    I really do hope that Disney can figure out how to step up and cut the last remnants of bs outta their films. Doing so won’t cost any loss to the magic, but it will garner them a whole lot of good favor with the broader community at large. And if they want to look at it from a marketing standpoint, it could gather them even greater revenues because the growing population of boycotters may come back into the fanbase.

  17. Thank you for your response ! I watched the movie with my mama, and while we both loved it, it’s important to be aware of our shortcomings in viewing things like this. It’s true the border and classism was evident to us but after craving representation it’s so easy to overlook those things (especially with my privileges of being a US citizen, white passing, and more.) I just want to repeat my thanks for writing your feelings out because it genuinely is important to be critical of this film and others that try to do the same.

    1. I am so glad you were able to enjoy the film! I do get that the lack of representation does make so much of it feel refreshing- thank you for this <3

  18. Thank you so much for this! I shared your takes with my mom, who hasn’t been able to see her family for decades, and I could tell that it really helped her settle a lot of the things that didn’t feel right for her. Hours later, she asked me (out of nowhere) “so does that mean we’re still gonna be poor in the afterlife?”
    Your critiques resonate with the people that need to hear it the most, so don’t mind these “chill out” comments that do nothing but gaslight your experiences without knowing the pain of enduring border enforcement, erasure, and poverty.

    1. give your mami a hug, and i am so sorry for all she has had to work through, especially to only be confronted by that when she was looking for something to affirm or entertain. solidarity mana <3

  19. Be honest: would you have been happy if you had watched this movie and not found a way to make up false issues to be offended over? Doesn’t it feel good to engage in moral posturing, regardless of how illegitimate and baseless said moral posturing might be? Look, criticism (particularly when it comes from people from historically underrepresented and/or marginalized backgrounds) is valuable and worth sharing, but it has to be based on sensible and reasoned points of contention. Building an argument that the film overlooks or inadvertently causes harm to queer or transexual individuals (I won’t even touch the “extreme class violence” paragraph) by including the plot element that the spirits receive the gifts at the altar is not only ridiculous, but serves as a blatant example of the misguided thinking that constitutes this piece of writing. I shudder to think what this blog post would have looked like had there actually been something about the film worth criticizing!

    1. You can go shudder the fuck elsewhere buddy, and thanks for taking the energy to read my blog post and come in here with your pedantic masturbatory observation that made me cackle- also, holler! You don’t get to determine the validity of my criticism just like you don’t get to determine how valuable my voice is (although, your mierda ears and eyes can certainly stay tf away from what I write in my own space, simple as that bud) lmao

  20. The story works, why does it matter for the film to pass the Bechdel test, or the Mako Mori test? These tests are just completely unnecessary. It is impossible to please every spectrum of the audience. No matter what there will always be criticism in every film. What matters is if the story works and It did. It was creatively constructed with an interesting point of culmination and a point of attack that I don’t find cliche at all.
    LETS SAY it did have LGBT and Black Latinos, and lets say it did pass the Bechdel and Mako Mori Test. And Lets say they used maybe Pedro Infante or Negrete instead of De la Cruz. Infante and Negrete would be seen as villains in the film which is not good at all thus why De La Cruz must be created so their names wont be tarnished. And creating a full character ark for a female character that doesn’t support the males story arch would make the story extremely complex and just long especially since it’s a family film. In a nutshell I believe you may be over thinking this a little too much. Just imagine if we do add the whole color spectrum of latinos and LGBT characters in them. Then what audience would complain about the film? Most likely the Mennonites or Los Chino Poblanos, maybe the brazilian mexicans who are half and half? Honestly, it is literally impossible to please the entire audience. This is a good story well told, and there are more stores to come in the future. More stories to be created. Not to sound rude, but if you feel misrepresented and believe that there’s a market that feels the same then make a movie yourself. You don’t have to wait for hollywood to make one. Write a script get it blacklisted and hope for the best, or go ahead and produce one yourself. Get yourself acquainted to your local film commission. Submit yourself into film festivals. Coco is the brainchild of Adrian Molina, it was his vision that he managed to get produced on film. If you feel you have a story that needs to be told then tell it.

    1. you legit just came here to give me a laundry list on why my criticism (on my own page and in my own space) was excessive? who is excessive now? i am (believe it or not) allowed to make like martin luther and put my pop culture thesis on *my blog*.

      the mako mori test and the bedchel test matter because they inform us as to who has a voice regarding what, and you know, women care about this, but what would you know. i noted that it didn’t pass either of those tests, in case it was important to folks because for some folks it is; not to you obviously, but you don’t like to hear women talk, I mean, why else come on someone’s post and say “well, make something yourself!” as if this wasn’t on my own damn blog? do you always logic this badly, this hard, when you are way out of your turf? something to consider there bud.

      also, if it is impossible to please everybody- which you seem to understand in some way?- then guess what, that means that it is okay for me to not like it bc not everyone can be pleased! wow!

      thanks for reading it all and commenting anyway, even if it was completely faulty logic that you used.work harder on that and god bless.

      next time, follow your own advice and respond on your own blog? lmao

      1. I referred to film, you can make a film yourself. If you want more “representation” make it yourself. You clearly don’t know how filmmaking works. Mako mori and bedchel tests are just stupid tests that are created by the public who know shit about good story telling, I don’t give a shit of who talks or not, as long as the story works then it works.
        I’m not denying that you’re allowed to make shit on your blog, feel free, write all the shit you want. I’m glad that you understand that you can’t be pleased. But your reasons to not be pleased about the film is such a bullshit list.

      2. Mako Mori + Bedchel tests are important to folks for certain things, in different types of story telling. And of course you don’t give a shit, you can’t think critically.

        And seriously I’ll do whatever the hell I want on my blog, like shit on your shitty preferrences Lalo. The story doesn’t work Lalo. The rules in the Coco universe are shit Lalo.

        Stay not writing good shit and being satisfied with moldy crumbs Lalo. Don’t come crying when you end up starving Lalo.

  21. Holy shit, you just want to suck the fun out of everything don’t you? If you don’t like the movie then don’t watch it. There are plenty of other Latin movies that you’ll enjoy. And btw, there’s no X in Chicano.

      1. No there isn’t. It is not recognized by the real academia española. Adding an X to the end of a word to be gender inclusive completely destroys the grammatical structure of the word. If X is defined as gender neutral then the rules have been changed. For example I would say Pinchex Gringx quex no sabex nadex de su propex idomex. See it doesn’t make sense. But what would you know, you’re just a coco… you know, brown on the outside, white on the inside.

      2. Oye pendejo, la RAE no es la que determina todo el idioma que se habla. Digo, segun tu logica entonces la jerga no cuenta como idioma legitimo porque la RAE no lo reconoce! Dejate de los extremos- el idioma cambia y evoluciona. Propex idomex? Wey, eso no tiene sentido aunque le quites la pinche equis. Honestly, stay in your lane idiota, and next time, don’t come lecture someone on language when you can’t even speak yours correctly when you try to give examples. Pena ajena.

  22. Twinner, I had read your blog when it first came out but hadn’t had the chance to read the comments here (you ruffled some feathers there.. makes me Proud!!). I was reminded to revisit this entry with your more recent post about the shit we experienced because fo the filming of Spectre and our tour of La Catedral being ruined. I remember that day very clearly as everything, El Centro being blocked due to that fake ass Día de Los Muertos festival as the backdrop for the scene. I was not aware that that distortion of a tradition carried on after that!

    Also, let’s not forget that our tax pesos were wasted on that mess because the Mexican government paid 14 million pesos for them to have some say on portrayal of Mexicans in the film (mostly about not displaying the death of the head of state, yet they had no concern about the Mexican style charade). So, we footed the bill for misappropriation of our own culture, filmed in our own country, at our own expense (figuratively and literally). Yeah, we have reasons to be angry!

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