While my husband and I planned our family’s 2017 Thanksgiving trip, we organized a fun week of excitement at Disney World. We looked forward to the opportunity to stay in a swanky hotel and spend three days at the theme parks, but there was something in particular I was really anticipating. More than anything, I wanted to visit the theater and see the movie Coco — the winner of Sunday night’s 2018 Golden Globe for Best Animated Picture.
I had been waiting to see this film for two years — since the moment I first read that Disney was working on an animated feature set in Mexico — and I was both eager and anxious for the final product.
I understood how significant it was for this film to succeed, but even if it was a commercial success, it was important for the film to feel genuinely Mexican.
Coco was an opportunity for representation that we in the Latinx community don’t often get, so everything about the movie needed to be authentic to who we are as a people.
I was already a little concerned. The movie The Book Of Life had come out a few years previously and already depicted traditional Mexican afterlife mythology. While I loved that movie, what did it say that another animated film based in Mexico would also involve the afterlife? Were sugar skulls and Dia de Los Muertos the only things we had to offer to Hollywood?
Still, I was excited about the much-needed chance at representation and went into the theater more excited than cautious. When the audience was greeted by a mariachi version of “When You Wish Upon A Star” as the movie began, I knew that I would forever love Coco. The showcasing of Mexico’s eclectic music scene, the authentic feel of Miguel’s hometown, the multiple characters that felt like familiar members of my own family — it was more than I could have ever hoped for. It all contributed to a genuine representation of my culture.
Even more than that, the movie’s themes of family overwhelmed me in a way I wasn’t prepared for.
When Miguel and Mama Coco sang “Remember Me,” I hit my breaking point. As the pair sang their duet over the sweet strumming of his guitar, unexpected emotions were unleashed. I cried, openly and unashamed. (Though it should be mentioned that the whole theatre was in tears by this point- I think Coco may have unleashed something in everyone.)
As I cried, I couldn’t help but think about my dad who was in the middle of an aggressive chemotherapy program for his stage 3 cancer. Though I thought I had been processing my grief, it hit me all at once. I couldn’t help but think that he would one day (possibly soon) be out of my reach. When that happened, he’d live only in the memories of those who loved him. Did he think about that? And did he realize, whether living or deceased, he’d always be my biggest influence?
My frantic thoughts shifted to my kids. As I watched them watch Coco, I so badly wanted to know what they were thinking.
Right now I’m the center of their world, but I have a secret fear that one day I will no longer be important to them. I worry that they’ll outgrow me. Just like the idealized memory Mama Coco had of her father, I wanted my kids to always remember me at my best, and cherish that memory as I cherish my own memories of my parents.
Once I made it to the happy ending, I was permanently endeared to the film thanks to the emotional journey it provided. Latinx representation in Coco was beautifully authentic, but even more authentic were the feelings it stirred in me.
It’s those feelings that made Coco’s win at the Golden Globes feel like a personal victory.
By acknowledging the beauty and heart of this film, the win also validated the raw emotion that I felt from it. Coco will forever remain one of my favorite movies — but it isn’t the art or music that I will nostalgically recall. More than that, I will remember how it made me feel in that dark theater when I saw it for the first time.