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  • "We may have our differences, but nothing's more important than family."

  • Coco leaves us with some refreshingly different messages from what we're used to seeing.

  • "Children got to be free, to lead their own lives."

  • "This is the path I choose, father."

  • We're used to hearing a lot about following our hearts and chasing our dreams.

  • But Coco says that our individual ambitions are less important

  • than caring for our families and communities.

  • It teaches kids that death doesn't have to be a scary thing that we all try to ignore.

  • In Coco, Death isn't the end because family love lives on

  • even between the living and the dead.

  • So the movie is a really nice shift from the way a lot of us automatically think about

  • things.

  • If we take it to heart, we (both kids and adults) can have a healthier relationship

  • with death,

  • pass on good memories and traditions to future generations,

  • and -- in doing so -- we can live forever.

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  • In a lot of mainstream American society,

  • we tend to distract ourselves from the complex emotions surrounding death.

  • We try hard not to deal with them.

  • But the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos

  • lets people reflect on death together in a positive, communal way.

  • "Dia de los Muertos has begun!"

  • The holiday is framed as a way to celebrate family.

  • It emphasizes that you can have deep connections to ancestors you've never even met,

  • and active relationships with people you've known who have passed away.

  • By channeling this holiday, Coco can presumably reach kids

  • before they form an impression of death as inherently frightening.

  • When Miguel meets his dead ancestors, briefly we get some intimidating music,

  • Miguel is scared, the skeletons are scared of him as well.

  • "Do you mind?"

  • "No!"

  • but pretty quickly his skeletal ancestors become funny and lovable.

  • Coco is a sincere, moving portrait of unconditional love for family, both here and gone.

  • "Coco's themes of family are rooted completely in the same themes of family

  • that are a part of Dia de Muertos.

  • With Dia de Muertos there's an obligation to remember your loved ones

  • and to pass their stories to the next generation,

  • and ultimately to really ensure that their memory never fades."

  • When Miguel enters the land of the dead, Miguel's ancestors bond with him immediately,

  • as if they've known him his whole life.

  • And they have, because they've been watching him.

  • Spoiler coming up here.

  • We don't learn until the end of the movie that Hector and Miguel are related,

  • but they're drawn to each other so effortlessly and lovingly

  • that when we learn of their familial bond, it just makes sense.

  • Even if it seems miraculous that the two happened to find each other,

  • Miguel has picked up fragments of Hector's memory from his family --

  • he discovered Hector's photo on the ofrenda.

  • So Hector and Miguel form a beautiful, time-and-space defying friendship

  • because of these hidden threads of memory that tie them together.

  • The biggest example of unconditional family love centers on the title character, Mama

  • Coco.

  • Miguel's great grandma Coco has dementia, and barely speaks.

  • She doesn't seem to be the same person she once was,

  • she may not even really seem to be present,

  • but her family still loves her with all their hearts.

  • Miguel updates her on his life and speaks to her as if she understands,

  • even though she doesn't remember him.

  • "I used to run like this, but now I run like this and it's way faster!"

  • And while Coco isn't an active part of these conversations,

  • her presence is still felt and appreciated.

  • She's a symbol of the strong connections we can have with family even after their minds

  • are fading,

  • and even after they have left us altogether.

  • As the eldest member of the Rivera family, the last living person who remembers Hector,

  • Mama Coco is the bridge between the living and the dead.

  • She turns out to be the key to the story,

  • because Miguel needs to help her remember her father

  • to save Hector from the Final Death of being forgotten.

  • When Coco shares her memories of her father's music,

  • this keeps Hector alive for future generations and binds the whole living family stronger.

  • And at the end when Coco finally passes over that bridge between the living and the dead,

  • she's as much a part of the family as ever.

  • So it speaks volumes that the movie is named after Mama Coco.

  • The whole movie is a loving tribute to her spirit which lives on in her family's memory.

  • Keeping a family strong means caring for our elders

  • and respecting them even when their minds are leaving them,

  • and when their bodies are gone.

  • The message that love doesn't end when somebody dies is a great comfort to kids and all of

  • us

  • as we face losing loved ones.

  • Coco also shows us that it's up to the living to keep the dead from disappearing.

  • It's our responsibility to put our ancestors' pictures on the ofrenda

  • and actively remember the dead.

  • Coco makes the concept, “They'll live on in our memories,” literal.

  • If someone's no longer remembered by any living people,

  • they undergo "The Final Death" and disappear permanently,

  • It's a little dark to think about thefinal deathof being forgotten,

  • but it also gives us some control.

  • By remembering our family, we prevent them from ever going away.

  • And if we want to live forever, we teach our kids to remember in the same way.

  • The film uses de la Cruz to explore questions of legacy,

  • how we want to be remembered,

  • and the love of the public world versus family.

  • Ernesto's legacy is vain, superficial and fake.

  • Sure, he's got lots of adoring fans who leave him offerings,

  • But his connection to the living is shallow.

  • He just wants to be worshipped like a god,

  • whereas the other ancestors care about a two-way connection,

  • keeping up an active relationship,

  • they follow what's going on in their living relatives' lives.

  • At the end of the movie, when de la Cruz is exposed for Hector's murder

  • and his reputation is ruined,

  • he's quickly rejected and forgotten by his fans.

  • So this kind of superficial admiration from a distance is fragile and can be suddenly

  • erased.

  • Being remembered by your family and loved ones is a more valuable resource,

  • because they truly know you and pass on real memories of you.

  • Even if they may be mad at you for things you do wrong, your family won't forget you,

  • because they can't.

  • When Miguel's family won't let him become a musician,

  • our American, individualist mindset leads us to assume this will be a story

  • about his parents learning to accept his true calling.

  • None of them understands me.

  • I'm supposed to play music!”

  • We've seen it a lot before -- think Mulan,

  • "The greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter."

  • The Little Mermaid, Zootopia,

  • "You don't try anything new, you don't ever fail."

  • "I like trying actually."

  • Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tarzan, Brave, and Moana.

  • But Miguel realizes that his self-actualization isn't what he values most.

  • He sees that de la Cruz became a murderer to pursue his self-interest.

  • Seizing your moment,” can mean being terribly opportunistic,

  • to the point of hurting others.

  • Hector once chose to leave his family to pursue music,

  • and the resulting pain he caused traveled through generations.

  • So instead of the typical American story of the parents realizing

  • they were wrong not to accept their child for who he is,

  • we get the reverse.

  • We get the story of Miguel understanding that keeping his family together

  • is more important than any individual dream he might have.

  • When de la Cruz attempts to kill Miguel, Miguel is falling through the air --

  • and his dog Dante, who comes to represent his personal spirit animal tries to save him.

  • But Dante can't save Miguel, and instead it's the family's much bigger spirit animal

  • who catches Miguel and saves his life.

  • So the symbolism is that the spirit of our family

  • is bigger and stronger than any individual spirit within the family.

  • "Family should always be united, and they should always care for each other no matter

  • what,

  • and love each other no matter what.

  • That's what I see in Miguel.

  • Even though he gets mad at them,

  • deep inside he still loves them and cares about them just like I do."

  • In the end,, Miguel doesn't have to give up playing music,

  • because for him, and his family, music isn't selfish the way it was for de la Cruz.

  • "I'm going to be a musician!"

  • Music is a way to express a deep familial love.

  • De la Cruz commodified the songRemember Meand turned it into a cheap plea to fans.

  • "Remember me / though I had to say goodbye / remember me."

  • But Hector wrote the song not for the world, but for Coco,

  • to help his daughter keep his memory alive even when they couldn't be together.

  • Deep down for Miguel, music was never a rebellious self-assertion.

  • So it turned out that music mattered to Miguel this whole time

  • because it was a part of his shared family identity

  • that has been forgotten and neglected,

  • something he has the urge to renew before he even knows why.

  • So music becomes a key way for the living and the dead to connect even more deeply.

  • Coco teaches us not only that death is a part of life,

  • but also that by loving and embracing our deceased ancestors,

  • we can strengthen and revive our living family.

  • Family comforts us in the face of death,

  • "Here, have some more."

  • "No, gracias."

  • "[Gasp]"

  • "I mean...Si?"

  • It represents the legacy that really matters,

  • and it's the only thing that gives us a chance of being immortal.

  • "We don't know where we are..."

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"We may have our differences, but nothing's more important than family."

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Coco: How to Live Forever | Video Essay

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    Mina posted on 2021/08/14
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