Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for the 2017 movie “Coco.” If you have not seen it, watch this amazing movie when it comes out on DVD or on streaming websites.
Last month, I saw a movie called “Coco.” The movie is about a boy named Miguel Rivera who wants to be a musician, but his family forbids this because his supposed great-great grandfather and inspiration, Ernesto de la Cruz, abandoned his family for fame. Only Coco, his great-grandmother suffering from memory loss and his dog sympathize with his passion. While stealing his great-great-grandfather’s guitar to play at a Day of the Dead celebration, he enters into the dead realm only to find that he must return to the living world before sunrise or he too will die because of stealing from the dead. The problem is that he refuses his great-grandmother, Mamá Imelda Rivera’s, blessing to return to the living world, promising never to play music again and searches for his great-great grandfather to receive his blessing. “Coco” revolves around the theme of legacy, especially after a person’s death.
The dead reside in the world of the dead as long as there is a living person who still knows who he is. Early in the movie, when Miguel has just arrived at the Land of the Dead, a trickster named Héctor Rivera tries to enter the world of the living to see his daughter, Coco, and enlists Miguel’s help after facing rejection because he cannot prove that he existed. Later on, Chicharrón, Héctor’s friend, was forgotten by everyone alive, and thus disappears from the Land of the Dead. Héctor too runs the risk of being forgotten which is why he wants to see Coco – his daughter – during this year’s Day of the Dead. If being forgotten is inevitable, why is being remembered by the people around him, let alone people generations after him, necessary? Coco is the only person that admires her father after all these times, after her mother banned music to support her family. Coco herself is losing her memory as she enters her final years, and his disappearance with her death would show that he is irrelevant his family or anyone else. Believing otherwise, he wants to take a photo of him to her so that the Rivera family can remember his name and his love for his family. His quest to be remembered is arguably more important than Miguel’s own journey, because legacy is not about being famous, but the impact the person leaves after he is gone. A man that inspires one person to reach their full potential in life has a stronger legacy than one who was popular but quickly forgotten. Indeed, Héctor indirectly inspired Miguel to become a musician with songs like “Remember Me” which he – not de la Cruz – wrote.
In fact, the movie touches upon how someone can twist perceptions and memories about the past. When Miguel meets de la Cruz, he discovers that Héctor, not de la Cruz, is his great-great grandfather. Cruz, upon Rivera’s decision to leave many years ago to return to his family, took a toast with him and killed him by poisoning his drinks, stealing the songs he wrote such as “Remember Me” and making Rivera’s legacy his own. This is why he became famous in the living and dead world, even receiving a shrine in Miguel’s town while Hector risks being forgotten. Granted, de la Cruz’s legacy is tarnished by the end of the movie while the world remembers Hector again. As in many real-world examples, the revisionist history becomes impossible to distinguish from facts. It highlights the importance preserving the past and to unearth uncomfortable truths. Even with good intentions, like Imelda’s choice to take out the picture of her husband and ban music to support her family, or as maliciously as de la Cruz stealing Héctor’s work to call his own.
Legacy is important because it is all that a person has to remember someone by. It is crucial to ensure that whatever the future generations knows is positive, because memories are fallible and susceptible to corruption. Everyone should strive to be their best, so that when they are gone they can inspire other people. It’s no wonder why “Coco” is one of the best American animated movie this decade.