I know the title sounds weird, but I find some interesting similarities between Abuela and Mirabel. Starting with the obvious, they both love their family deeply. They will do anything they can to protect them, even if it means holding them too close or getting in the way at times. However, I want to look deeper at the two characters and see the subtle similarities. I said previously that Bruno and Abuela were perfect foils, but I was wrong. I think Mirabel and Abuela mirror one another in more fascinating and complementary ways.
The first thing I want to point out is their personality traits. We already know they love their family dearly, so I won’t cover that too much. They’re both dealing with some emotional distress, though. Of course, Abuela’s is more significant due to her losing the love of her life, Pedro, and having to flee her home with three newborns. On the flip side, you can tell Mirabel feels the weight of being “gift-less” in her family, and it is initially expressed when she had a heart-to-heart with Antonio a few hours before his ceremony and again in the song “Waiting on a Miracle.” The way they handle their distress, though, makes them foils; Abuela clings to her family so hard that they all feel stressed to impress her. Mirabel instead works for working out her family’s turmoil leaving them with clarity on who they are as individuals outside the family and what their desires are.
Diving further in, the movie starts with Abuela and a young Mirabel talking about the candle and how it represents the miracle their family had been given. Abuela explains the ceremony and why it was essential to the family during this talk. She also explains to Mirabel that she will be getting her gift that night right before Casita interrupts them with the clock. You can see in Abuela’s eyes the love and affection she has for Mirabel at that moment. You can also see that Mirabel is eager to get her gift.
Similarly, the moments before Antonio’s ceremony, he expresses his worry about possibly not getting a gift like the rest of the family. Mirabel talks with him and calms his mind the way Abuela did for her years before. Mirabel also feels the same way toward Antonio. These scenes express similarities. But you can also see the effects of Abuela’s attention shifting to focus more on “keeping the family together” and upholding the family image than concentrate on the individuals. We can also see the subtle shift of Mirabel inadvertently filling the role.
I also find this following detail quite exciting and could be a bit of foreshadowing. Abuela and Mirabel are the only two with butterflies on their clothing that match the candle. Perhaps this was foreshadowing that, in a way, Mirabel would be taking the place of Abuela. After all, Abuela brought the family together but was also the one to “break” them as well. Mirabel set out to fix the problem (without knowing what to do at first) and brought the family back together. She hugs everyone having issues again, and then they become clear-headed.
I already expressed that Mirabel’s power controls Casita and its inner workings. Still, I also think that Abuela’s power is linked to that. However, her power takes more of the form of building the family and Casita, giving them miracles, and keeping them safe as a whole. Mirabel’s power is to keep the benefits going and help each family member grow as an individual and not as a tool to help others.
I know I’ve said it already, and it’s painfully apparent. Still, Mirabel and Abuela love their family dearly. I think they express their love differently, which is why I believe Mirabel is supposed to take Abuela’s place. Abuela has her room, but Mirabel has the whole house.