'It's me, mommy!': How representation in movies impacts children

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"Accurate, authentic representation can break down barriers, open us to new ideas, create powerful role models, and even be a source of inspiration". (Instagram/manubaby03/katchingupwithkenzo)
"Accurate, authentic representation can break down barriers, open us to new ideas, create powerful role models, and even be a source of inspiration". (Instagram/manubaby03/katchingupwithkenzo)

Toddlers Manu and Kenzo live on separate continents, but both children had the most adorable reactions to seeing the animated characters from the Disney movie Encanto. 

Both two years old, Manu and Kenzo instantly recognised themselves in the characters, Mirabel and Antonio, and the resemblances are genuinely uncanny.

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'There's nothing better than seeing your child's joy'

"It's me, mommy!" Manu is heard saying in Portuguese in a video that's gone viral.

Mom Hannary Araújo first shared the precious video via Instagram showing her toddler excited to see a striking resemblance between herself and Mirabel, the animated movie's main character. 

Seeing the character as an adult, Manu says to her mom, "I grew up, mommy". To which Hannary says, "How beautiful."

"There's nothing better than seeing your child's joy — especially being represented," the mom said in an interview with BuzzFeed.com

The video was also shared by the actor who voices Mirabel, Stephanie Beatriz, who captioned it "estou chorando," which means I'm crying in Portuguese. 

Also read: A parent explains the importance of diversity and representation in children's books

'To think that my son was able to see this and have this experience'

The movie had the same impact on 2-year-old Kenzo from the US, who saw himself in the Encanto character Antonio. 

"I truly believe that he thought it was him, just his reaction. He kept staring at the screen and looking back at us and smiling," mom Kaheisha Brand said in an interview with Good Morning America.  

Like Hannary, Brand also managed to capture the moment her son saw his lookalike in a now-viral photo which she posted to Instagram and jokingly captioned: "Check Kenzo out in the new Disney Movie 'Encanto'". 

She also added the hashtag #representationmatters. 

"I do believe there is power in representation," Kaheisha said. 

Kenzo's dad, Keith Brooks, says the sight of his son recognising himself in the Disney character was an emotional experience. 

"To think that my son was able to see this and have this experience, and just for so many other black and brown boys and girls to be able to have that same experience". 

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'Representation is crucial'

Writing about 'The Importance of Representation in Media', RacetoaCure.org author Victoria Huang explains the "joy of seeing a hero that looks just like you". 

"Mass media broadens our scope of perception when it comes to society, multiculturalism, and the world. It holds, for many, an educational impact... This is why representation is crucial. In a multicultural, diverse, multifaceted society, it is vital to amplify the voices and share the stories of all.... For children who are developing their thoughts and behaviours, and for teenagers who are searching for identity and their place in society, media takes the role of a significant influence". 

Jonathan Abbott of the American educational equity NGO, WGBH Educational Foundation, writes that representation should not be underestimated.

"Accurate, authentic representation can break down barriers, open us to new ideas, create powerful role models, and even be a source of inspiration".

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