“Disenchanted” opens with an animated recap of the events of “Enchanted,” where Giselle was pushed from the animated, fantasy world of Andalasia into the live-action, real-world of New York by Narissa. We see that Giselle and Robert’s love story has become a fable now, complete with a “happily ever after” ending. But Pip says that in the real, magic-less world, there’s an “after” to “happily ever after” and that years have passed since the events of the first movie. Giselle and Robert have a baby of their own named Sofia. Morgan is now a teenager. And since their New York apartment has become too small and stuffy for literal and emotional growth, Giselle has made the decision to move to a suburban home in Monroeville. However, soon after getting there, all of their problems multiply tenfold.
Major Spoilers Ahead
What Are The Issues Of Retrofitting Fantasy Into Reality That Are Highlighted By Giselle’s Curse?
Since Morgan is a teen, she is the most vocal about her disapproval of moving to Monroeville. But, even if it’s for a tiny second, Giselle’s candy-crusted sense of positivity seems to rub off on Morgan after she sees how beautifully she has decorated her room. Soon after that, the positivity and Morgan’s clothes go up in flames due to a wiring issue. Amidst all this chaos, Giselle learns that there’s a Queen Bee called Malvina Monroe who kind of controls everything about the town. The following day, Edward and Nancy drop by to gift Sofia a magic wishing wand (which does exactly what it sounds like it does) and a scroll that answers every query that one has. However, in doing so, they accidentally underscore the fact that Sofia is the “true daughter of Andalasia” because she’s Giselle and Robert’s child, while Morgan is the stepdaughter. Now, Giselle being Giselle tries to make up for it by putting up a big display at her new school, asking people to vote for Morgan and help her win the Monroe-Fest. That further complicates things with Malvina, as she interprets this as Giselle’s efforts to pit Morgan against Tyson.
By the time the second day at Monroeville winds down, Giselle comes to the realization that Morgan is obviously angry about the move to the suburbs and that she has “ruined” Morgan’s image. Additionally, Robert isn’t all that happy because he feels he’s going to keep commuting from Monroeville to New York till the day he dies. But she desperately wants to fix this situation so that they can live happily as a family. And after Pip’s arrival, she finds her solution in the magic wishing wand, and she wishes for Monroeville to be turned into a fairytale land (because she thinks that it’s familiar territory and, hence, it’ll be easier for her to deal with). Again, things start out fine, as Morgan seems to be happy doing daily chores, Robert seems to be glad to go out looking for heroic adventures, the appliances in the house appear to be sentient, and Pip can talk again. However, as soon as Giselle comes across the “evil queen,” Malvina, and the clock starts ticking very loudly towards midnight, it becomes clear that Monroeville’s transformation into a fairytale land isn’t surface-level. It’s changing from the inside out, all the way down, to adapting the cliches, thereby making Giselle the new villain since she’s a stepmother now.
Much like “Enchanted,” which parodied Disney’s animated classics (because they’ve got a lot of problematic elements in them), “Disenchanted” seems to be parodying Disney’s latest trend of remaking said classics into live-action/CGI films. Yes, on a thematic level, the town and Giselle’s transformation show that escaping into a fantasy instead of facing the reality one is in is not a solution at all. But the reason why it feels like the film is critiquing remakes is that they end up using dated tropes under the garb of a faithful adaptation instead of changing them according to the times we are living in. They do colorblind casting, insert token LGBTQ+ characters, and add unnecessary subplots. However, they always keep the internalized misogyny, the ideas of body image, the overt displays of masculinity, and the pretty regressive notions of classism. We see all of this in the antagonistic dynamics between Giselle and Morgan as well as Giselle and Malvina, in Robert’s efforts to slay monsters (and realizing that he’s better at getting people out of harm’s way), and in the whole concept of a kingdom being divided into peasants and royals. And in doing so, the film highlights how wrong it is to simply re-appropriate traditionalism without having a basic understanding of why said traditions were discarded in the first place.
What’s The Meaning Behind Memories Being The Tool To Undo Giselle’s Curse?
Like every “classic” fantasy fairytale, there’s a ticking time bomb aspect to Giselle’s wish. According to the magic scroll, Giselle has until midnight to reverse the spell. Or else it’ll become permanent, and she’ll end up being the evil stepmother to Morgan and the (potential) toxic ruler of Monroeville (or Monrolasia). Now, since Malvina doesn’t want that to happen (not out of concern for Giselle’s family, but because she wants to keep her crown and throne), she orders her minions (Rosaleen and Ruby) to steal Giselle’s wishing wand, thereby preventing her from fixing this situation. Giselle does go out to find the wishing wand and take care of Morgan instead of treating her like evil stepmothers usually do in fairytales. But as soon as she sees her roaming around with Tyson, making promises about going to the ball with him (the fairytale version of the Monroe-Fest), she forgets about everything and imprisons her in the attic. When Morgan tries to escape, she recaptures him. However, in the brief moment that Giselle manages to suppress her evil urges, she sends Morgan to Andalasia (via the well in the backyard, which is a portal to the fantasy land) to find a source or form of magic to undo the work of the wishing wand.
With Morgan out of her way, Giselle’s devilry gets dialed up to eleven, and she goes to Malvina to retrieve her wand and asks her to give up her position of “Queen of Monrolasia.” Malvina obviously declines the offer, thereby setting the stage for their eventual showdown at the ball. Meanwhile, Morgan finds out that the magic that Giselle’s world-transforming spell needs is being extracted from Andalasia. And when the clock strikes 12, the conversion of Monrolasia will be complete, and Andalasia will be gone. So, Morgan, Nancy, and Edward need to fix Giselle before that so that she can undo her wish. If you are wondering why only Giselle can undo the wish, well, because she’s a “true” daughter of Andalasia, and hence, she has to be the one to do what’s necessary. When Morgan says that Giselle needs to remember who she used to be, Nancy figures out that the memory tree (which exists as a literal tree in Andalasia and as an arts-and-crafts project in Monrolasia) can help with that. But by the time Morgan and Nancy get to Giselle with the memory tree, they see that she has already retrieved the wand (with Pip’s help) and turned herself into the Queen of Monrolasia. Thankfully, they aren’t too late, as the memory tree chart, even in its torn-up form, manages to tone down Giselle’s evil nature and make her realize the error of her ways.
Memories being the key to undoing Giselle’s self-centered, selfish, and malevolent behavior can mean a couple of things. Since “Disenchanted” is such a meta-commentary on Disney’s live-action remakes, which very obviously bank on the nostalgia of watching the animated classics as kids or teens, you can see it as the movie’s way of saying that nostalgia can be a very powerful tool if it’s wielded wisely. Our proximity to social media, the weight on our shoulders due to our responsibility towards our family, and the overwhelming pressure of fitting into a society that champions capitalism can be corrosive. And a reminder of the “good times” can act like a balm to our soul. But I don’t think it goes as far as to say that watching pale imitations of animated classics is the way to achieve a sense of calm. If you listen to the lyrics, Nancy says that one has to remember the good times as well as the bad times and even the most ordinary moments to root oneself in the present. The song insinuates that the fantastical world of memories shouldn’t be an escape route. It should be a gateway to being grounded, thereby reminding us of the traits that make us unique and preventing us from turning into cliches.
‘Disenchanted’ Ending Explained: Why Was It Morgan, And Not Giselle, Who Saved Monroeville And Andalasia? Was The Events Of The Movie All A Dream?
Although Giselle manages to turn herself back to normal again, that doesn’t mean she has turned Monrolasia into Monroeville or saved Andalasia from dying. Robert points out that if all the magic from Andalasia goes away, then even Giselle is going to cease to exist because she’s made of Andalasia’s magic too. But as Giselle proceeds to wave the wishing wand and fix everything, Malvina captures Morgan and threatens to choke her to death unless she gives up the wand. Of course, Giselle throws the wand at Malvina’s feet, who breaks it in half (and releases Morgan, too), thereby facilitating the permanent transformation of Monrolasia and the death of Andalasia. In a desperate attempt to stop the clock from hitting 12 o’clock, Robert and Tyrone literally prevent its gears from moving forward by putting their swords and bodies in the way. This gives a dying Giselle the time to reconcile with Morgan and assure her that, even though she is her stepdaughter, she is still a daughter of Andalasia, and she has magic in her. So, Morgan picks up the broken piece of the wand and makes a wish to reverse the effects of Giselle’s curse. And it works.
The text and subtext of Morgan’s ability to wield magic and save the world from annihilation come together in a very beautiful way. Fairytales have always used the antagonistic relationship between stepmothers and stepdaughters to fuel the tension in their stories, and that can have a very negative effect on their readers or viewers. We live in a time when single moms are adopting kids. Even married couples are adopting kids. Since people are more confident about getting out of a marriage and remarrying now, a lot of kids have stepparents. So, if the parent and/or the child are repeatedly told that the lack of a biological connection means that there can be no love between the two of them, then it’s going to fundamentally change them for the worse. A relationship between a parent and a child, whether biological or not, needs to be unconditional in nature, especially from the parent’s side, because they are the adults in this equation. And the fact that “Disenchanted” makes the acknowledgment of the love between a stepmother and a stepdaughter its centerpiece is truly heartwarming and appreciable.
What happens after the curse breaks, though? Monrolasia turns back into Monroeville. Giselle and Morgan are the only ones who remember the events that transpired in the last few hours. Everyone else remembers it as a dream or a nightmare. And at this point, I was afraid “Disenchanted” was going to make the whole narrative look inconsequential in nature. But no, it doesn’t. The non-magical people have been transformed internally due to their adventures in Monrolasia, with the most significant one being Malvina’s ability to see Giselle as an ally and not an enemy. As for those who have magic in them, they are thankful for the realities they live in and the fact that they are surrounded by the people they love. Giselle spells it out for us (again) that it’s not fruitful to search for one’s “ever after,” because that’s a fictional, sugar-coated fantasy. We need to deal with our issues, our apprehensions, and our emotional outbursts ourselves and with the help of the people we trust and adore. It’ll be messy and complicated. However, the end result will be educational and bring us together as a community. That’s a pretty relevant message if you ask me. This is why you must watch “Disenchanted” right after watching “Enchanted.”
“Disenchanted” is a 2022 Drama Fantasy film directed by Adam Shankman. It is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.