Everyone is talking about not talking about Bruno, but “Surface Pressure” is the song that makes the movie
I was having a “normal” pandemic day — you know, working full-time, being a single mom, reading a couple of COVID exposure emails from the elementary school while freaking out, cleaning up cat barf.
I had just made dinner with the last of my strength (how in the world do we have to deal with dinner every night over and over again?) and collapsed on the couch next to my kids. They were watching the newest animated Disney movie, Encanto, which I assumed was good or whatever.
I tapped my feet through a song or two, all written by songwriting genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, while splitting my time between working on my phone and playing Wordle.
And then Louisa started singing.
It stopped me in my tracks. The song, “Surface Pressure,” centers on life as a middle child and older daughter — as well as someone who has been granted super-human strength. Louisa is happy to help, and gets joy from being strong, but at the same time wonders how long she can last, and if anyone sees her for anything beyond what she accomplishes for others.
While the character is literally strong — she can lift like a dozen donkeys in the air — her words summed up not only the way I’ve been feeling about the pandemic, but also the way I’ve felt as a single parent and the way I felt as an older sibling growing up.
I don’t ask how hard the work is
Got a rough indestructible surface Diamonds and platinum, I find ’em, I flatten ’em I take what I’m handed, I break what’s demanding But… Under the surface I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service
After I was done clandestinely weeping into my dinner next to my kids, I wondered if anyone else was feeling the same. And the answer was YES.
First of all, the song is making its way up the music charts. It hit #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of February 5. It was also the fourth most-streamed song the week of January 31, according to Billboard.
And then on Twitter, moms were talking about how Louisa — this extremely strong woman who isn’t sure how much more she can handle before she crumbles — was perfectly expressing the exact place many women are now in the pandemic: shouldering huge holes in childcare schedules, protecting their kids who are too young to be vaccinated, managing tight budgets in a teetering economy, and looking strong on the outside through it all.
The song continues:
Pressure like a grip, grip, grip and it won’t let go, whoa
Pressure like a tick, tick, tick ’til it’s ready to blow, whoa Give it to your sister, your sister’s stronger See if she can hang on a little longer Who am I if I can’t carry it all?
We’re used to Disney songs hitting our heart strings: Moana‘s ‘How Far I’ll Go” (also written by Lin-Manuel Miranda) was inspiring, and Frozen‘s “Let It Go” really reminded me of how I wanted to cover the entire world in sheet of ice and prance around in an ice palace completely alone in a sequined gown.
But “Surface Pressure” is the first Disney song that I can think of that really captured my feelings as a mom, trying to do the best for my kids and everyone around me, a person who everyone sees as strong even though I’m not sure how much strength there is left.
We women and mothers are socialized to be like Louisa, from the time we’re girls and helping our siblings and around the house, and then once we become moms and partners. We’re taught that helping our family and hiding our feelings is the best combination — at least for others. We’re taught that we can have super human strength — as long as we put aside our own needs and wants. We’re told to ignore the pressure and be grateful for what we have — even if it’s breaking us down. We’re told to put our accomplishments before ourselves.
How can we not tear up when we hear her sing, “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service” and think about all fo the labor — physically, mental and emotionally — that we’ve had to give over the years, especially the last two years?
And how great it is that our kids are watching this movie and learning that just because you have the ability to be the strongest in the family doesn’t mean that you should shoulder everyone’s burdens?
Also: you’ve got to admit that the song is pretty damn catchy.
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