Coco is about the human desire to believe in an afterlife, and our quest to have our life mean something. It explores these themes through the eyes of Miguel, whose desire to become a “famous musician” leads him to steal a guitar on the Day of the Dead and fall into the afterlife. When he refuses his great grandmother’s condition of returning to Life (no music!), he embarks on a quest to find his musician great grandfather and obtain his blessing instead.
In this mythology, humans with no one to remember them in the present fade away and cease to exist, which leads them to want their descendants to keep their photographs on the shrines and remember them on the Day of the Dead.
Have you ever wondered when humans first thought of an afterlife, or why? It is in every civilization and lore, the concept of life continuing after death; it comes in a variety of flavors, but most of them have life continue in some form. The Greeks had the concept of a heaven (Mount Olympus) and hell (Hades), which the Christians adopted and altered to suit their mythology; the Spanish-Mexican culture has the Day of the Dead, and the ancient Egyptians buried their dead with as many possessions as they could, to ensure a “comfortable afterlife.” People have always found cemeteries, burial grounds, etc., “sacred” and “frightening.” Many civilizations and societies have myths about ghosts; Christ’s disciples cried out “in alarm” when He walked on the water, for they believed in and feared ghosts, and thought ghosts could travel through water. Ghost lore still uses water as a conduit; something which can be liquid or solid, or dissipate into air.
The thought that our bodies are limited, there is something more to us, we have something akin to a soul, or at least a spirit, is a shared human belief from the ancient world, a sense among the people that there is, or should be, something “more” than exists; that we should continue on. Why? Is it because when our loved ones die, we do not want them forgotten or to believe their life has simply… ended? Or is it like C.S. Lewis thought, that we understand, even when we understand nothing else, there is more, that we are more, than flesh and bone? That our human bodies are only a small part of who we are?
Have you ever stopped to wonder what makes you, you? You are more than skin and bones; mere animals have that, but you are capable of independent intelligent thought, of questioning your own existence, and pondering the mysteries of the universe. Society has changed, people do not; there’s no reason to doubt that our ancient ancestors, whomever they may have been, pondered the nature of good and evil, wondered why either one exists, felt like more, and tried to understand things beyond their comprehension. My agnostic friends say mortals invented the afterlife, to feel better about loss and death, but what caused us to need that reassurance in the first place? If someone thought it up, if every civilization has it across the entire planet, how did that thought come to all of us? Whether you believe humans evolved, or God created them, it’s an incredible thing to think that someone had to have the first thought we all take for granted.
Many first thoughts, out of nothingness (or was it?) like, where do we go after we die? Do we just end? Does everyone go to the same place? Why do good and bad things happen? What makes a person good or bad? Do bad people go to the same place good people go? Is there something beyond us? What controls the wind and rain? Is there another being? A higher one? Many higher ones? Did they create us? Do they hate us? Love us? What should we call it? God? Does He/She/It have messengers? Angels? Spirit guides? What form does God take? Would He/She/It ever come here? Why? How do I appease this god? Grow close to Him/Her/It? What does He/She/It think of me?
Where did the desire to have those thoughts come from?
Some Christians are concerned about Coco’s pagan mythology. To me, it represents a culture asking questions about the afterlife, is a representation of the collective human desire to touch the divine, and the belief that life holds meaning and we do not fade away after we die but that someone will remember us, and that the veil between life and death is thinner than we think.