*Spoiler Alert* I’m going to make several references to the show across the seasons so if you’ve already started watching it and don’t want any spoilers, come back to my blog after you’re caught up on episodes.
When Jane the Virgin (JTV) first came out, I was dumbstruck by the similarities between myself and the main character, Jane Villanueva. A friend even texted me asking if the show’s writers followed or stalked me to get material.
The similarities are just that eerie.
If you haven’t seen the show, it introduces Jane as a Latin-American female college student who dreams of becoming a published author. She’s also studying to become a teacher while she interns at a school and works part time at a restaurant. Her hobbies include reading and dancing.
Jane grew up in a Catholic household with her single mother, Xiomara, and her grandmother, Alba. She’s estranged from her father, Rogelio, but is later able to build a healthy relationship. While her mom is like her best friend, Jane has an actual best friend from middle school whose personality is completely opposite from her. In addition, Jane becomes engaged and marries her serious Caucasian boyfriend, Michael, who has brown hair and blue eyes.
Jane’s a hopeless romantic and loves telenovelas (Spanish soap operas). She likes to meddle into other people’s business, can be bossy, and likes to be in control. She’s constantly planning her life out 5 years in advance and creates several lists and schedules to organize her life.
She’s always trying to be the best person she can be and sometimes finds herself being too judgmental as a result. She daydreams often as well and while she wants to be practical, she usually ends up following her dreams. For example, she decides not to purse teaching and ends up publishing a book.
One of the main themes is Jane’s anxiety, especially with regards to her virginity. Unfortunately, her grandmother contributed to that by raising her with almost a toxic level of religious guilt that tied Jane’s sense of self-worth to her virginity. Jane struggles with shame even when she’s married and is no longer a virgin.
Then, the irony of all ironies is that she becomes accidentally artificially inseminated, even though she’s a virgin. The father, Rafael, is a tall, dark, and handsome past crush of hers. He’s a cancer survivor and can no longer have kids, but thankfully he had frozen his sperm beforehand.
The rest of the story is even more complicated for such a short blog post, but you get the gist.
Now, I want to tell you a little bit about myself. When I first wrote this blog post, I tried to drawing similarities between myself and Jane. However, I ended up practically writing everything verbatim. It’d be easier for me to explain the differences.
So, that’s what I’ll do!
The differences between myself and Jane start with the fact that my family is Protestant, not Catholic. My mom remarried when I was 9 years old and my grandmother would come and go to help us out. I was estranged from my dad, but not for nearly as long as Jane. I also didn’t marry my Caucasian, brown haired, and blue-eyed fiancé. In addition, while I may have grown up around telenovelas, I’m not obsessed with them like Jane.
Finally, the biggest difference is that I (thankfully) have never been accidentally artificially inseminated. However, I do think I would’ve reacted like Jane, but I’ll let you watch the show for those details. Also, I just happen to currently be in a relationship with a man who looks similar to Jane’s baby daddy and is also a cancer survivor.
All that is honestly a lengthy way to say that the show resonates with me tremendously. There aren’t many shows out there that have characters like me. I can probably name on one hand how many shows I know that have positive and authentic representations of a what a young Latin-American woman’s life is like.
So, that extremely long intro leads me to explain my top 10 reasons why JTV is my all-time favorite show. I hope it can become yours as well or, at the very least, give you reasons to give the show a chance.
10) The sets are colorful.
While sets may not be at the top of my list, I think they’re worth mentioning. The show has a great variety of sets and on-site locations that create an authentic atmosphere for the characters. I love the Villanueva house because it reminds me of the homes in Puerto Rico. The walls are painted unique colors like orange, peach, red, and yellow. The show also has plenty of beautiful scenes on the beach, poolside, and occasionally even mountain backdrops.
Generally, the background is quite pleasing to the eye. This article explains what I’m saying pretty well.
9) It has a clever narrator, along with a satirical and meta structure.
While the narrator and structure may sound odd to lump together in one, let me explain.
Narrators aren’t the most popular plot device in TV shows, but it works with this one. Here, the narrator is part of the case. He gets as involved with the show as any viewer, which is often a source of humor. He is both part of the show as a character and watching what’s happening like a viewer. It’s quite clever. You can read about him here.
The show’s creative structure goes beyond just the narrator, though. It’s a telenovela satire of actual telenovelas. I can get my telenovela fix with a relevant show instead of those that come off as grandiose and dramatic. In addition, there’s a telenovela within the telenovela as Jane’s father is a famous telenovela star. Read more about the show’s meta factor here.
After all of the above, what you get is a show with plenty of telenovela clichés, a lot of humor, and lots of wittiness from the plot and characters.
8) The plot catches you off guard.
Just like regular telenovelas, the show does a fantastic job creating a plot that twists and turns so many times that it’s all you can do to stay in your seat for the ride. While there are moments in the show that seem to hit a standstill, the plot is always able to get back on track and take the viewers on another loop-de-loop.
I mean, can you really expect anything else when the first episode includes a virgin getting accidentally artificially inseminated?
Spoiler alert: I’ll drop a link here to a listing of some of the biggest twists in the show, but I highly encourage you to not click it unless you’ve already seen it.
7) While some characters are religious, the show isn’t preachy.
As I mentioned before, Jane’s family is Catholic. However, the show makes sure to give several points of views of the complexity of religious reality. For example, Jane’s grandmother is a devout, old school, Catholic, while Jane is more modern. They both keep their faith, but they often butt heads over their different viewpoints.
There are also many characters who aren’t religious at all, which leads to not only friction, but growth in the characters as they create relationships with one another. Plus, for the most part, the narrator uses humor that remains non-offensive about religion, while also bringing up valid points based on what the characters are struggling with spiritually.
I’ll leave this link here to let you read more for yourself about how JTV dives into the complexities of religion.
6) It authentically represents bilingual culture.
To be honest, I can’t recall many shows that portrays what a bilingual home is like as realistically is JTV does. Usually, older characters like Jane’s grandmother will speak and respond mainly in Spanish, while understanding English when it’s spoken. Younger characters, like Jane and her mother, do the opposite.
All bilingual characters throw in words that are from the other language they don’t mainly speak too. Occasionally, and only when it’s necessary, will characters speak in the language that’s not their strong suit.
You can check out this article on how shows like JTV are changing the way TV uses language for storytelling.
5) There’s positive bisexual representation.
I have yet to find any other show or movie that has as positive bisexual representation as JTV. Many shows have bisexual characters who fall under some stereotype, whether it’s being unfaithful, wanting a threesome, or having indecisiveness between genders.
However, Jane dates a monogamous bisexual man who openly answers all of her questions after she freaks out and doesn’t know how to take the news of his sexuality. There’s a great article that explains Jane’s acceptance process that I love by Jason Haw. It’s worth a read (see what I did there?).
There’s another bisexual character as well - Petra, Rafael’s ex-wife, who had been the one originally trying to become pregnant with his sperm. She doesn’t realize her sexuality until later in the series, well into her adulthood. As Petra comes out to herself and explores a same-sex relationship, the show opens up another realm of positive bi representation.
Oh, okay, I guess that’s another difference between Jane and me. I’m the bisexual one.
4) The writing is so well done it includes great advice and life lessons.
There have been so many times while watching the show that I’ve had to take out my phone to write down quotes that have touched me in some way. I’ve even made some pretty darn good decisions in my life thanks to learning lessons from the show.
I wish I could pinpoint what quotes, advice, and life lessons have inspired me the most, but there are so many. Instead, while these don’t encompass even a fraction of the goodies in the show, I’ll just include some links to start you on your journey:
3) The characters are three-dimensional.
I cannot get enough of the characters in the show. They have full lives that don’t revolve around the same tropes we see in television and movies. At least, not all the time. Characters have romantic relationships and drama, sure. However, they also have fears, dreams, childhood traumas, and cherished memories. They have careers they’re passionate about, children they love and struggle with, family members that are like friends, and friends that are like family.
Best of all, the characters truly grow. One perfect example is Petra. She’s the epitome of an important lesson the show teaches: no one is evil for the sake of being evil. While she seems like the original “bad guy” of the show, her character story arch is incredible. She tries to change multiple times and it doesn’t come easily to her.
We get to learn about her difficult childhood in Russia and her harmful relationship with her mother and sister. She does some of the most despicable actions in the show, while also having the ability to take some of the most definitive action steps towards large leaps of character growth. When the show starts, Jane and Petra truly dislike each other. By the last season, they’re like sisters.
If that’s not growth…
Spoiler alert: I’ll give you an example here of a moment in the show when Jane grows the most, but it gives away one of the largest plot twists. So, once again, I suggest you only check it out if you’ve already seen the show.
2) The cast and characters are diverse and relatable.
To piggyback off my last point, the show does a great job at having a diverse cast and set of characters. The characters can be immigrants that work their way up like Petra and Alba or rich like Rafael. They can be American born and raised, and comfortably middle class to boot, like Michael or third generation Hispanics like Jane. There’s truly a character for everyone.
Furthermore, the characters go beyond the stereotypes associated with their tropes. Yes, Jane is a hopeless romantic, but she also wants a career. Petra may have committed adultery in the past, but she no longer cheats once she has a girlfriend. Alba starts out undocumented, but she does everything in her power to get legal status. Rafael stops drinking and turns to antidepressants to help him cope. Anyone can watch the show and find not only one, but many characters to relate towards.
You can check out this article on how JTV creates depth in its diverse characters.
The show is also well cast with many actors who fulfill their ethnic roles effortlessly. As my focus is on Jane, I’ll specifically bring up that Gina Rodriguez does a phenomenal job with Jane. She as a person and her character are strong, independent female role models that need to be on television more today. While Gina’s recently been under attack (and I’ll let you read about it here in an act of fairness), I encourage you to read about Gina’s awesomeness here.
Of course, I have to give a shout out to Ivonne Coll (Alba), Brett Dier (Michael), Andrea Navedo (Xiomara), Justin Baldoni (Rafael), Yael Grobglas (Petra), and Jaime Camil (Rogelio), amongst many others. Overall, I honestly just can’t imagine anyone else for any of these roles.
1) It tastefully talks about contemporary controversial issues.
Finally, the top reason why I cannot get enough of this show. Unlike most shows I’ve grown up with, JTV isn’t afraid to not only tough on contemporary controversial issues, but really delve deep into them. I’ve already mentioned some sporadically throughout the blog post, but I’ll bring up one specific example.
Later in the series, Rogelio realizes he and a female coworker, River Fields (who plays herself), are not paid equally. The episode seems to focus on the gender pay gap as Rogelio learns about what River has gone through. Rogelio then also learns about the pay gap for people of color and Latin people. There is even a short scene that portrays Jane shaking her head as she’s on her laptop reading an article about the Trump administration and the border wall. By the end of the episode, Rogelio and River advocate for equal pay for both of them.
You can see how JTV is social justice oriented here.
If you haven’t watched the show already, I hope I haven’t given too many spoilers so you can give it a shot. If you started the show once and gave up, I hope you’ll go back to it now. If you’ve already seen the show, then I hope you’ve agreed with me on my analysis.
Whether the show is talking about discrimination, immigration, the LGBT+ community, Latin-American culture, religious tensions, female empowerment, family strength, following your dreams, telenovelas, or even milkshakes, JTV has something to say.
Overall, though, as much as I relate to her, I believe every Latina in the United States is Jane. As I once said in tweet:
I SO admire @hereisgina. A Hispanic American woman representing us more than exotic fetishes, but real people with real lives in @Janethevirgin. Thanks, Gina, and @JaneWriters too. I finally get to see myself on screen and like what I see. #latinapower. (Rivera, 2018).
What I said still holds true. To all the actresses and actors, writers, producers, directors, and other staff members involved in the success and creation of JTV – thank you. I’ll forever be grateful.
To others like me, I am proud to say that we live in a time when we can turn on the TV and see ourselves represented in a way that’s authentic and real. We are beautiful and strong. We are imperfect and loved. We are constantly growing.
We are Jane.
Please feel free to leave a comment on why you love the show or any disagreements you may have with my post. Let’s start a conversation!
Rivera, S. [selysrivera]. (2018, Oct 24). I SO admire @hereisgina. A Hispanic American woman representing us more than exotic fetishes, but real people with real lives in @Janethevirgin. Thanks, Gina, and @JaneWriters too. I finally get to see myself on screen and like what I see. #latinapower. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/SelysRivera/status/1054997320914403328