It could have been easy, and rather disappointing for the writers of the CW show “Jane the Virgin,” to characterize the protagonist, Jane Gloriana Villanueva as fierce or sexy, an insensitive trope that relegates Latina women to being seen as objects. However, the writers cunningly demonstrate how fierce Jane is not by her looks, but rather by charm, wit and intelligence – characteristics not often written for Latina women in TV or films.
Loosely based on a 2002 Venezuelan telenovela, “Jane the Virgin” is about Jane, a determined and intelligent 24 year-old living in Miami with her mother and grandmother, who accidentally gets artificially inseminated with her boss’s sperm.
After watching a couple of episodes, I noticed that the characters in the show are reminiscent of another show I grew up watching, “Gilmore Girls.”
Both “Gilmore Girls” and “Jane the Virgin” are very similar in that the mothers get pregnant when they’re 16 years-old, raise daughters that are ambitious to achieve their dreams and have a strong mother-daughter duo.
And though I am team Rory pre-Gilmore Girls revival, “A Year in the Life” (another rant for another time), a new team has emerged, team Jane, and I feel far more included in that team.
It’s not that Rory Gilmore’s character failed to demonstrate how women can be leaders, it’s that in “Gilmore Girls,” women of color were often relegated to the sidelines as supporting actresses whereas in “Jane the Virgin,” women of color are the protagonists that lead the show.
After the #OscarsSoWhite stormed twitter in 2015, producers and executives in Hollywood began to converse about the need for more diversity, and though it is a conversation that is necessary, it is nothing new to people of color, especially women.
For years, there has been a lack of representation of Latina women in TV shows on major networks. That is why “Jane the Virgin” is the show that is leading into the new generation of Hollywood.
The show is not focused on accents or body types, but rather immigration reform and women pursuing higher education, topics that have become increasingly important during this current political climate.
Yes, it is a telenovela replete with unexpected plot twists, but the way in which the writers choose to weave Latino culture into the characters’ personalities is why the show ultimately stands out amongst the CW’s other shows such as “Riverdale,” a teen-drama that involves milkshakes, makeout scenes and danger.
For example, (as one might have guessed) Jane is a virgin and has intended to keep that promise until the day she gets married. This decision stems from a conversation Jane had with her grandmother, Alba Villanueva when she was a little girl, in which Jane crumples up an innocent-looking flower and tries to make it look beautiful again.
After Jane realizes that she can’t make the flower look like it once was, Alba says (in Spanish!), “Eso es lo que sucede cuando pierdes tu virginidad.” In translation, “That’s what happens when you lose your virginity.”
Alba uses her Catholic values to teach Jane about the “consequences” of having premarital sex, a conversation that represents how religion and cultural identity shapes the beliefs of many Latinas.
Not only does this set-up Jane’s beliefs, but it introduces the viewers to the kind of family she is growing up with and the ways in which her family, aside from being Latina, try to teach her lessons and instill values within her.
Rather than pitying women of color for their culture and struggles, “Jane the Virgin” has introduced a new generation of women that are resilient and reclaim these barriers that characterize who they are.
“Jane the Virgin” is the remedy Hollywood needs to understand why diversity is important to portray in TV shows.