Note from Viv: So Keidra and I recently got into Jane the Virgin and we’ve basically been communicating back and forth in all caps OMG! JANE THE VIRGIN! whenever we’re watching the show. And we’ve both expressed fear that the show will be cancelled before we can find out what is going to happen and there will be loose threads and gaping wounds all the place.
This is also a place where I can tell people to watch this show because I’m getting weird looks from strangers as I scream WATCH JANE THE VIRGIN at them from the street.
So we wanted to do our part to compel people to watch the show. Because it’s on the CW and TV snobs tend to dismiss the CW as the land of teenage dramas and five thousand seasons of Supernatural (seriously, if you can renew that show, YOU CAN RENEW THIS ONE). But we didn’t want to do something like Scandal chat…
As a result, we’re going to highlight a character each week and discuss what we like about them. And for the first week, we’re going with the titular character, Jane Villanueva, played by Gina Rodriguez.
VO: Here’s the thing about Jane the Virgin — the entire premise and fantastic notions that spin off from it are completely ridiculous. People don’t get artificially inseminated by accident and the father of the baby turns out to be the big crush you had years ago. Most people don’t go to parties and then end up impaled on the ice sculpture (one of my favorite WTF moments from the show). But this is loosely based on a telenovela and telenovelas are….well…ridiculous at times.
What makes this different is that the characters within the show are acting like how normal people would. There’s no exaggerated emotions or template character archetypes. They’re normal people in a ridiculous premise and I think that also makes it endearing.
Which brings us to Jane. One of my favorite things about her is how she’s reacted to this whole mess and the complications that result from it. The AV Club had a great observation about her in that what creates the conflict for Jane is that she’s honest. She’s not trying to hide secrets from her family or her fiance, even though that could make things smoother. Like in Chapter Four where she confesses she’s fantasized about Rafael to Michael. You know she didn’t have to, because some people would argue that fantasies aren’t real and therefore, not a problem. But she told him because I think she knew if she didn’t a bigger wedge would be driven between those two.
Well, a bigger wedge than the baby, which was a pretty big surprise admittedly.
For me, that’s refreshing. Too many soapy shows are based on deception and lack of communication that to have someone telling the truth (like I would) is fun. It’s also proof that being honest and a “goody two-shoes” doesn’t mean that you’re free from conflict and trouble. It’s just a different kind of conflict than the snowballing avalanche of deception that we’re used to seeing. Being honest is a headache sometimes.
Everyone compares this show to Ugly Betty and I think that while Betty Suarez and Jane Villanueva have some things in common — good hearts, decent souls, driven to achieve and are hard workers — there are some big differences. Jane’s more assertive in what she wants and needs (best example is her speech to Michael about how she gets to be selfish now when he demands she quit her job) and her family supports her for that. Betty — and this could be because Betty was a bit of a control freak (and I say that out of love) — seemed to have to be goaded into being selfish at times. London was a huge step for her and the way her father acted was completely over the top as he passive-aggressively told her he didn’t want her leaving.
Jane’s mom on the other hand, has told off Jane’s father for wanting to push the meeting. Xiomara — despite some of her crazier actions (Milkshake anyone?) — has tried to do these things out of love. Admittedly that gets into deception at times, which is at a complete opposite of what Jane does. But that creates great mother-daughter conflict.
Gina Rodriguez and the writers have created a wonderful character that is basically the girl you root for. There’s great beats with Jane where you are laughing and crying with her.
KC: I think you’ve really nailed on the head the appeal of this show. It really is a difficult tone to convey, especially in a soap/telenovela genre format. A show that is off the wall in terms of plot but stays grounded with character development and a sense of self awareness and sincerity. I get the comparisons to Ugly Betty, being both based from televnovelas you really can’t avoid it. But while Ugly Betty often went over the edge with characters (many of them were over the top to the point of being a distraction) Jane the Virgin really keeps the characters both realistic, multi-faceted and likeable. It very much reminds me, strangely enough of the first couple of seasons of Nashville, where the soap opera genre was the platform but the character development was much more sophisticated.
To be honest with you, I like Jane Villanueva as a character way more than I do type-A achiever Betty Suarez even though I have much more in common with the latter. What I really like about Jane is how they’ve portrayed her sexuality not as non-existent or somehow muted or abnormal because she is a virgin. I have never seen this on TV before. Her virginity is not played for cheap laughs, because each episode she is actively redefining and negotiating her sexuality and her sexual agency and all of this is done not in a way that makes her the butt of the joke.
Sometimes her honesty makes me wanna smack my head, I don’t think I would have said anything to Michael about my Rafael fantasies, but… that’s just who Jane is and her honesty is not only what gives the show its heart but I think the character trait that keeps this show from going full on crazy camp. A lot of the potential drama (i.e. Jane’s father) gets resolved quickly unlike soaps that go on and on with secrets for ridiculous lengths of time to ratchet up the drama, which gets exhausting. Jane’s forthrightness makes me root for her but it also keeps me invested knowing that this isn’t the kind of show where someone keeps a dumb-ass secret way longer than they should have (I am looking at you Juliette from Nashville)
The other thing I really like about the show (so far) is that the show’s narrative doesn’t seek to punish women characters for their choices, whatever they may be. I have seen so many instances where a show’s internal narrative says that a woman (especially a pregnant woman) is “right” or “wrong” for her choice to either continue a pregnancy or not.Jane’s relationships with her fiance, with her mom/grandma, with Rafael, they are all relationships that are impacted by her choice to continue with the pregnancy, but at the end of the day, Jane’s choices are about Jane, and I think the show’s overall narrative makes that clear, but not at all in a heavy-handed way, mostly in a comedic way, which is amazing to me. UGH I really love this show and it’s the kind of soap I’ve dreamed of and if it gets cancelled it’s everyone’s fault but ours, Viv.