Jane the Virgin is one of the most multifaceted shows on TV. This show is so meta, referencing and making fun of the dramatic culture of telenovelas while being a modern telenovela in itself. For those who don’t know, telenovelas are the Latinx version of soap operas, and even that description doesn’t give ‘novelas justice because they have their own flare and over-the-top storylines which are a category of their own.
I myself was skeptical at first, specifically on the optics of the show: a Latina woman with “Jane the Virgin” plastered across the ad campaigns. I was like, of course, Latinx, it has to be about sex… jeez — it reminded me of how I felt when I first saw Kerry Washington’s face with “Scandal” written across it. A Black woman with red letters… Scandal. Now though, 5 seasons deep into Scandal I am reminded how you definitely cannot judge a book by its cover, as goes for Jane the Virgin as well. Actually, I was not about it until the actress who plays Jane Villanueva, Gina Rodriguez, received a Golden Globe after season one. That was when I conceded, OK, let’s see what this is all about.
Jane lives with her mother and her grandmother in Miami, Florida and works as a waitress at the Marbella hotel. She has never met her father because her mom had her when she was 16 and (as she was told by her mother) the father did not want anything to do with them. Spoilers: we find out later this was a lie and her father is actually a super famous telenovela star!
The first thing many people don’t know is the show is actually about a young woman who decides to save herself for marriage and, in fact, gets artificially inseminated by accident. Yup, she went in for a pap and got knocked up. The gynecologist got her patients mixed up and didn’t say anything as she thought it wouldn’t take, and then Jane, a virgin, was made pregnant. Then, of course, you end up meeting the baby’s biological daddy, who also happens to be the doctor’s brother. You see the telenovela happening here…
With a delightful narrator, the show handles itself with humor and absurdity as well as the utmost seriousness. Jane goes on to reel us in with relationships between her mother, grandmother, newly-known father, fiancée, and the accidental father of her unborn baby. Then, murder. Yes, as early as season one, someone at the Marbella Hotel — where Jane works — is thrown from a balcony and dies, leading the show to spiral further into a telenovela murder mystery and crime drama with a focus on true love, raising a child, and all of the ridiculous things a dramatized life can throw at you.
One of the storylines I respect most is of the “Abuela,” Alba. Alba is undocumented from Venezuela and we see this very real issue play out many times. A clever fusion of real-life issues with telenovela drama, at one point Alba is pushed down the stairs by a suspicious person when she saw something she shouldn’t have, and when admitted to the hospital the doctors said they must report her to immigration. She is later saved by Jane’s fiancé, a local detective, who states Alba is a key witness in a murder investigation.
I am proud to see such rare representations in a primetime TV slot, and Jane the Virgin does just that more times than you can count — taking a very real situation that happens in real life all of the time but is rarely represented well, if at all. And true to the show’s emotional core, a lot of Jane’s values come from the respect she has for her Abuela and the experiences they share, making the point to truly listen to and respect our elders.
The big romantic draw is the complicated relationship between Jane and the biological father of her baby, Rafael, and her fiancé Michael. Rafael is the rich, very handsome hotel owner, and Michael is the nerdy, charming cop to whom she is engaged, and as you follow the love triangle you end up choosing team Rafael or team Michael. Meanwhile, Jane, an aspiring writer, deals with her emotions through writing romantic novels (of course). The show plays on the humor and the grave reality of it all. You also can’t help but admire witty writing from a particular character who steals the show, Jane’s narcissistic yet loving father, Rogelio. Watching him brag about his fame and then also making outlandish acts to show love for those around him is everything. Every episode has you laughing, crying, and loving each and every one of these characters. You live for the drama because it does it so tastefully and with the perfect amount of lightheartedness.
Season 3 of Jane the Virgin has really topped itself, and without spilling all the spoilers, it delves head first into the deep end with deals on co-parenting, modern family structures, taking a stand for immigrant rights, and the treatment of immigrants in this country. It comments on conversations about a woman’s sexual freedoms in a playful and truly honest way, as well as a genuine, heavy look at living with grief. OK, OK, I’ll stop, as I don’t want you to watch expecting the worst the whole time.
All I know is, Jane The Virgin has allowed me to see all issues that affect my life – acting as that best friend you go to for advice on the trials and tribulations of adulting – and has given me a unique, entertaining world at the same time. Don’t sleep – everyone should watch Jane the Virgin.