Based off the Venezuelan telenovela “Juana La Virgen”, “Jane the Virgin” was first announced in early 2014. The basic premise, which is very similar to the original 2002 telenovela, is that a devout Venezuelan-American young woman who’s promised to not have sex until after marriage, is accidentally artificially inseminated with a stranger’s sperm.
Though the original situation the show presented was rather unbelievable, ripe with improbable coincidences and characters with cliché tropes, the Latin Lover Narrator’s sarcastic commentary, the quick pace of the show, and the actors’ incredible performances all worked to make the viewers a little bit more willing to believe that something as outrageous as a young pregnant virgin being canonized as a modern saint was something feasible.
From its pilot, “Jane the Virgin” proved to be hilarious, touching and, most importantly, sharp as a razor. A good chunk of the episode was spoken in Spanish: Jane’s abuela, Alba, speaks exclusively in Spanish, with Xiomara and Jane often replying in Spanish as well. In the span of forty minutes, the show introduced a dozen interesting characters with complex problems of their own, it discussed the struggles of becoming a young mother and it presented abortion as a viable option for Jane. By the time the screen faded to white and the words “to be continued…” showed up, it was impossible not to be hooked.
Sixty-four episodes later, the show has built on its original premise while continuing to pay loving homage to all the classic telenovela tropes and staying true to the Latinx experience in its own bizarre, overdramatic, wildly unbelievable way. The characters have found themselves tangled in multiple love triangles (and sometimes quadrangles), a handful of murder mysteries, not one but two evil twin plots, kidnappings, family feuds, and even international crime rings.
The show has also featured special guest stars like Kesha Rose as Jane’s wannabe rock-star neighbor, Britney Spears as herself, Adam Rodriguez as Jane’s super hot creative writing teacher, Paulina Rubio as herself, Kate del Castillo as telenovela star and the evil ex-wife of Jane’s father, and Gloria and Emilio Estefan as themselves. Though in paper this may sound forced, every character fits into the show, adding a hilarious but ultimately organic element into its entangled plot.
Yet, despite its ridiculousness, at the end of the day “Jane the Virgin” is one of the most down to earth shows on air right now. Its honest, heart-wrenching talk on teenage pregnancy, single motherhood, and abortion in the first episode is just the beginning.
Reproductive rights and parenthood are, of course, central issues through the whole show, and not just regarding Jane’s choice to end or continue with her unwanted pregnancy. At the start of the show, Jane is in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend, Michael Cordero, Jr. When it is revealed that Jane is pregnant with another man’s unborn child, we deal with his reaction to the pregnancy as well as the couple’s problem of deciding if the biological father should have full custody or if Jane wants to be a part of the child’s life. With that comes the issue of what being in the child’s life means when the biological father doesn’t share her social class, cultural heritage, and religious upbringing.
Jane struggles for nearly two seasons with the concept of virginity, virtue, and a very repressed take on sexuality that she’s inherited from her grandmother. We see how different men react to learning that Jane is a virgin, we see Jane go back and forth between wanting to remain chaste until marriage and just wanting to “get it over with” (including a hilarious scene where angel statues at church sing “don’t have sex, Jane!” in a rather ominous manner), and we even see the aftermath of some really bad sex.
“Jane the Virgin” shows Jane dealing with the fact that her two main love interests are white men in a higher social class than she is, and thus, have a really different approach when it comes to spending money. It also discusses undocumented immigrants and deportation, not backing down from showing just how much fear undocumented immigrants and their families live in.
These issues and a myriad more are dealt with the utmost respect and honesty, balancing the thrill and laughter with some truly touching moments that could bring even the most stone-faced viewers to tears.
But of course, “Jane the Virgin” is not perfect, because no show is; and we can’t recommend a show in good faith without first acknowledging its flaws. The first season relies on two classic, but very problematic, telenovela tropes: the Disabled Villain and the Fake Disability Ploy (link: Signs Your Story Is Ableist). The show also has a rather lousy history in regard to its gay and lesbian characters, with most of them either having no purpose to the plot of the show or if they do, playing antagonistic roles. It’s also important to note that the main same-gender couple is an extremely toxic and abusive relationship. The way it deals with abuse is also less than ideal, repeatedly pushing two abuse victims back towards their abusers with, what seems like, no real thought as to what message this sends.
However, the show shines through in its excellent portrayal of women and, particularly, Latina women. This is due to a writing room comprised of nearly all of women, with a good half of them being women of color.
The show’s 2014 premiere had little to no fan reception on social media platforms like Twitter or Tumblr, and was scorned by White Feminist circles, but the critics and the general public quickly realized that “Jane the Virgin” was a diamond in the rough; and so did its network. Jane The Virgin earned the CW its first ever Golden Globe in 2015, when lead actress Gina Rodriguez won “Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series” and swiftly ensured a renewal for a second season before the first had even ended.
Now, with a one hundred percent score on Rotten Tomatoes (link: Rotten Tomatoes), a People’s Choice Award, a Peabody, and a handful of other nominations; “Jane the Virgin” has remained the CW’s most critically acclaimed show for the past three years, and it promises to remain excellent for a while.
The show’s third season just came to an end, and we have a hiatus to last a couple months ahead of us, which makes for the perfect chance to catch up with this delightful, hilarious and heart-warming romantic comedy just in time for its fourth season, which will be airing the fall of 2017.
Author: Drea Merodeadora
Editor: Trianna Nguyen