Jane the Virgin is an important show for many reasons, and one of the major ones is that it is really the only network show that features a primarily Latino cast. This is no accident and neither is it a purely token gesture by network execs attempting to bring in an underserved, and valuable audience. The show owes itself, to some degree, to a Venezuelan telenovela ( Juana la Virgen ) that serves as the shows loose basis. So far the show has been doing rather well for itself, the show was nominated at the 72nd Golden Globes as the best television series in the musical or comedy category. Furthermore Gina Rodriguez won the award for best actress in the same category.
Jane the Virgin takes an interesting approach to an old question, and surprisingly for a network show, has a religious tinge. The inciting incident, the whole reason for the show, is that Jane is a virgin who is artificially inseminated by mistake. More could be said but that sentence casts a fairly accurate image for the ups and down, conflicts, and major plot points of the show. Jane is devoutly religious and thus obviously decides that she must keep the baby while attempting to lead the life she had planned out before the unexpected pregnancy.
The show is currently in its second season and much of the cast has remained on from the first. One of the major aims of the show has been to create something that isn’t a rehash of a Spanish soap opera. The crew wants to make Jane the Virgin into something that not only stands on its own legs in light of its predecessor but also will not be written off like a run of the mill daytime television show. It could be said that Jane the Virgin’s star is dealing with a similar issue.
Gina Rodriguez got her fame from a recurring role, Beverly, in The Bold and the Beautiful . The Bold is a landmark soap opera which originated as a sister show to The Young and the Restless . It’s easy to tell that there are layers of soap opera history that Rodriguez is attempting to break out of. Since her role on The Bold and the Beautiful she has been reaching out into other forms of entertainment and for lack of a better phrase, has just simply been on a roll. She has received awards and acted well outside the comfort zone that a soap opera provides. She was in a musical movie, Go for It! , and came away from that project with a nomination in the 2011 Imagen Awards. For those who are not familiar, the Imagen Awards are put out by the Imagen Foundation which is an organization made for “encouraging and recognizing the positive portrayals of Latinos in the entertainment industry.” She won an Imagen Award for her work in the film Filly Brown , which received a wide variety of praise and awards itself.
Rodriguez is a multitalented artist and hints of that fact surface in her career history. As mentioned she was in the musical film Go for it! and not mentioned earlier is that Filly Brown focuses around the career of a young, aspiring hip-hop artist from L.A.. Currently Rodriguez is working on her own album in addition to putting in time with various movies and of course, Jane the Virgin.
It is clear that Jane is aiming to land a cut above the rest and go for something more than just weekly fluff, it wants to give the viewers intelligent writing, comedy, and connection. Just like any good show. However it seems that Jane is aware of its own status as something of a figurehead for Latino programming and, as unfair as it is, will probably be taken as a benchmark for the feasibility of more Latino-centered shows to come. However, if that is the situation viewers are faced with as programming takes small steps towards representative diversity, the issue could be in worse hands. More than making any distinct statement, the show aims to create smart conversation, as Rodriguez herself says about season two, “ I think it’s going to be even smarter than you can imagine. Jane just continues to surprise me, how smart (showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman) is and our writers, how intricate they can make these storylines and these roller coasters and yet so grounded in love and so grounded in family.
I saw the first few episodes of Jane and I think the fans are going to be very, very proud. The storylines continue to get more thorough and you get deeper in everybody’s relationships and each character we continue to get deeper but also we have so many great guest stars, we talk about so many social issues that need to be spoken about but in a very non judgmental, non confrontational way. We just create conversations. And that’s what I think Jane does best.”
The show takes on major issues facing America, and one in particular, immigration reform, is at the forefront. It is such a relief to see that Jane the Virgin was able to break the mold of tv and come through the fourth wall to point out injustices that occur everyday in America. Injustices that a majority of nonimmigrants have no idea is reality. In one episode a character is in a coma at a hospital and those watching over her are informed that as soon as she wakes up she will be deported to Venezuela because she is undocumented and does not have health insurance. A character yells, “This can’t be legal!” and white text appears on the screen, “Yes, this really happens. Look it up #Immigration Reform” Laying out beliefs on immigration reform is divisive and to see a show, which depends on high ratings, giving the world its own voice directly is refreshing. Hopefully Jane and its cast are able to keep the show politically and socially active while still maintaining the level of quality it has delivered consistently so far. To watch Jane the Virgin on The CW, you need a cable TV subscription from Comcast!