Jane the Virgin...

December 7, 2018

Jane the Virgin. The title is misleading, not just to viewers who have finished all the four seasons (and are on the edge for the release of the next season; that’s just me?), but also to those who have never watched the show. When my friend first mentioned the name, I imagined that it was about a 19th-century princess and the story of how she breaks social barriers.


Boy was I wrong.


Jane the Virgin is about a Hispanic girl, Jane Villanueva, very much in the 21st century, who lives with her mother and grandmother, and around whose existence the entire TV show is centered; more specifically, around one aspect of her existence: her virginity. Jane’s one condition in life is that she will not lose her virginity until she gets married, and despite her meticulousness, she gets pregnant. Without any fault of her own. Because she gets artificially inseminated by her gynecologist (yeah, that happens). This is the first story arc and it bangs right into the plot, and if you think it provides a glimpse into how the story is going to transpire for the rest of the seasons….you’re not wrong. It only gets crazier. Now that we’ve gotten the summary out of the way, let’s get to the opinions. It’s going to get heated.


The TV show is unprecedented. Don’t get me wrong, there’s very little that is original about the show, in fact, it is the biggest assimilation of clichés that I have ever seen. But that is what makes the show so unique. This is one of the many things I love about the TV series, but its problems are hard to ignore. At one point, I got the impression that the writers were tired of meticulously constructing a sensible story and instead resorted to haphazardly putting together ideas on post-its to create some plot that would fit. But, let’s start on a positive note.


Let me start with the best thing about the entire show: it’s over-the-top, ridiculously-unsubtle-but-amazing plot twists. No kidding. (Spoiler alert) Some of my favorites: the exposé of Sin Rostro, Rafael Solano’s biggest surprise of his life, and Petra turning out to actually be Anezka. The series does a good job of constructing a plot that would lead up to these twists; I could use a page from their book. It does an even better job of hooking the audience and making them want more with cliffhangers. You wonder, What will happen next? and soon enough find yourself clicking the play button of the next episode. I’m not particularly thrilled about the fact that they are capitalizing on my weaknesses, but I’ve got to give them credit for it.


An interesting plot is necessary, but it is the characters who drive it forward. The show does a great job with characterization. I love how the emotional, intellectual, professional, and financial lives of the characters are explored in detail, and how it makes them come alive. Furthermore, each other’s individual lives are intertwined in a way that allows the relationships between them to develop in depth. Jane and the others have several things going on for them simultaneously, which keeps readers on their toes and allows for a lot of room for creativity. And the story is not just about the romantic tales of a twenty-something and her mother, its depth also comes from the variety of issues that it explores- the anxieties faced by an illegal immigrant, the divide between the beliefs of two individuals from different generations, the conflict of religious preferences and the burdens associated with split parenthood. Like a good fantasy, it accurately models the problems that our society faces, but on the condition that they see a happy ending.


The best part of it is the diversity- the show portrays the lifestyles of two families from different socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as different cultures. The fact that it is bilingual, delves into the Spanish culture, feels like taking a fresh breath. I strongly believe this is the best part of the entire show. It is impossible to ignore the effect that media and entertainment have on our perceptions. Until only recently, the lack of diversity and unsympathetic stereotyping in movies and TV shows has led to unfriendly assumptions about people who are viewed as ‘different’ in society. Jane the Virgin encourages a more open view about different races, cultures and even sexualities, and represents the people who need it the most.


That being said, let’s flip the coin and look at the other side. As much as I love some of the characters (Petra *gasp* is my favorite and, if you count him as a character in the story, the narrator- Antony Mendez’s narration is on point), I simply cannot stand some of the others. To name one, the female protagonist herself. Jane is opinionated, goal-oriented and the kind of person who would extend a helping hand when you need it, and I love these things about her, but she’s simply dislikable. For one, the fact that most of the story revolves around her trying to get a boyfriend makes it hard to watch. She’s just jumping from one relationship to another, barely two weeks would elapse between her breakup and new romantic adventure. Jane is hypocritical, hates it when people disagree with her, and perfectly embodies the phrase ‘mind your own business.’ If not for the plethora of the sub-plots going on, I would have abandoned the show completely. Don’t even talk about Rafael and Michael. When they are not worshipping Jane...oh wait, that never happens.


Speaking of which, the plot is highly redundant- and I mean highly- which makes the series superfluous. For instance, I cannot count the number of times they have portrayed Jane or Xiomara in love, and each time is no different from the previous one- the lovers are spouting cheesy lines at each other, lines that have been said over a thousand times in the past. Also, there are so many characters and relationships that it’s difficult to keep track of the plot. Moreover, the plot is also inadequate at times. I do wish they would develop further on details they only mentioned, like Luisa’s wife and Rafael’s background.


Some things absolutely make no sense- and I know, they don’t have to when it comes to a telenovela- but at one point, it becomes unacceptable. Rafael falling in love with Jane (just, what the hell?), her father turning out to be a cinematic superstar, her relationship with a TV star…all of the impracticality becomes too much. Which brings me to the next issue: the portrayal of women in the story. With every single significant female character- Jane, Xo, Petra, Luisa, Lina, and even abuela- is portrayed as shallow, whose entire lives revolve around finding a sexual partner.


In conclusion, my adjudication leans towards the negative, and I hope the upcoming episodes will contain material that would shift it to the positive. But, most importantly, a good work of fiction should emotionally connect with you. And considering my strong opinions for this show, I guess it has effectively accomplished that. The next season is going to be out in May and I will write another review on my final verdict. Until next time.



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