From its original advertisements Jane the Virgin first seemed like it was going to be a bit of a farcical comedy. I seemed unconvinced for a while. However, one night when I was heading off to work, the programme started and my housemate was hooked in disbelief. After spending the next few weeks being told how great it was, I tuned in and caught up from the beginning. Watching up to three or four episodes at a time, I had clearly caught the bug.
Jane Villanueva is a Latina twenty something who, it is made clear from the beginning, has remained a virgin and intends to until she marries. Living a happy life; about to graduate as a teacher and engaged to her boyfriend Micheal Cordero, her life is turned upside down when she is accidentally artificially inseminated with the only sperm sample from her boss and the man she kissed five years ago, Rafael Solano.
As the show is both based on and a parody of the traditional Spanish ‘telenovela’ we delve into a world of breakups, romances, long lost relatives, scandal, drug dealing and murder. The telenovela is known for its over dramatic plot twists, far more sensational than any English soap, and the show uses this tradition and also satirises it through the figure of Jane’s long lost father, telenovela star Rogelio de la Vega.
The addition of the highly comedic narrator and on screen subtitles which include texting and hashtagging cements the show firmly in an age of modern technology and modern issues, making it humorous and identifiable for a relatively young audience. This is furthered in the very identifiable character of Jane, who we follow through the struggles of what many in the audience would term a ‘disaster’, as well as simply trying to navigate American life as a young woman from a Latino family.
The dilemmas that Jane faces pose interesting ethical questions and sheds and interesting light on reconciling what may seem like old fashioned religious ideas and 21st Century modern life. Through frequent flashbacks and a strong insight into her home life we become heavily emotionally invested in Jane’s character and her story.
Special commendations go to the creators for offering a show with so many strong female characters, with their own agency and also for breaking these women out of, and questioning, traditonal stereotypes such as virgin, mother, temptress etc. The show is funny, clever and self-satirising but at the same time it has a simple, lighthearted and genuine feel. It is also thought provoking, dramatic, tense and so full of plot twists you will constantly be screaming at the screen for the next episode.
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