Dear Feminist pop culture lovers of the world,
The TV gods have decided to give us a gift.
As Parks and Recreation enters its last season (with some strange plot twists and narrative devices that might concern even the most loyal fan, e.g. Me.) and The Mindy Project increasingly leaves its feminist viewers feeling miffed, my search for a new great show that would appease my “bad feminist fan” tendencies was full blown—a girl can only watch re-runs of Gilmore Girls and The West Wing on Netflix for so long, ya’ll.
Thanks to the recommendation of my fellow blogger, Serene Khader, I started watching the CW’s new show Jane the Virgin, and guys, it’s only been three weeks and … I’m in love.
The show, newly launched this season, is loosely based on a Venezuelan telenovela, “Juana la Virgen” and tells the story of Jane, a virgin (duh), who gets pregnant after accidentally being artificially inseminated during her routine OBGYN visit with her boss’s semen (gasp!). By her boss’s sister. Who was having a bad morning because she had just walked in on her partner having an affair. And the semen is the boss’s only chance at ever having a child because he had testicular cancer. Oh, and Jane is in a serious relationship with a man she’s about to get engaged to and her Abuela really pushed the idea of abstinence and her mom had her as a teen. Facts that all, obviously, complicate the matter even further.
Now, if all of that sounds crazy and intense and far fetched and like a soap opera, that’s because, well, it kind of is. But that’s part of the beauty of this show. It’s not afraid to go there, there to the land of telenovelas that is rarely put before a white, American audience (like Ugly Betty, but better). It self-consciously pays homage to the telenovela form that is its inspiration and what it accomplishes as a result is, well, pretty beautiful.
Combining plot and narrative devices common in Latin@ culture, like hints of magical realism (the star from their favorite ‘novela often speaks to Jane from posters on the bus) and symbolism (think white flowers á la Selena), JTV is able to put these elements into dialogue with the themes of well loved American shows like Gilmore Girls (See, Jane’s relationship with her mom) and create something really special.
The cast is a pretty incredible line up of Latinas and the writing staff is diverse, including former telenovela writers and Snyder Urman from the Gilmore Girls writing staff. And, from the very first episode, the show isn’t afraid to tackle tough issues like abortion in wonderfully refreshing and progressive ways. The intergenerational family—a grandmother, single mom, and daughter—all living under the same roof reflects a broader and more inclusive view of families than is often portrayed on television. The dynamic between Jane and her fiancé also strikes the right feminist chords.
I’m excited by the early promise of this show, it’s willingness to go there not only with the telenovela form but also to tackle big issues in a truly feminist way. Here’s hoping that this gift has some longevity!