Why is the TV series Jane the Virgin such a success?

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Jane the Virgin first aired on TV October 13, 2014. The show follows the life of 23-year-old Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriquez), an aspiring teacher, who is determined to not repeat the same mistake as her mother (Andrea Navedo) of having a child at a young age. For this reason and her religious beliefs, Jane is saving herself for marriage. However, her life had a surprise in store for her. On a routine visit to the gynecologist, she is accidentally artificially inseminated by a specimen that is meant for the patient next door. Jane ends up finding out that the “father” of her baby is Rafael (Justin Baldoni), who happens to be her boss and old teenage crush.

The Daily Beast article written by Amy Zimmerman describes the CW series as “genuinely funny, sweet, smart, and wholly original.” The series is based upon a Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen, but instead of being 17-years-old Jane is 23. The dramatic aspects of a telenovela are maintained throughout the entire series, while still remaining subtle. Because in reality, who would be artificially inseminated by mistake? Other key moments that keeps the dramatics of the show going include the mysterious drug lord Sin Rostro. Throughout the entire show, this criminal is pursued and ends up posing a threat to Jane’s baby in season two. The feud between Rafael and Michael (Jane’s ex boyfriend) for Jane’s heart is also a focal point of the story. Without giving too much away, there is definitely a great deal of drama to look forward to.

Another beautifully done component of the TV series is the balance with cultural diversity. Part of what makes up Jane’s character is her culture, however, that isn’t the only thing that defines her. As Gina Rodriguez stated, “For once, [she] was reading a script where they weren’t talking about [her] ethnicity…” Unlike other television series, where it is obvious that certain characters are there to check off that “box of diversity,” Jane the Virgin is different. Rodriguez continues by saying, “They weren’t putting a Puerto Rican flag on [her] shoulder. They weren’t putting a taco in [her] hand.” Some of the ways the Latino culture shines throughout the series are through the small bits of Spanish that are included in every episode. In a lot of older TV shows or movies, if Spanish is included it is either something sexual or sexualizes the character. In Jane the Virgin, most of the Spanish is spoken by the “abuela” (grandmother). For me, this really resembles my family structure. I’ll choose whichever language I want to speak in depending on the situation or who I’m speaking to. The overall family structure is pretty head on. Jane has an extremely close relationship with her family, which is shown by the way she consults her family about every decision she makes. This i something I can relate to on a personal level.

 

(This is a clip of Jane’s abuela and her father Rogelio. It demonstrates how Spanish is included in the show.)

Another subtle representation of Hispanic culture is the religious aspects of the show. Not all, but a great amount of Hispanic families are religion oriented. Especially the older family members like Jane’s abuela. Jane’s abuela is also constantly living in fear of deportation, which is a very harsh reality for many Hispanic immigrants. However, this isn’t something that gets shoved into the viewers face constantly. Just like all the other factors of speaking Spanish, family connections, and religion aren’t emphasized or even acknowledged really. They are there to build an accurate culture without taking up the entirety of the show. It’s a great depiction of a Hispanic-American family.

Overall, Jane the Virgin provides many positive outlooks of Latino culture. Especially just the character of Jane in general. She is a college graduate who is pursuing a Master’s degree. According to the 2006 – 2010 U.S. census, roughly 4% of the Hispanic or Latino population had a graduate or professional degree compared with the 11% of non Hispanic or Latino population. Jane’s character is a great role model for all the Hispanic and Latina girls out there, because many do opt out of pursing higher education after high school.

Out of Jane’s character Gina Rodriguez is a great role model as well. According to IMDB, Rodriguez is a supporter of Inspira, which is an organization that focuses on helping Latino leaders who play a big role in shaping their communities. She has also spoken out about many issues such as racism, body image, and bullying. All of her hard work payed off when she won the 2015 Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy for her role in Jane the Virgin, where she was up against Lena Dunham (Girls), Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), and Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black). She is the second Latina to win an award in this category.

So next time you find yourself with nothing to watch, consider watching Jane the Virgin. You can find the entire first season on Netflix.

 

 

Latin American Stars Take on American Entertainment Industry

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Growing up as a Latina, I never saw many actors or actresses that looked like me. Maybe that explains my obsession towards Spanish soap operas when i was younger. That’s why when Orange is the New Black (OITNB) premiered in 2013, I was mesmerized by the amount of Latina actors that were in the show.

Three Latina cast members from OITNB: Pictured from left to right Selenis Leyva, Jackie Cruz, and Diane Guerrero

They may not have had leading roles, but the roles they did hold were critical to the show. I’m not saying that there haven’t been other shows with Latino characters either. Some prominent Latina roles also include Devious Maids starring Eva Longoria and Modern Family starring Sofia Vergara.

This increase in Latino actors has created the perception that there is equality in this industry of entertainment. In reality, a study done by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg school, found that Hispanics, who make up 17% of the U.S. population, were underrepresented and only compromised 4.9% of film roles. The study also found that the characters played by Latinos were often sexualized. Below is one of the scenes from Desperate Housewives, Eva Longoria’s character “Gaby” is being highly sexualized. There are many other clips that could’ve been chosen, but this is a more conservative one.

A relatively new CW TV show, Jane the Virgin, has also caught my attention tremendously. It not only has a leading female Latina, but the sexualization that is usually seen in other shows or movies is non existent. I often find myself relating to different aspects of the show. It’s a perfect mix of Latino and American culture without having typical Latina stereotypes being intensified. Gina Rodriguez, who portrays Jane, went on to win a Golden Globe for her role. The last time a Latina was nominated for a Lead Actress Golden Globe was in 2009.

The creation of shows like Jane the Virgin, gives me hope that one day the entertainment industry and other aspects of life will be equal and everyone will hold similar opportunities to pursue their dreams.

List of Movies and TV Shows staring Latino Actors and Actresses*

  • The Fast and Furious (2001) – Michelle Rodriguez
  • Machete (2010) – Danny Trejo
  • Hot Pursuit (2015) – Sofia Vergara
  • Addicted (2014) – William Levy
  • The Wedding Planner (2001) – Jennifer Lopez
  • Ugly Betty (2006 – 2010) – America Ferrera
  • The Secret Life of an American Teenager (2008 – 2013) – Francia Raisa
  • Prison Break (2005 – 2009) – Amaury Nolasco
  • Wizards of Waverly Place (2007 – 2012) – Selena Gomez, Jake T. Austin, & Maria Canals Barrera

*This list is highly limited

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