What I'm Watching: Jane The Virgin
Truth be told, it took me a little while to get onboard with this show because I was on a sci-fi/fantasy kick for a while watching Harry Potter on repeat, Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who. All of which I still love and get excited every time anyone makes mention of any of the three - and learning that someone in my life doesn't like them makes me question their standing in it. It's one of the reasons my relationship with my mother can be fragile. But after I finally listened to my older sister and sat down to watch it, I was hooked. And I'm going to tell you why. Of course.
First and foremost, this is an award-winning nationally televised show focused on a Latino family that does not scream cultural stereotypes. Now, before you think that I'm being a little too gung-ho about this: When was the last time you can remember there being a show like that could be described in the same way with the level of praise and attention this show receives? Yeah, I can't remember either. I understand that this show is quite literally adapted from a Venezuelan telenovela and does have some fantastical elements thrown in because, well, it's television, but the family itself centered around Jane is largely grounded and based on cultural values and traditions, discusses issues presented on the show in a very believable way. But the show does not limit itself to Hispanic characters. Instead, it reflects what America really looks like with Eastern European characters, African American, Caucasian American, and Asian American. Having a single series showcasing characters from varied backgrounds allows for more viewers to relate and connect with the production which I believe is an extremely undervalued asset. It's why people are so surprised at the projections for Black Panther's opening weekend box office but we can discuss that further in a later post.
Gina Rodriguez. I know that there are other incredible actors on the show but can we just talk about Gina Rodriguez for a minute? The range this woman can display in a single episode proves why she is the star. She can have me laughing out loud one minute and trying not to ugly cry the next. Because she is so phenomenal, I have mentioned to my mom that I would love for her to portray one of the characters in a script I've been working on in future. And by mention, I mean said outright repeatedly.
Now, I'm going to get a little personal. There are a number of traits and behaviors I see in the character of Jane that I see in myself - ones I like and ones I don't - but I see them all the same.
Jane's astrological sign is Taurus. I'm gonna chock this one up to phenomenal writing and character development in pre-production because if you've seen the show and have never looked into the personality traits of a Taurus, I encourage you to have a go at typing that into Google and come back to this post. Explains a lot right? Yes, I believe in zodiacs. Feel free to disagree with me if you wish.
Jane's love of books. This reminds me of when I would walk home from school with my head buried in a book clearly being watched over by some sort of higher power because I never stumbled into traffic or hit a pole a single time. As an adult, I have an irrational fear of looking at my bookshelves and having nothing new to read. So, I may or may not have purchased several books over the past two weeks.
Jane's love of writing. I can't remember a time when I didn't like telling stories. My mom has some of my assignments saved from when I was a kid in elementary school and I did more than the teacher said was necessary. I won a poetry contest in the fifth grade and went to town on it! I like to joke that I was given first place simply for the word count but not bad for a ten-year-old.
Jane's love of lists and organization. I make packing lists if I'm going to go to the Bay Area for the millionth time. I make lists for the grocery store and for my daily tasks. My closet is color-coded and arranged by sleeve length. My books are shelved according to the title's genre and then by author. My movie collection is alphabetized. I'll stop there. I think you get the point.
Jane's tendency to overthink. This is one I'm not too crazy about and honestly, have been trying to work on for about a year. Part of me would like to say it's because I grew up in a military household where covering all my bases with my dad meant I was given permission to do the things I wanted to do but it's also a personality thing. If anyone has tips on how to turn off my brain so I can sleep better at night or not have anxiety attacks, please let me know in the comments below. Only half-kidding.
Jane's practicality and the need for someone to insist she be brave - on more than one occasion. When you're young and you say you want to pursue a creative career, whatever that might be, you are more than likely met with a response that encourages you to be practical or pursue it as a hobby; to have a backup plan. And like Jane, I started school to be a teacher. It was while I was in school that I was told by an instructor in an English class I really only took because I needed an English credit and I figured, "Hey, creative writing sounds easy." that I was told that maybe, just maybe, I wasn't wasting my time typing. Recently, my incredible friends and my mom provided me with a much-needed push back in the right direction, albeit on a different route because they knew was more in line with who I really am and what I really want.
Jane's determination. I'm putting a positive spin on this one because my mom would call it "tunnel vision". Jane starts off the series with a very concise life-plan and spoilers, it doesn't work out the way she imagined no matter how much she tries to course correct so that she can still meet the milestones she intended to at times she intended. When she comes to an obstacle, she overthinks. See the problem? When Jane eases up a little, things can go more smoothly for her but when she doesn't, not so much. Same here.
Jane's belief in true love. Before you start rolling your eyes, I don't mean cliche romance. I mean love that endures trials and brings out the absolute best in each person. I believe in it because I have family members that make me believe in it. Without getting into too much detail right now because I do plan on discussing this in a later post, my grandparents fell in love when they were teenagers right before World War II broke out and changed their lives forever. They survived, got married, and had a family. Even after she died, my grandfather still loved her and I am confident she was the love of his life.
Jane's love for her family. Like many of you, my relationship with my family has it's ups and downs but nothing in the world means more to me. With every move, every new state or country, every new school, they were there. They love me unconditionally and know that no matter what, I will never be alone. When it comes to my extended family, my cousins have been my best friends and helped me through my lowest times. Great-aunts and great-uncles took the place of grandparents that passed away. And now that I live in California again, my little cousins are an amazing source of joy no matter how much they cry at bedtime or throw fits about wanting two desserts. Having been away from my extended family for most of my life makes me value them that much more now. I'm going to end right here before I start the aforementioned ugly crying at my desk.
So... what was the point of all this comparison? Aside from giving you some more insight as to who I am as a person, it's to provide an example of character-audience relatability. It's tempting when we want to write about a hero/protagonist to make this person the epitome of human goodness, free of sin and imperfections. But that kind of person does not exist in real life and should not exist in your writing. The show is called "Jane The Virgin" and while when we meet her she does appear to embody what many would call "purity", she is still a three-dimensional character with quirks, flaws, ambitions, and sometimes contradicting values that influence her decisions when presented with conflict during the series, now in its fourth season. Furthermore, ALL the primary character on Jane The Virgin have significant depth to them meaning that the individual characteristics of each of them provide opportunities for viewers to relate to one or more of the people on screen and as I mentioned before, connection is key to the success or failure of a film or television show. Even shows focused on statistical anomalies like accidental artificial insemination.
Do you like Jane The Virgin? Which character do you relate to the most? Let me know in the comments below! And if you have any recommendations for television shows you think I should watch, tell me what they are.
Click HERE to watch Jane The Virgin FREE on the CW.