Why I love ‘Jane the Virgin’

I’ve never been to an IKEA. I think I know what it’s like: full of furniture with weird names and impossible-to-assemble desks. IKEA is the place where the sitcom dad goes to find something to do in a C-story. I know this from context in TV shows. I had to learn it.

There’s a moment in the second episode of Jane the Virgin (which concludes its first season tonight) where Abuela Alba namechecks Catalina Creel, a telenovela villain from 1986. When I saw that, I had to pause the episode, go to my mother’s room, and show her the pilot. We binged the other eight available episodes that day.

Now, I’ve never seen that telenovela. I actually have never seen a telenovela, and that’s the official statement I’m putting out on the internet, no more questions, thank you.

But it was the first time, in my long history of watching TV, that I instinctively *got* a specific cultural reference. Which leads me to the first of many reasons I love Jane the Virgin.

Representation

Look, I know. Maybe you’re Deadline. Or maybe you say that you don’t really pay attention to diversity, you only care if the show is good or not. I’ve used that argument before. That doesn’t change the fact that television is, mostly, straight white males creating shows with straight white males as leads.

Jane the Virgin was created by Jennie Snyder Urman, and stars Gina Rodriguez and other actors of latin descent.

When was the last time you saw a show with two latino regulars? Or when was the last time you saw a hispanic character not playing a criminal, or a maid, or a landscaper?

This goes further than just seeing someone who looks like me (well, kind of. It’s still the CW, *no one* looks like their actors). Representation involves watching familiar interactions between characters. Recognizing the references they use, and understanding the challenges they face (#ImmigrationReform).

I think it’s also important to note that “latino” is not a single thing. Sounds obvious, but it’s apparently not.

I’m Mexican, not Venezuelan like Alba. I’m not a latino living in the US, like these characters are. Cultural differences abound. No one is perfectly represented, because, duh. No one ever is.

So sure, maybe the distance between me and Jane the Virgin is shorter than yours. Doesn’t mean you can’t find yourself in those characters and those situations.

Also, if I can connect with Modern Family, you can connect with Jane the Virgin.

If you still say you don’t really focus on diversity, you just want to watch a good show, then…

Jane the Virgin is the best new show in the ’14-’15 season

The other day I saw the Flash fighting in slow-mo against a über-intelligent telepathic gorilla. I never expected to see that on TV, so that gives it a lot of points in my book.

still rate Jane the Virgin higher. That said, there are interactions and characters in Jane the Virgin that are rarer than that (Paulina Rubio and David Bisbal as plot points?!). But I digress.

In a sentence, Jane the Virgin is a tightly plotted, emotional and funny story that perfectly uses voiceover and on-screen elements in service of the characters.

You know how hard that is? To stay anchored in the middle of soapy story threads (my favorite: the eastern european criminal that learned to love telenovelas while held hostage), to push characters past their archetypes (religious grandma, millionaire playboy, conniving ex-wife) into becoming real people.

This show is a juggling act, and so far it has not dropped a single ball.

I just called this the best show of the season. If you need one more reason to watch, sure, I’ll oblige.

It’s gorgeous to look at

The production design is amazing. The level of attention put into the colors, and the props, and the costuming and the set design is unbelievable. There’s none of the drab corridors of many procedurals here, or the bright, glossy, anonymous sheen of most sitcoms. Too many shows look the same.

 

But Jane the Virgin is, like in so many other aspects, unique. Give it a shot.