By now you have probably heard about the hit TV show ‘Jane the Virgin’, starring Gina Rodriguez as the titular star. The show, which is based off a Venezuelan telenovela called ‘Juana la Virgen’, debuted in the fall of 2014 on the CW. It is set in Miami, a city known for its lively Latino culture, and features a largely Hispanic cast and much Spanish-language dialogue. The sitcom immediately took the airwaves and the awards season by storm, and Gina herself won this year’s Golden Globe for Best Actress.
So why is this new show so explosively successful? For one, the premise and main character are in stark contrast with many other shows popular among preteen and teenage girls. Jane is, like the title says, a virgin who is waiting until marriage to have sex. The show explains early on that her reason for this decision is multifold: She is Catholic, she does not want to get pregnant before marriage, and she deeply respects her grandmother who taught her the values behind waiting to have sex. But Jane is no goody-two-shoes: She is a normal 23 year old woman who is both studying to become a teacher and working as a waitress at a posh hotel. Also, she has a boyfriend of two years whom she plans to marry.
She ‘miraculously’ becomes pregnant after a visit to the doctor’s office, where her gynecologist mistakenly artificially inseminated her. When she discovers what happened her life is thrown into turmoil. Her boyfriend, who had just recently asked her to marry him, tells her he does not want to raise another man’s child. Her mother is grief-stricken that her daughter will become a single mother like she did. Jane is horrified that the father of the child, Rafael, is a notorious playboy and also the owner of the hotel where she works.
But Jane’s miraculous pregnancy is only a small part of the whole show. The first season is laced with intrigue, as people are mysteriously murdered at the hotel and Rafael’s wife attempts to get custody of the unborn child. Jane also finally meets her own father, whose identity has been kept a secret her entire life. The one constant in Jane’s life, however, is her own integrity. Though she is often overwhelmed by the pregnancy and the drama that has turned her life upside down, she maintains her pure heart and her desire to pursue her dreams. She does not quite her job or school when she falls pregnant, but continues to work hard to achieve her goals. Throughout, she is loving to her mother and grandmother even when they disagree on how she should live her life. She is compassionate towards Rafael despite the fact that she does not want to have his child. But just as importantly Jane is never a doormat. She openly asserts her wants and needs and she protests when others attempt to manipulate her. Jane is truly a new sort of sitcom heroine, one whom is not ashamed of her beliefs and consistently acts with intelligence and empathy.
And what makes Jane’s character even better is the fact that she and her close-knit family deeply embrace Latino culture and values. Of Venezuelan descent, they often speak Spanish [with subtitles] and openly practice their Catholic faith. They exhibit a truth about the US’s Hispanic population that is often ignored by mainstream media: we are growing and flourishing and possess strong beliefs and character. Latinas are proud to have Jane as part of our ranks! And we can’t wait to see what adventures the second season of her show will bring!