An (almost) all-Latinx cast. This was a powerful message for The CW to be sending and 16-year-old me, desperate to see myself in media, felt the full impact. For the next five years I would eat up everything Jane the Virgin had to offer, sticking with the show through all of the crazy plot lines fit for a soap opera – or a telenovela in this case – and even some unpopular time jumps.
Latinx representation is increasingly important in an age when Hispanics have the highest rate of movie attendance. People who look like me want to see stories that they can relate to, and quite honestly, I probably wouldn’t have been as attracted to Jane the Virgin if it had a white cast, which is not to take away from the amazing writing and storytelling on that show. It’s simply that I’m automatically more drawn to a show if it has Latinx or queer representation, because these are two of my identities that I don’t often find in characters. And to its credit, the show also did end up having a bisexual character that wasn’t a stereotype and was handled in a very tasteful manner.
For Carla Naranjo, a student at Arizona State University, watching the show has been a way for her and her family to connect. Even if they don’t see every episode, it’s something they’ll always watch.
“[It’s] just very important to see yourself be recognized as a Latinx person and seeing a Latinx family on TV, not stereotypically soap opera-y,” Naranjo says, “but more like embracing the culture of telenovelas.”
Naranjo’s favorite part of the show is Jane and Petra’s relationship. Petra is the ex-wife of Jane’s current boyfriend and father of her child. She also appreciates the tight-knit family dynamic between Jane and her mom and grandma because it reflects her own family.
“I really like the relationship between the women in the show,” Naranjo says. “It passed the Bechdel test easily in the first five seconds of the show.”
As for the lead, Naranjo appreciates that she’s not necessarily sexy or fierce or other stereotypes that often befall Latinx women in media.
“She’s a completely fleshed-out character and even though her identity as a woman of color definitely plays into her personality, like who she is and what her values are, it’s not the only thing about her,” Naranjo pronounces.
But, the representation in the show isn’t perfect, as it almost never is.
For one, the show is definitely lacking in Afro-Latinx representation. Most of the Latinx characters on the show are light-skinned, which is an important distinction. Also, the lead, Gina Rodriguez, has recently been called out for anti-black comments. She responded poorly, many believed, by crying instead of trying to listen.
“[She’s] saying things that are well-intentioned but come across as meaning to erase the experiences of dark-skinned women of color, specifically black women,” Naranjo explains.
However, Naranjo says she isn’t here to “cancel” Rodriguez but instead brought up a bigger conversation about anti-blackness overall in the Latinx community. She believes that the intersection of marginalized communities needs to be talked about more because people of color can be sexist and LGBTQ people can be racist. Naranjo recognizes her own privilege as a light-skinned Latinx woman, and notes that she’ll never fully understand the perspective of dark-skinned Latinx people.
“I definitely think in the Latinx community there’s still a huge injustice towards indigenous people and especially people that are mixed race, in any sense of the word,” she says. “There are plenty of Afro-Latinx people that I feel are definitely bothered. … Being a person of color doesn’t excuse you from other types of inherent bias.”
Kathy Cano-Murillo owns Mucho Más Art Studio, which will be hosting a premiere party co-sponsored by The CW in Phoenix on Wednesday for the fifth and final season of the show. Forty people already have registered for the event, which is the capacity, and she’s excited to show her support. She loves the show for its quirkiness and the way they handled Jane’s writing career, making it so the show was about that as well, not just the romance or Jane being a single mom.
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As a mom herself, she says she is prone to forgiveness and hopes that Gina Rodriguez can be accountable, apologize, and vow to do better the next time.
“I think that she’s trying too hard to please everyone and ending up offending a lot of people,” Cano-Murillo explains. “You have to appreciate all these different communities and what they’re going through and most of all listen.”
As for me, I think that because I care about the show, I expect more from its writing and its leads. I’ll always be a fan of the show and watching old episodes will likely still bring me comfort as I view them late at night. However, in the future I hope to see a more active effort from Latinx creators to be inclusive of people whose identities intersect with Latinx and other ethnic minorities, like Afro-Latinos. Maybe the new spinoff show will give them a chance to expand their representation. I eagerly await.
Jane the Virgin Premiere Party. 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, at Mucho Más Art Studio, 1735 East McDowell Road; 602-457-1864; sold out.