WARNING: This article contains spoilers for anyone who is not yet caught up on the show (which you absolutely need to get on right now!).
Entertainment media has been known to bring different communities together for decades. In particular, television shows are able to do this very effectively as they pull together multiple narratives that portray the depth behind characters of diverse backgrounds. In this way, Jane the Virgin has captured the hearts of viewers everywhere and allowed for Latinx representation to excel on a huge platform, despite any political climate that has led to a distortion in the image of Hispanic people.
Jane the Virgin was named the Best Show on TV by the Vulture TV Awards in 2018, and Gina Rodriguez (Jane Villanueva) and Jaime Camil (Rogelio De La Vega) won the Teen Choice Awards for Choice TV Actor and Actress: Comedy this year as well. This recognition for a show coming into its fourth year truly exemplifies the impact it continues to have on its audience along with its importance on television today. This show is unique in its representation of the everyday lifestyle of a loving Hispanic family, with a majority of the main cast members coming from a Latin background.
An aspect of the show that I would like to highlight in this piece starts with the episode “Chapter 10″ (Season 1, Episode 10), when it is revealed that Jane’s grandmother, Alba Villanueva (Ivonne Coll) is an undocumented immigrant. In this episode, Alba was in the hospital after having been pushed down the stairs, and was facing deportation due to her lack of citizenship. This came as a shock to viewers, and all the while throughout the episode the narrator made sure to say that this is something that really happens to people living in America.
In later seasons, we see Alba eventually getting her citizenship in “Chapter Seventy-Nine” (Season 4, Episode 15), a few years after the hospital incident. However, there was not a moment where viewers of the show protested against her character or labelled her as any sort of “illegal” or “alien.” What this show did in portraying the character of people who are undocumented has enabled those who once may have seen these people in a negative light to step back and realize that there is always more to a person’s story. For this, and many other reasons, Jane the Virgin will always have our hearts.
Another huge reason behind the success of this show? Of course, our Jane herself, Gina Rodriguez. Rodriguez was born in Chicago, Illinois to Puerto Rican parents and appeared on a few TV shows before landing the leading role on Jane the Virgin in 2014. Since then, she has found her way into the hearts and homes of TV lovers internationally — both due to her amazing acting and inspiring activism.
This year has been a big one for Rodriguez, having her debut as a director on the show for “Chapter Seventy-Four” (Season 4, Episode 10). In keeping with this momentum, Rodriguez has also been working on two of her own TV shows as a producer: Have Mercy on CBS and Illegal on the CW. These shows were developed within her own company, I Can & I Will, and sold to the two networks to air, although no release date has been indicated as of yet.
Rodriguez has been vocal about her resentment towards the lack of representation of Latinx people in TV and cinema. Earlier this year, she wrote a short letter for Variety detailing the effects of not having a culture represented in the media and commending those who are taking steps forward to include more Hispanic people on-screen.
“The under-representation of Latinos in Hollywood both on and off screen is not just a feeling; it’s a sad reality,” said Rodriguez.
Video courtesy AP Archive via YouTube
As a result of this, she is taking action by ensuring that both Have Mercy and Illegal focus on narratives surrounding different struggles faced by Latin-Americans. Have Mercy is about a Latina doctor who is unable to practice in America after moving to Miami due to not being able to afford the exams required for international doctors, and, in turn, is only able to work as a nurse. Consequently, she begins to operate an illegal clinic out of her home in order to treat undocumented patients. Rodriguez has said that the show will take place in the current political climate of the United States.
Illegal is based off of the story of Rafael Agustin, an actor and current writer on Jane the Virgin. This show will focus on a teenager who learns that he is an undocumented immigrant, as his family sought refuge in America when he was very young.
It’s clear to see that Rodriguez is doing the most she can in terms of increasing Latinx representation in American television. However, this is not where her advocacy and activism ends. Just this year, Rodriguez spoke to her producer at Jane the Virgin, Jennie Snyder Urman, and was able to convince the CW to spend the show’s fund for its Emmy campaign on an undocumented Latin student’s college tuition. This money was originally supposed to be spent on ways to increase the show’s chances of winning an Emmy, but will instead be put towards paying for all four years of this student’s undergraduate education.
“It’s taboo to talk about the money being spent, but it’s the reality,” Rodriguez said, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“Our show has always jumped at any opportunity to help me do something for the Latinx community,” she said. “So I asked my showrunner, Jennie, if we could do something different with the money this year.”
We’ve always loved Rodriguez for being outspoken on the issues that she’s passionate about and for her #MovementMondays trend on social media, with which she recognizes and commends different talented Latinx actors every week (since mainstream media almost always fails to do so). However, the fact that she is an actress who not only advocates for change but actually takes action in order for it to happen truly showcases what an icon she is.
As for the future of Jane the Virgin and Rodriguez’s other projects? I think we all know that they’ll continue to climb higher and higher.
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