Strong Female Character: Jane the Virgin Needs Her Mom (And So Do You)
I have a pretty established preference for the serious when it comes to T.V. drama. (TGIT, anyone?) However, one night, about a year ago, in a room-cleaning daze, I happened upon the silliest, most light-hearted, and most romance-novel romantic series I know of: Jane the Virgin. It’s the opposite of everything I’ve come to expect from a binge-worthy dramatic T.V. series and yet, I love it.
Jane the Virgin is about a woman, Jane, who, in the midst of finishing school, getting engaged, and suddenly reuniting with her long-lost superstar father, is accidentally artificially inseminated. The premise is loosely based on a Venezuelan telenovela, Juana la Virgen, and is a jarring but captivating juxtaposition of telenovela tropes and real characters and problems. The drama is decadent, the writing is masterful, and the characters are hilarious, but that’s not the reason I will recommend the show to anyone and everyone. That’s not what has caused me to write not one but two academic papers analyzing the story’s development. I love Jane the Virgin because I love Jane.
Jane is everything I am not. She is loving and organized and charismatic. She is a mother and a family person in ways that I will probably never be. It’s clear that she was created to be a real, multi-faceted woman, and one who looks glamorous every day at that. What I think is so remarkably well done about the show and the characterization of Jane, however, is not that she is representative of an actual person (though that is an obvious plus), but that she is both strong and dependent on others.
Jane has always lived with her mother and grandmother. The Villanueva family is unapologetically woman-centric and codependent. As the story progresses and Jane’s life begins to change quickly and severely, she is able to survive and cope only because of the existing support system the three women have spent their lives cultivating. The show’s writers make it quite clear that while the support Jane receives from her fiancé, her baby’s father, and her own father—the men in her life—is intermittent and always contingent on how much they personally have at stake, the support she receives from her mom and abuela is unconditional and based on an extraordinary sense of mutual reciprocity.
For me, Jane the Virgin is about being a woman. It is about how intimidating and unfair and tumultuous the world can be for women. Time and time again, the story reveals how genuinely Jane needs her mom and abuela and how they also need her. We’re shown just how much each of them are willing to sacrifice for one another, and how, rather than being be a source of weakness, this codependence gives them all an increased strength.
There is a lesson to be learned from Jane Gloriana Villanueva: Women need other women. People who aren’t men, people who don’t have established sources of societal power, need community in order to survive and then thrive. Jane proves to us that women, even women who are mothers, even women who are traditionally feminine, can achieve their goals and overcome obstacles when they embrace the strength they glean from depending on others and allowing others to depend on them.