"Jane the Virgin" and the Positive Representation of Hispanic Women on TV

On a whim, during a particularly busy week (therefore a week particularly full of procrastination), I decided to start watching a show that had been recommended to me since it first premiered—Jane the Virgin.After only one episode, I was completely hooked, for more reasons than one. Of course the show is funny and entertaining, telling the story of a young woman who is accidentally inseminated at her routine pap smear and becomes pregnant with an almost stranger’s baby, yet, my favorite part of the show was not it’s comedy. Despite being an avid TV watcher for years, Jane the Virgin remains one of the only North American shows, if not the only show, that I have watched that has consisted of a predominantly Hispanic cast, and more specifically, a cast consisting mostly of positive, strong, hardworking, Hispanic women.

Growing up in a Hispanic household, of course I am no stranger to telenovelas—soap operas filmed and televised in Latin American countries—yet the female characters in these shows were very different from the ones I have come to love in Jane the Virgin. They were sneaky, spiteful, and mean—instead of supporting one another and forming healthy friendships, more often than not, these women were in contention with one another, fighting over a man or even something as simple as rumors that someone had spread about them. When first started watching them I was around thirteen years old or younger, and I loved them for their drama, for the excitement of constant conflict and mystery.As I got older, however, I started to become less and less amused by the portrayals of these female characters. Perhaps these types of female characters were prominent only in the older telenovelas my abuela preferred, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that these were the only portrayals of Hispanic women that I was being provided by the media, and that these few characters failed to represent my favorite qualities of the Hispanic women in my life—their strength, kindness, compassion, and hard-working natures.

In Jane the Virgin,I have finally found the diversity of female characters that I had been longing for for so long. Jane, her mother Xiomara, her grandmother Alba, and the other Hispanic female characters (and all of the other characters!) present in this show are fully developed, and exist beyond these previously listed stereotypes—these women are all working to better themselves and advance their careers. They endlessly support one another, and they are willing to sacrifice to improve the lives of themselves and others.While Jane the Virgin contains many references to telenovelas and sometimes mimics their style, in allowing fully-developed, complex, Hispanic female characters a place on television, the show has branched away from the genre into something more diverse, more accurate, and more inclusive. With luck, more of the media will soon follow in Jane the Virgin’s footsteps, and it will allow for more honest, accurate portrayals of all Hispanic women—even those who differ from the stereotype.

 

Image Credit: Feature, 1, 2, 3