*Includes some spoilers*
I spend most of my day evaluating the merits of a story. Are the characters experiencing enough change, does the plot move at the right pace, does the key conflict cause too little tension…that kind of thing. This means that sometimes, when I’m relaxing with a TV show, I find myself looking for those elements running through each episode. And when I found Jane the Virgin, I found the show my storytelling heart had been looking for.
I am late to the Jane the Virgin party, but I have now joined in and cannot rave enough about it. Why, you ask? If the idea of a humorous, poignant, and totally self-aware spin on a telenovela doesn’t appeal to you, well, you should reevaluate your outlook on life. Rarely do I fall in love with a show so quickly or deeply as I have with Jane the Virgin, which has made me laugh and cry and scream…sometimes all in one episode. And, while there are so many things this show does well, I chose the seven things I love best about its storytelling. Because what the writers and cast of Jane the Virgin have done best is tell a remarkable story.
1. The narrator. Arguably one of the best characters on the show is the narrator, whose sometimes touching, mostly snarky commentary adds layers of humor and insight to the story. I’ve always been a sucker for books like A Series of Unfortunate Events or Northanger Abbey where a narrator gets a role of his or her own, and this is no exception.
2. A crazy plot twist or ten. That narrator is key to navigate the complex drama of Jane’s life. Because the show is a play on a telenovela, almost every episode comes with shocking reveals or breakneck pacing. But the show strikes a beautiful balance of not taking itself too seriously while still giving weight and authenticity to some of the meatier plot twists. So yes, you may run into tropes of the genre like evil twins or villains who just won’t die, but at the same time, you’ll really want to know what makes that evil twin tick.
3. Family dynamics. Admittedly, the plot would be a bit overwhelming if not for the Villanueva family, who keep us grounded in the real world. You have strong (if complicated) mother-daughter relationships that can withstand just about anything. You have a mix of generations and cultures and faiths blending together and creating a family that is bonded not just by blood, but by choice. You have some of the most honest and detailed portrayals of motherhood that I’ve ever seen. And last but certainly not least, you have Rogelio De La Vega, who is hands down my favorite TV dad of all time. In short, these people could just sit in a room and talk to each other for an hour, and I would watch that show.
4. Seamlessly bilingual. Speaking of speaking, Jane the Virgin has characters who almost exclusively use Spanish, most notably, Jane’s abuela, Alba. Subtitles are available, but this is one of the few shows on network television that moves beyond English. IT IS AWESOME.
5. A perfectly imperfect heroine. I really want Jane Villanueva (or Gina Rodriguez) to be my best friend. Jane is an aspiring romance writer and a list-maker and a daydreamer and a planner, all of which seem completely contradictory but work flawlessly. (She’s also a pregnant virgin, so perhaps contradictions should be another point on this list.) Jane chases her goals but isn’t always successful. She is funny and awkward and charming and legitimately cool. All of her quirks make her feel real and relatable, and at her core she’s a driven young woman who knows what’s most important to her. That’s what makes her perfect.
6. The romance. While on the subject of perfect, we mustn’t overlook the swoony love stories of this show. I won’t give spoilers here (even though I have a pretty serious bone to pick with the CW!!!), so suffice to say you get to see every version of love, lust, and affection under the sun. You get love triangles that don’t feel cliche, relationships you love to hate, and a mix of happy and devastating endings.
7. Tackling tough topics. Jane the Virgin isn’t just about the mushy gushy. Far from it. From religion to citizenship to the wealth divide, this show doesn’t shy away from talking about today’s issues. While characters have their own opinions, the show never enters preachy territory and deals with each topic in a natural way. Given the premise of the show being about a young woman who is saving herself for marriage, the conversations about about sex, slut-shaming, and abortion in particular are nuanced and respectfully handled. There are plenty of shows out there that just tell fun stories, but Jane the Virgin has found ways to address real concerns in the mix.
I would read the novel version of Jane the Virgin all day long. Since they haven’t made that yet, may I recommend checking out the following Bustle lists to help you make it through until the show is back on air. And if you do come across a Jane-esque story (especially if it is YA), please tell me ASAP so I can drop everything and read that book.
(Photo credit: Jane the Virgin/HelloGiggles.com)