Jane the Virgin, Romantic Triangles and Giving Female Characters the Agency They Deserve

Growing up with a single mother, a hardcore Catholic grandmother and dreams of being a writer, I found relating to Jane the Virgin’s Jane Villanueva was as easy as blinking. And while I’ve never been reunited with a famous telenovela actor-father, nor found myself in an odd love triangle with an ex-fiance and a sperm donor, I find similarities even with that.

My love affair with TV has been a decade long and from the beginning, I’ve been bombarded with the idea that the love of a man (especially romantic love), is an important part of any woman’s life. Those shared experiences changed the way I watched Jane the Virgin during its freshman season, especially when it comes to that love part.

For those who aren’t familiar with The CW Network series, Jane the Virgin stars Gina Rodriguez as Jane, a 23 year old virgin and aspiring romance writer who goes for a regular check up and walks away (accidentally) inseminated. Jane is about to get engaged to her long-time boyfriend Michael when she learns that the sperm her egg mistakenly co-mingled with belongs to her boss’ son, Rafael.

And that’s not even half of it. Rafael is not only Jane’s boss and an heir to a hotel dynasty, but he already has a wife, Petra. Bent on removing Jane — and her baby — from the picture, Petra becomes one in a series of major obstacles in Jane’s life.

Loosely based on the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen, the series’ zany premise offers its female lead a host of material to work with, including the themes of family, classism, growing up, and fighting for what you believe in. Oh, and you can’t forget police rendezvous that reveal secret bathtub trap doors, multiple (dream) job offers, marriage proposals, marriage rejections, talking bus ads, men impaled on dolphin shaped ice sculptures, not-twin twins, deadly exes, and yes, the infamous love triangle.

To be honest, the writers’ choice to incorporate a love triangle wasn’t all that surprising. Jane the Virgin is on The CW network (known for trapping its female leads in laborious love shapes) and aimed at capturing that 18-34 female demographic — a group that is often assumed to have an unhealthy obsession with romance. That’s on top of being stylized like a classic Latin American telenovela. In short: this show was born to produce dramatic, drawn out love triangles.

In reality, Jane the Virgin doesn’t only utilize triangle development for her two romantic suitors. The series also employs the conflict-generating device in other aspects of Jane’s life, from her family to her career.

And though it may seem hard to believe considering some of the wacky things I’ve just said, I don’t return to the series week after to week to find out how a dangerous crime kingpin was able to operate clandestinely in the hotel Jane works at. Or why that guy that got impaled on an ice dolphin didn’t tell us about his twin brother — who, ironically, also got impaled. I’m sticking around for the human moments. The moments Jane shares with her family, her friends, her co-workers, and with her unborn child. The moments that make Jane so darn relatable.

The full story first appeared at The Mary Sue on July 7, 2015.

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