Celebrating Latina Mothers on “Jane the Virgin”
The show “Jane the Virgin” focuses on the close-knit Villanueva family living in Miami. This family consists of three generations of Latina women who all live under the same roof. Consequently, they all share a special, strong bond with each other and value family over everything else. This characteristic is specifically highlighted in the episode called “Chapter Forty-Two”, which centers around Mother’s Day. While the episode and show as a whole sometimes relies on overused stereotypes, in general, this episode positively portrayed and celebrated Latina women and mothers, to the benefit of all viewers.
Now it would be amiss to ignore the instances in the episode that enforce old norms and stereotypes. One such instance is when Xiomara, Jane’s mom, sleeps with Esteban, the “nemesis” of Jane’s father, Rogelio. Xiomara does this to get back at Rogelio for going out with another woman, even though they have been separated for many years now. Xiomara’s jealousy plays into the stereotype of the typical sexual and jealous Latina woman. Also, Jane gets caught up in some drama with a fellow employee over a prank ad placed in the newspaper that says Jane will write students’ college essays for money. Jane isn’t able to keep her cool and accuses the fellow employee, which creates problems between Jane and her boss. In general, Jane’s tendency to stir up drama makes her look like an emotional, dramatic Latina, as many media outlets tend to portray them. For entertainment value, it seems even progressive shows like “Jane the Virgin” must fall back on some antiquated seterotypes to create an exciting show.
Nine out of ten times, though, “Jane the Virgin” promotes tolerance, acceptance, and breaking down old stereotypes. For example, in this episode, Jane is portrayed as an extremely loving and caring daughter, mother, and friend. On Mother’s Day, Jane’s family and friends put together a video of all the best qualities of Jane, which include her good advice, how she always has her loved ones’ backs, her commitment to family, her ability to see the good in people, and, most of all, her love. All of these qualities that describe Jane let her shine in a great light and set a great example for moms and women watching the show.
In addition, Jane is portrayed positively as a very smart and organized woman. Typically, Latina women, and especially Latina mothers, are not expected to be as smart or have a higher degree education. This is in total contrast to Jane, who is super organized due to her many lists that she makes. Jane also helps her dad “study” current events and culture for a fancy dinner party to impress his new girlfriend. Jane is so smart that she makes her dad look very smart at the dinner as well. Also, the fact that Jane is in graduate school for writing and loves to research and be informed sends the cultural transmission that anyone can be educated and this is a great step away from the typical negative stereotype of Latina women.
Next, all the Villanueva women work a job in addition to taking care of their family. Jane works as a waitress in a hotel and is also enrolled in graduate school, even on top of her other responsibilities such as taking care of her son and finding time to spend time with her family. In this episode, Jane successfully balances her work, school, and family life, which exemplifies the portrayal of hard-working women who also find time to celebrate family. This is a positive thing that makes viewers relate to these women.
Lastly, Jane and her family’s emphasis on the importance of family shines in this episode. The three Villanueva women have a tradition of wearing pjs, eating ice cream, and watching telenovelas every year on Mother’s Day. This tradition allows for great family bonding and shows how much of a priority family is to them. But when a distant relative invites Jane and her family to a Mother’s Day lunch, Jane decides to go to the lunch because they are her family too. Jane’s commitment to her family is a great characteristic that portrays Latina women in a positive light.
In conclusion, the show “Jane the Virgin” is a great show that celebrates Latina women and does not rely heavily on tired stereotypes, but sends cultural transmissions about their characteristics. By portraying these three Latina women/mothers in a positive light, viewers can start to change their perception of Latinos in general. Showing how loving, smart, and family oriented Latina women are allows viewers to view real-life Latinas in the same way now and make them more open and tolerant to different races.