Why Petra Solano is one of the most important queer voices on TV right now
This is a guest post written by Tina Kakadelis.
I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with Jane the Virgin. I started it late, only after a friend kept pushing me to watch it. After a couple of episodes, I became the person who was pushing other people to watch it. The first season was filled with so much fun and campiness that it was easy to get hooked. The show understands its place as an all-knowing, self-aware telenovela, and in the beginning, it balanced that perfectly. Recently, though, it’s fallen a little too far into the telenovela trope when it comes to Jane’s love life. She has become the boy she was dating and the show has lost a little of its charm.
However, Petra Solano is a very good reason to check in from time to time.
Over the course of the show, Petra has had a lot of wild times. She’s had two husbands and given birth to twins. She’s also had a long-lost twin come back into her life, and her mom has tried to kill her a number of times. Petra’s not exactly the sanest person, but when your own mother has attempted to frame you for murder, I imagine it does things to you.
What makes Petra so compelling is a layer of heart that took some time to reveal itself. While some of the characters on the show have remained pretty stagnant, you can see growth in Petra. Jane Villanueva went from Petra’s nemesis to her family, and that’s just one tiny peek into the way she’s developed.
Petra has spent her entire life being told money and status are all that matter, so her life goals have always been focused on the acquisition of those things. She never really got the Christmas card family. A main reason she welcomes her long-lost twin back into her life is because it’s her first real shot at family. At the end of the day, that’s Petra’s main story. She wants love and she wants to be loved, but she has no idea what that feels like. She thinks it comes from money and status, which is why she’s back and forth with Rafael so many times. For obvious reasons, things with Rafael don’t quite work out. Most of her relationship with Rafael was her doing what she thought she should be doing to get the things her mother insisted were important. She wanted Rafael for what he provided, not for who he was.
Also, she’s queer as hell.
I find it interesting that when Petra finally acted on her feelings, it came as a shock to a lot of straight people. My friends and I were talking about Petra’s new developments, and I said something like “it’s about time.” All of them wanted to know what I meant by that. I had to face the realization that the tracks I thought were so clearly laid out went right over most people’s heads.
The way Petra never really seemed concerned about Rafael is what gave it away for me. She never cared for Rafael as a romantic partner, instead viewing him as a necessary step in her business plan. There wasn’t ever sweetness between the two of them. In the newest episode, Petra said herself that she’d never felt anything like what she’s feeling with Jane. Not Jane Villanueva. A new Jane named Jane Ramos, but nicknamed J.R. to avoid this confusion. Petra never worried about text messages or what to wear or how to be casual before. She never really got to experience that breathless teenage romance because, and I’m going out on a limb here, being attracted to women was never presented as an option to her when she was growing up.
A main reason Jane the Virgin gave Petra this storyline is because many viewers saw her the way I did; as a woman who falls under some part of the LGBT umbrella. Instead of laughing in viewers’ faces, the creators made it happen. Granted, a lot of viewers wanted to see this happen with Jane Villanueva, but naming Petra’s love interest Jane was their way of saying “we hear you, we see you, and we respect you.” More television shows should be like this instead of aggressively arguing for the heterosexuality of their characters.
Petra gets to have this wonderful, tooth-rottingly sweet love story with Jane Ramos (J.R.), and I absolutely adore how the fact that she’s experiencing this with a woman is treated as a non-issue. Jane and Rafael are more concerned with the fact that Petra giggled at a text message than the fact that the person who sent the text message is a woman. They’re just shocked to see a bubbly, hopelessly crushed version of Petra.
And that is a beautiful thing to see.
For once, the story has absolutely nothing to do with coming out. It has to do with being framed for murder and J.R. helping Petra get off. (The show made that play on words so many times, I had to pay my respects.) The story is really getting to know Petra and who she is behind the front she’s put up for so much of her life. It’s seeing a woman be happy in her own skin and be adored for who she is for the first time. Pickle breath and all.
I don’t know where Jane the Virgin plans to go with this storyline, and I pray Rosario Dawson (J.R.) continues her guest-starring streak. I don’t know if we’ll see Petra begin the coming out process, but I also don’t know if we need to. Although, I would LOVE to see Petra Solano at a pride parade. I think all we need to know is that J.R. makes Petra happy. It’s been four seasons, and it’s about time they let Petra be happy.