Looking Back on Representation (or Lack Thereof) in Jane the Virgin During Its Epic, Final Season

Jane the Virgin Belatina
Photo Credit CW ~ Rafael and Jane have had a shock.

The second episode of Jane the Virgin’s final season airs tomorrow night, and you should definitely not try to watch it without seeing last Wednesday’s season premiere. Without publishing any spoilers, the season 4 finale rocked Jane’s world so dramatically that characters in last week’s episode end up fainting in shock. Gina Rodriguez also directed and delivered a show-stopping, can’t-miss monologue that reminds us all why her character has been so magnetic over the course of the show. The season 5 premiere introduced all of the plot lines that will come to a head by the show’s finale at the end of July.

Rodriguez told Vanity Fair that there are going to be “a lot of dope things this season.” She talked about how privileged she has been to work with the writers of her show. “They just always cared and the quality always stayed really fierce and strong, and I think because of that I’m really excited about this season. I’m really excited that we’re closing up a show with such tenacity and nobody let up.”

In the waning weeks of the show, cast members, writers, and fans have been looking back on the legacy of Jane the Virgin, praising the way that the show expanded representation in popular media. The most prominent way it did that is by bringing aspects of Latinx family dynamics and culture to a major television network, to wide acclaim. “It so expertly deploys tropes, styles, and themes familiar to Latinx audiences — while still being accessible to a broad range of viewers — that it almost seems crass to call it a successful case study of what happens when a network commits to ‘diversity,’” wrote Diana Martinez in The Atlantic during the show’s second season.

Jaime Camil, who plays the role of Jane’s biological father, told the New York Times about how refreshing it was for him to play a vulnerable male character who was more than willing to let the women in his life make the important decisions. “The fact that audiences like our characters, that’s amazing, that’s a blessing,” he said. “I think we’re leaving behind a legacy of a beautiful, well-written, well-created show that will bring joy to many generations as long as we are able to be on Netflix for many, many years.”

However, Latinx representation in the show was clearly limited by its glaring absence of Afro-Latinx characters, made all the more problematic by the way that Rodriguez recently handled what critics felt were anti-black sleights. “[She’s] saying things that are well-intentioned but come across as meaning to erase the experiences of dark-skinned women of color, specifically black women,” a fan told the Phoenix New Times. “Being a person of color doesn’t excuse you from other types of inherent bias.”

Perhaps less obvious is the nuanced representation of motherhood. Kathryn VanArendonk wrote in Vulture about how her own experiences as a new mother coincided with Jane’s “in her concern about how to become a parent… Not to mention the show’s remarkable depiction of the mundane specifics of early parenthood, the breast pumps and sleep training and separation anxieties that are now appearing more frequently [in other shows].”