Bryan Cranston: And the winner is…Gina Rodriguez!
Golden Globes viewers, and the world at large: ……….
At least, that’s how I imagined things went for the people at home, when the female lead of The CW’s new show Jane the Virgin took home the coveted Best Actress in a Television Comedy award. The Hollywood Foreign Press is notorious for awarding shows in their infancy—last year Brooklyn Nine-Nine scored statues for both Andy Samberg and Most Funniest or Musicaliest Show, after only half a season. This year, shiny new Rodriguez beat out more recognizable faces like Edie Falco for Nurse Jackie and Taylor Schilling for Orange is the New Black. And while Rodriguez isn’t doing the best comedic acting of the bunch (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, forever and forever amen), she’s pretty damn good in a show that I, against all odds, really enjoy.
Here are the basics: Rodriguez’s character Jane is, as the title says, a mid-twenties virgin, who promised her grandmother that she’d wait until marriage. She’s accidentally inseminated while at the gynecologist, and while that’s the basic gist, there are all kinds of intertwined plots and characters and over the top moments because, oh yeah, it’s modeled on a telenovela. Complete with accented voice-over narration.
Upon hearing the description of Jane, my reaction was, in essence, “NOPE.” But critics couldn’t stop praising the show and Rodriguez’s performance, so I caved. NPR’s Linda Holmes is the greatest peer pressurer I’ll ever know. And now, I am peer pressuring you.
Here’s why I like it: Jane isn’t a preachy square or beholden to some ideal about pristine women. Gina Rodriguez is likable and magnetic and real, playing Jane with a glint in her eye. She’s in charge of her sexuality—she writes a very dirty letter to her fiancé that ends up in the wrong hands (antics!), and even at one point decides to have sex (though she reneges mid-foreplay). Her virginity is more about her loyalty to her family and the integrity of her promise than the sex itself.
The world of the show is colorful and bright, making Miami almost fairytale-esque. Its vibe is reminiscent of the cult-beloved Pushing Daises, though more grounded.
The Latin Lover-type voice-over is the star of the show. While VO is often a sign of lazy writing, Jane uses it to keep the audience reminded of all the intricate melodrama from previous episodes, and for jokes. So many jokes. Think Ron Howard in Arrested Development. The humor cuts through a plot that might otherwise be just a little too saccharine for my taste.
Also, v. v. important:
It’s really nice to take in some pop culture featuring people of color. Women of color even! Around the holidays, I read a string of books that I enjoyed, but were all about stuffy white people. “I’m done with you, white people!” I pronounced. “You’re all boring, and you can’t jump or dance!” And then I walked into a bookstore and bought two books by authors of color that I still haven’t read. But I will! At the very least, I have the lovely women of Jane the Virgin for now.
This show isn’t for everyone. It’s a little cheesy, and is a no-holds-barred romantic comedy. But if this jaded, love-Grinch can get into it, it should be a cinch for you, starry-eyed Reader.