Jane Gloriana Villanueva has always been a good Catholic. She waited until marriage to lose her virginity (despite maybe kinda not following the letter of the law) for crying out loud! But the last few episodes haven’t seen Jane drop to her knees to give Hosannas. As the conductor of the Guilt Trip Express, Alba decided it was time for Jane to return to church. Let’s dive into the final Jane the Virgin episode for 2016, “Chapter 51.” This week’s chat guest is Awards Circuit writer Karen Peterson. We watched the mid-season finale together and discussed the role that religion, specifically Catholicism, plays in Jane’s life; co-parenting and religious training; and how Jane uses it to achieve her own ends. Here are the highlights.
Kristen: Jane’s religion is important and I’m glad we’re focused on it, but does it help if Alba’s the one doing it?
Karen: Jane’s virginity was supposed to be because of religious reasons, but it’s always been her grandmother’s religious reasons, not hers.
Kristen: And with all the secrets about her sister I just don’t know if it’s right to have Alba as the walking reminder of Catholic guilt.
Karen: I go back and forth on how I feel about Alba. Her Catholic Guilt is accurate, but most of the Catholic grandmothers I’ve known have either not done the things they lecture against, or they’re REALLY good at lying about it.
Kristen: My grandmother became UBER Catholic and tried to convince me to join a nunnery!
What happens when two parents differ on their kid’s religion? It’s unfortunate Rafael’s distaste for religion stems from a weird experience he had in an Italian convent with his mother, because he isn’t wrong in his views on waiting till Mateo is older to learn about God. Too often it seems Rafael is a good-time Charlie to Jane’s level-headed matron. Here, all three parents (yes, even Michael) have good ideas when it comes to whether Mateo should be “born in” the Church or brought to it of his own free will.
Kristen: It sounds like Rafael has more of a Protestant or Episcopalian view of Catholicism; in terms of wanting Mateo to decide what god he’ll worship when he’s older.
Karen: And this situation with Michael is perfect. He’s getting dragged in even though he doesn’t want to.
Kristen: I’ll admit, I agree with Michael. I’m all for letting kids work out religion on their own. I was forced to go to Church so that could explain it. Michael even calls out Jane on her hypocrisy; she hasn’t even been to mass lately. He’s more of a “C&E Catholic” [Christmas and Easter Catholic]. I’m a “only when bad things happen” Catholic.
Kristen: I wish Rafael’s antipathy towards church didn’t involve these flashbacks. He can be against religion for his own reasons.
Karen: His feelings on religion can be apathetic without drudging up PTSD. I know they’re following the telenovela structure, but seriously, how much more dirt is in Rafael’s family’s past?
Is Jane ever outright wrong? Yes. Jane excoriates Rafael, saying if he went to church he’d know right from wrong. Jane’s religion is important to her, no one can take that as way. But to use it against Rafael is no better than Alba slut-shaming Xiomara, or making Jane feel guilty about avoiding church in the first place! The Villanueva women this season are being shown for their flaws. They’re becoming more complex and forcing the audience to decide whether those flaws can be overcome.
Kristen: Just because he doesn’t go to church doesn’t mean he’s a bad person because of it.
Karen: And just because someone goes to church doesn’t make them good.
Kristen: Alba and Jane have a nasty tendency of abusing religion for their own ends.
Karen: They tend to throw it in peoples’ faces, which is one of the reasons a lot of people don’t like religion in the first place.
Kristen: We could chart Catholic guilt all the way to the creation of the show, starting with Alba’s declaration about sex before marriage. Rogelio’s even got a little Catholic guilt about not raising Jane.
Karen: Which is different from Alba, who uses it in what she thinks will help Jane.
Jane’s declaration that she’s mad at God feels like an excuse for her treatment of Rafael. Can’t Jane’s excuse about life getting in the way of church be good enough? Does there have to be a deeper meaning to our appreciation, or lack of, for religion?
Karen: This part about Jane being mad at God would make more sense if she had shown any previous resistance to going to church. It makes sense for her to be mad at God. It just feels like it came out of nowhere.