Are ‘Jane the Virgin’s Writers Reluctant to Take on Race?

Jane the Virgin Recap: Season 3, Episode 11

After the emotional gut-punch that was last week’s episode, it was assumed Jane the Virgin’s three-year jump into the future would kickstart a return to the hope and optimism the show is known for. But might that have been too much, too soon? “Chapter Fifty-Five” left the audience wondering how characters got from A to B (why do Rogelio and Darci hate each other?), but it threatens to act as a mid-point retcon of a season that already felt aimless. The biggest takeaway from this week’s episode involved Jane and Petra – two versions of motherhood separated by a gulf of class and race distinctions worth examining. This week I was joined by Remezcla’s trending editor, Yara Simón.

Jane struggled to deal with Mateo’s inability to control himself, whether it be pinching or throwing things. Is this a delayed reaction to Michael’s death? There’s no clear indication. What we did see were Jane and Petra’s differing attempts to solve the problem.

Yara: Petra, she’s so involved [now].

Kristen: Petra’s become the type A mom. What’s unique is the race disparity. Based on what we’re seeing, Jane is the only mom of color in this school.

Yara: I feel like I always hear about Latina moms being sterner. Jane’s more stern with her own parents [than with her son].

Kristen: Last week we were talking about Petra being able to have help, hiring nannies full-time. Now that she’s involved in her kid’s lives, does that make her actions to discipline Mateo come off like “I’m white, so I’m authoritative” regarding parenting? We’re assuming Petra doesn’t have nannies anymore, but there’s an obnoxious air of superiority. Petra has this very white, upper-class Stepford approach to parenting.

Yara: She’s certainly very judgmental about the way Jane parents.

Kristen: Dare I bring up white privilege again?

Yara: I wonder how many Latinos Mateo actually goes to school with?

Kristen: I ask that about every situation Jane’s involved in, whether it be school or her career. It seems like a very upper crust school, and Petra even said she had to get Mateo in. Almost like a reminder that her money (and maybe even whiteness) aided Jane in some way.

Yara: I’m from Miami, so I always find it disappointing that the people they are surrounded by aren’t more Latino. Though I doubt any other TV shows are as good at representing a fully-dimensional Latina on TV as Jane is.

Kristen: It’s why I always question whether this is an idealized portrait of inclusion. Jane doesn’t fall into stereotypes, but she always seems like the predominant Latina character outside of her family or immediate sphere of influence. It’s hard for her not to come off as the “Latina mom” when she’s supposedly the only one in the scene. Those Stepford moms Petra was with felt like women in my town who’d be VERY judgmental of the non-white mom.

Yara: Jane and Petra’s relationship has definitely flipped. Jane has always been very judgmental.

Kristen: I missed when their friendship had actual complexity. Now they both use parenting as a means of purging their issues with each other. I don’t have kids, but I’m leaning towards Petra’s style for how to handle Mateo.

Yara: That’s what my mom would do.

Kristen: I think it’s interesting that Petra and Jane are clashing, yet Jane’s family looks to have little interaction in raising Mateo from what we’re seeing. When Alba started in on Mateo Jane didn’t have the same reaction.

Yara: I wonder if it’s because she’s not used to having Petra look down on her? That might be too strong, but Jane’s not used to being in the wrong.

Kristen: And I’m sure there are unresolved issues regarding class there too; the idea that Petra looks down on Jane from a place of being a successful businesswoman. Petra wants to leave a legacy for her daughters which is fascinating since we don’t often see women in power say they want to leave a way to empower their daughters in pop culture.

Yara: I have always found Petra interesting because she’s actually good at business.

Kristen: Petra’s always embodied the American Dream to me, as we often mythologize it. She was an immigrant who came here and made a success. She did it through marriage, but she’s proven more than adept on her own. I say this all the time but I want more Petra/Jane development. These two have gone through hell together.

Yara: Their lives are completely intertwined and it seems like they’re finally getting back to a place where they’re friends again. Plus, it’s nice because they won’t be fighting over Rafael anymore, which I can always do with less of. They’re interesting on their own; they don’t need some weird love triangle to push their stories forward.

Read the rest of our Jane the Virgin recaps here.