This week’s Jane the Virgin, entitled “Chapter 58,” wanted to talk about everything, whether it be Jane and Petra’s differing parental styles to making outdated references to our current President. But what it spoke loudest to was its male constituency. Jane the Virgin‘s always been a show that blends feminist topics with a healthy dose of male allies, but this latest season is executing a course correction that could prove troubling. I sat down with Awards Circuit television columnist Cristina Lule to wonder, “Why is logic left to the men?”
“Chapter 58” left Cristina and I referring to other shows with predominately white cast members – HBO’s Girls and Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer. The female protagonists of those shows are emphasized in the title, yet the strongest personality traits and storylines are reserved for their male cast members. This week’s Jane saw Rogelio and Rafael take center stage as the voices of calm and rationality in contrast to Petra and Jane’s catty scheming.
Cristina: I really hope this show doesn’t go the way of Girls.
Kristen: Despite the female characters at the center they’re doing a lot to prop up the men by opening the door to them being the problem solvers.
This was illustrated in two specific scenes: Where Rogelio lays out the solution to stop Petra and Jane’s petty parental rivalry (simultaneously apologizing/explaining how this is a telenovela device), and Rafael telling Petra she isn’t a domineering “dragon.”
Kristen: Petra is definitely a mama bear, but why was Rafael the one to tell her that? Is it because Petra has no female friends?
Cristina: Why does it take Rafael and Rogelio for these two to come to their senses?
Kristen: Jane is surrounded by women in her life, yet Rogelio – the one character with nothing to do this season – arrives to solve this episodes-long problem?
And make no mistake, the Petra-Jane rivalry came to nothing. In an episode filled with Trump vs. Hillary allusions as the two women vied to be “room mom,” Rafael, once again, solved the issue. Jane and Petra came to the conclusion that, though Rafael’s had little interaction inside the classroom, he was the perfect choice for “room dad.”
Cristina: It supports the notion that women can’t work out their problems and that men are natural leaders.
This isn’t an issue limited to Rafael’s swoop into the position; the show’s relied on other male figures to push Jane towards a revelation more than once this season. Remember Jane’s laid-back “bro” editor who finally gave her the inspiration she needed to fix her novel? We also saw, again in this episode, Mateo’s storyline solved via the help of a male aide.
Kristen: Remember, the female aide we saw was a gossip who didn’t really care about Mateo. This guy shows up and in one episode he’s got Mateo all figured out!
Cristina: I wish his character was written to be female.
Kristen: The ladies’ agency has been non-existent of late.
Even a simplistic moment like as an argument between Chuck and Petra saw Rafael settle it with his presence in a bizarre moment of male dominance.
Cristina: Raf had to come in and tell Chuck to leave? Women apparently can’t do stuff by themselves!
The show certainly deserves praise for having so many men in Jane’s corner, but is it now coming at the expense of the women themselves? Cristina and I both noted that Jane and Petra have devolved into sitcom versions of themselves. After seemingly uniting in the first and second seasons – even the third season has alluded to them bonding during Rafael’s prison term – the two continue to fall into a reset and repeat pattern of hating each other only to reconcile. This time their backbiting never transcends the comedic to tackle issues like race and classism that came through clearest during their political homages. The show feared alienating too many people and came off like a toothless Modern Family sketch. Throw in the need for male reason and the entire affair left a sour taste in the mouth.
There are very simple things Jane the Virgin could do to get back on track, and one of those is letting the ladies take the reins once again.