Imagine a show about the adventures of a young, comely virgin. Doubt it’d exist?
Jane the Virgin, adapted from a Venezuelan telenovela, is a new CW abshow that’s original, affable, and surprisingly respectful of religious believers. The show offers a new twist on traditional mores—provocatively and comically—asking: What happens when the wrong woman is artificially inseminated? And what if she is a 23-year-old virgin?
That premise might sound far-fetched, but it’s an outgrowth of our new reality. Consider, in October, an Ohio lesbian couple made headlines when they sued a sperm bank for inseminating one of the women with the wrong donor’s sperm.
In Jane’s case, a careless doctor inseminates her—the wrong patient—with the doctor’s own brother’s sperm during Jane’s gynecological check-up. Said sperm had been intended for the doctor’s sister-in-law, who was waiting in the next exam room. The situation is further complicated by the father’s being Rafael, Jane’s teenage crush and current boss at a Miami hotel.
As a devout Catholic, Jane is easily persuaded to keep, and eventually give, the baby to Rafael and his wife. It’s important to Jane, who was raised by her single teenage mother and grandmother, that this baby be raised by two parents.
Rather remarkably—given our typical TV landscape—the main character is both attractive and likable. She is socially normal, but also adheres to traditional Catholic teachings about sex belonging within marriage and about the sanctity of life. The story lines respect Jane’s decision not to sleep with her fiancé, Michael, or any other boyfriend who might have preceded him. She is not an object of derision.
Clara Del Villar, creator of the Familia con Fuego telenovela, emailed to comment:
Virginity might not be a present day reality among young people—but I think that is meant to be symbolic, not literal, in today’s age. . . The moral equilibrium, character, youthful seriousness—amidst today’s jaded pop culture—I think that is the story. You can be YOUNG, have a moral grounding, love family, be a teacher not a tech geek, pray but still be a sympathetic character, not be a jerk about it.
Jane is definitely not a jerk. When Jane is mocked by her (former) twin step-sisters for still having her “V-card,” there is an evil step-sister overtone that makes Jane look even lovelier, like Cinderella. Of course, by the end of that episode, the twins have repented and advised the nun-principal at their new Catholic high school that Jane is a positive role model for students, in spite of her pregnancy.
What’s interesting is the contrast between Jane and other TV virgins. First, she differentiates herself by not being a high school student looking to lose her virginity on prom night. Jane has consciously chosen to remain a virgin into her twenties. When Jerry dated virginal Marla Penny on Seinfeld, the group considered her an oddity. Jerry found her frustrating, and the show’s lone female character, the sexually liberated Elaine, couldn’t relate to her. In Seinfeldian terms, Marla has the last laugh when she loses her virginity to JFK, Jr., whom Elaine has spent the whole episode hoping to bed. Of course, in losing her virginity to a man she doesn’t know, Marla essentially becomes just like Jerry and his friends, upon whom she had previously looked down.
Grey’s Anatomy has also had its own virgin in the now-married April Kepner. April’s holding onto her virginity is explained by her rural roots and strong Christian faith. However, that doesn’t stop Meredith and her friends from teasing April and conveying that they think her freakish for not embracing casual sex, as they have. When April finally loses her virginity to her handsome friend Jackson Avery right before taking the Boards, she feels guilty and has a crisis of faith. So, maybe she should have waited. After all, she eventually marries Jackson anyway and is now carrying his baby.
Perhaps there is a TV-land lesson for Jane in all of this: Be patient. Keep respecting yourself. Now that Rafael’s marriage and Jane’s engagement are history, the right guy—likely the hunky Rafael—will be worth the wait.
Jane the Virgin airs Monday nights on the CW.