Jane the Virgin first premiered on the CW in October of 2014 and has since been changing the way Latinas are represented on television.
The show's premise centers around Jane Gloriana Villanueva, played by Gina Rodriguez, and how her life is turned upside down when she is accidentally artificially inseminated. Jane is faced with the decision of whether or not to assume the role of being a mother, despite the fact that she still has a few milestones to complete.
At 23-years-old, Jane is a virgin and her inexperience is due in-part to her religious Abuela who always reminds Jane that once her virginity is gone, it's gone forever. While most of us can relate to Jane when she's dealing with her Abuela and her own inner battles, her character in the show serves a larger purpose than presenting viewers with witty humor and relatable anecdotes. Jane strays away from the stereotypical, token Latina character.
Instead, she is cast in a new light that trades hypersexual narratives and the role of the lusty vixen for a first-generation Latina who is just trying to get by. Jane's character is more relatable to Latinas on a broader spectrum because she doesn't fit into the typical on-screen mold.
There's nothing plain about this Jane—except for her name.
Despite the countless number of Marias, Consuelos and Guadalupes that Hispanic characters always seem to be named, Jane Villanueva is the perfect example of how you can be a Latina and still not fall into the stereotypical mold. There's nothing wrong with having a Hispanic name, but more often than not television caters more to the idea of what a Latina should be, rather than the idea that a Latina can be just about anything, with just about any name, occupation, appearance, orientation, etcetera.
One of the major plot points follows Jane's career as a writer and a scholar, honing in on her love of English and writing. Part of what makes Jane such a memorable character is that she is a brain. She isn't cast as a character with an exaggerated heavy accent but instead carries herself in such a way that adds depth to her character and highlights both her identity as a Latina and as a first-generation Venezuelan-American.
Gina Rodriguez touched on her own struggles as a first-generation American and how speaking English as a first language was important to her parents. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Rodriguez stated: "My parents specifically were terrified of us having accents because they were made fun of their whole life for accents so they wanted to assimilate us into a culture that wouldn't right away put their guard up against us because of our accent."
We've all heard the phrase "Sex sells" and when it comes to Latinas, this couldn't be more accurate. Latinas are often hypersexualized on the big screen and referred to as spicy or exotic as if using adjectives typically used to describe food or zoo animals can adequately describe human beings.
Jane breaks this stereotype from the start, proving that Latinas can play characters that have substance and play significant roles within a show without resorting to distasteful stereotypes that undermine them.