Jane the Virgin Television Bible

This is an assignment I completed for my television criticism class. The purpose of this assignment was to gain knowledge about the television industry while improving our critical analysis and creative writing skills.

 

Jane the Virgin

a Comedic Television Series

by Jennie Snyder Urman

bible by Chantal Cowie

Question:

How does a young woman who has spent her life passionately protecting her virginity and her plans for the future adapt and adjust to the chaos brought into her life when she is accidentally artificially inseminated?

Critical Premise:

Fueled by a desire to learn from her mother’s mistakes and the teachings of her Alba, Jane Villanueva, a pious and hardworking young Latina woman, grows up fixated on following the rules as she navigates the timeline she has created for her life. This is a story about Jane’s journey and transformation when she is pushed out of the comfort-zone of her pure lifestyle and into the unpredictable, immoral world of Raphael Solano, the father of the sperm she is artificially inseminated with.

Jane’s determination to make a decision about what to do following the insemination is heavily influenced by her familial ideals and adoration for romance. When Jane is blind-sided by deception from her fiancé, Michael Cordero, on information pertinent to her decision, their relationship crumbles and Jane relents to the growing feelings she has for Raphael. Jane desires to thrive in a relationship with the father of her unborn baby while preserving the sanctity of her family and managing her career. The involvement of Raphael’s hotel in a massive drug lord investigation, the unexpected introduction of Jane’s father into her life, and the decisions Jane has to make between her passion for writing and her career as a teacher, create an endless amount of hurdles for Jane to surpass on her path to becoming an adult and a new mother.

Recombinant of the telenova Juana La Virgin and the ABC network show Ugly Betty, Jane the Virgin will be a culturally progressive program dominated by female and Hispanic actors, giving representation to minorities in the television medium. Additionally, through the characters and the narrative, this show will draw positive attention to hot button topics like gay marriage, immigration, and female body image in the media. The great weakness of the show will be its tendency to indulge in antifeminist stereotypes and perpetuate negative concepts of female sexuality by portraying female sexuality as an irresponsible, evil, and negative concept through various characters.

Sample Episodes:

-“Pilot- S1 E1”: The theme of this episode is “unexpected life-changing moments.” This episode introduces the characters that are or will be major aspects of Jane’s life in future episodes. This pilot highlights the pivotal moments within the lives of these characters that will eventually come to influence the trajectory of Jane’s life.

-The A- story will focus on important moments in Jane’s life that influence her life path significantly. The first is her conversation with her grandmother about her virginity when she is young. The second is her engagement to Michael. The third is her discovery that she is pregnant from a medical mistake. The B-story will focus on the turning points in the deterioration of the relationship between Raphael and his wife, Petra. The most important turning point for the narrative will be Petra’s decision to artificially inseminate herself with Rafael’s sperm as a last ditch effort to prevent him from divorcing her. The C-story will focus on the critical moment in Dr. Louisa Alver’s life when she discovers her wife, Allison, is cheating on her. This discovery leads her to be so emotionally distracted that she accidentally artificially inseminates Jane during her gynecologist appointment instead of Petra. The D-story will focus on Roman Zazo’s relationship with Petra and with the drug investigation Jane’s fiancé, Michael, is doing. The story will highlight the important moment when Michael discovers Petra’s infidelity. A discovery he will later hide from Jane, leading to the demise of their relationship. The E- story will focus on Xiomara Villanueva, Jane’s mother and her relationship with Jane’s father, Rogelio de la Vega. This story will show the moment when Jane’s mother decided to exclude Rogelio from Jane’s life and the moment when she decided to reintroduce him.

“Chapter Six- S1 E6”- The theme of this episode is “seeing things differently.” Jane’s perspective of Michael, Raphael, Rogelio and her role as a teacher will shift significantly as result of the interactions she has with various characters in this episode. Xiomara will begin to view her relationship with Rogelio in a different light. And the audience will get a closer understanding of Petra’s character by learning of her past.

-The A-story will focus on Jane’s relationships with Michael, Raphael, and Rogelio and her progress with her teaching career. After finding out Michael has not been honest with her about information related to her pregnancy, Jane decides she can no longer be with Michael because she sees him differently from the way she saw him before he broke her trust. After Raphael confesses his feelings for Jane, Jane begins to fall for him, straying from their previously platonic relationship. Jane and Rogelio will make progress in their relationship when Rogelio explains that his big gestures, like buying her a car, are not meaningless purchases and instead, represent his desire to act as a supportive role in her life. Jane acquires a new position as a teacher at a Catholic high school attended by Rogelio’s former stepdaughters. The former stepdaughters are jealous of Jane’s relationship with Rogelio and consequently, bully her at the high school. Jane learns a new way to deal with the mean girls from her mother and is able to handle them differently than her high school self would have. The B-story will focus on Xiomara and Rogelio’s budding relationship and the conflict between Xiomara and Rogelio’s ex-wife. Conflict between the women causes Xiomara to view her relationship with Rogelio differently and to make the decision to distance herself from Rogelio romantically, so as to not interfere with his relationship with Jane. The C- story will focus the past Petra is running from and will provide an explanation for why she continues to attempt to use Raphael for money.

- “Chapter Eleven- S1 E11”- The theme of this episode is “signs.” The characters in this episode label various occurrences subjectively as “signs” to help themselves interpret and make decisions in situations. This method of decision-making proves to be ineffective when Jane fails to make a decision between jobs and does not agree with Michael on his interpretation of an occurrence he says is a “sign” they should be together.

-The A-story will focus on the decisions Jane is facing in her work life and her desire to find a “sign” as an indication of what she should do. Jane is given a permanent position as a middle school teacher and an internship with the writing team for the Passions of Santos. Although she is overextended, Jane attempts to keep both of these jobs with the hope that she will get a “sign” for the best path to take. She continuously misinterprets her baby kicking as butterflies that are a “sign” for a positive occurrence. Jane wants her mother to like Raphael and fixates on this idea throughout the episode, getting the two together for dinner. Jane runs into Michael at the hospital after he is injured doing investigative work. Michael tries to say that it is a “sign” they should be together but Jane does not see it that way and tells Michael she sees herself with Raphael. The B- story will focus on Michael’s investigation on the drug lord Sin Rostro and the possible involvement of Raphael’s father. The C- story will focus on Lachlan Moore’s manipulation of Petra in her vulnerable state of fear that her ex boyfriend will find her. The D- story will focus on Xiomara’s attempt to keep the promise she made to God to stay celibate when Alba was hurt in the hospital.

Lead Characters:

-JANE GLORIANA VILLANUEVA is a 24-year-old college student, aspiring writer, daughter, granddaughter, and pregnant virgin attempting to navigate her relationships, career, and romantic endeavors after a medical mistake drastically derails her life plan. As a type A bookworm, Jane has a passion for education, hard work, planning, and schedules. Jane is mature beyond her years as a result of being the child of a mother who prefers the role of best friend to matriarch.

As Jeremy Butler explains, an object correlative is an object producers associate with a character, like the white flower Jane receives from her grandmother, to convey information about the character (Butler, 62). In “Pilot” (S1 E1), the audience is introduced to the flower in an external analepsis of ten-year-old Jane as Alba tells her that loosing her virginity is like crumpling the flower, it can never be returned to its original state. The flower represents Jane’s determination to lead her life along a path different from her mother’s, with her nose to the rulebook, embracing the pious guidance of her Alba and holding the preservation of her virginity to the upmost importance. The repetition of this object correlative and external analepsis is used by the producers in later episodes to show how Jane’s unexpected pregnancy forces her to reevaluate her responsible, risk free approach to life (“Chapter Three,” S1 E3).

-RAPHAEL SOLANO is a son, brother, and former playboy who transitions from the trapped husband of a money-hungry vixen to Jane’s boyfriend and the father of her unborn child. Born into wealth, Raphael meets his gold-digging wife, Petra Andel, during his youth as a reckless and irresponsible socialite. His perspective on life changes, however, after overcoming prostate cancer. After Jane’s unpredicted entrance into Raphael’s life, he fights to escape Petra and his image from the past and to manage the hurdles in his professional and personal life to prove to Jane, himself, and the world that he is a man worthy of respect and responsibility.

As Jeremy Butler explains, bodily attributes in narratives have the ability to carry clearer meanings than facial ones (Butler, 61). This holds true for Raphael’s character. In order to better establish the image of his playboy past and to validate his ability to use his sexuality as a tool in the future, the producers utilize Raphael’s corporeal attributes to portray his sex appeal and charisma with women. An example of this is when he woos the teen twins on the beach (“Chapter Six,” S1 E6). Additionally, the producers use these attributes to emphasize and externally portray Raphael’s inner struggle for power and success in his career. For example, when Raphael is fighting against Petra for her share of the Marbella and is interrupted by Lachlan at the gym. Lachlan suggests they work together to use Petra’s sex tape against her and Raphael agrees (“Chapter Fifteen,” S1 E15).

-PETRA ANDEL is a daughter, an ex-fiancé to Lachlan Moore, and an ex-wife to Raphael Solano (“Chapter Four,” S1 E4). Her real name is Natalia and these relationships are a byproduct of her attempt to make a new life for herself in the U.S. after fleeing from her criminal ex-boyfriend in the Czech Republic, Milos (“Chapter Nine,” S1 E9). Petra’s actions are manipulated by guilt from her controlling mother who has driven her to adopt a vicious man-eating persona in order to get what she desires. Petra cloaks her fears and vulnerabilities with callous selfishness in her interference with Raphael and Jane’s life (“Pilot,” S1 E1). At heart, Petra desires to be loved and to succeed in her new life in the U.S. However, she is corrupted by her mother’s influence and attempts to achieve these goals by taking the back roads of deceit and deception (“Chapter Twenty-One,” S1 E21).

Petra’s costuming is a key code producers utilize to convey her character’s desire for a lavish and successful life. An example of this can be seen from the large statement necklaces she wears to accompany her outfits (“Chapter Three,” S1 E3). Petra embodies her desire by wearing clothes with high necklines, preppy patterns, and quality material to mimic her rigid and superior attitude (“Chapter Four,” S1 E4). Additionally, the application of the lipstick she wears the rest of the season for the first time after she has performed oral sex on Raphael is suggestive of her man-eating tactics (“Pilot,” S1 E1).

Recurring Characters:

-ALBA VILLANUEVA is a widow, mother, and grandmother. As the matriarch of the household, Alba is a devote Catholic and embodies the voice of discipline her daughter lacks. Alba speaks only in Spanish but understands English. She is a hopeless romantic and passes down this trait and her love for telenovelas to her daughter and granddaughter. Alba is opinionated, moral, and caring and prizes God and her family above all else in her life (“Pilot,” S1 E1).

Jeremy Butler states technical devices associated with the camera have the ability to influence the development of a character. This technique is utilized for Alba’s character to further communicate her position as the pious authority figure in Jane’s life. Whenever there is an external analepses to a time when Alba teaches young Jane a life lesson, the camera is at a low-angle medium close-up in on Alba’s face. This camera positioning gives the audience Jane’s perspective and suggests the impact Alba’s life lesson has on Jane. For example, when Alba teaches Jane about her virginity (“Pilot,” S1 E1) or when she teaches Jane about how lies spiral (“Chapter Three,” S1 E3).

-XIOMARA VILLNUEVA is a daughter, a mother, a dance instructor, and an aspiring singer. As the result of a stunted adolescence from her teenage pregnancy, Xiomara embodies a youthful mentality and energy. She is a dedicated mother and best friend to Jane and has spent her life placing Jane’s needs above her own. Jane fills the role of a companion in her life while she carries on casual relationships with various men. Xiomara is opinionated, head strong, hard working, confident, and loving (“Pilot,” S1 E1).

As Ellen Seiter explains, binary oppositions can be used by producers to develop meaning for characters in the story world through their relationships in these organizing categories (Seiter, 37). The costuming for Jane and Xiomara is utilized as a key code to show the binary opposition of the attitudes these characters hold and to give meaning to their persona’s and actions throughout the season. Xiomara’s teen-like appearance and Jane’s wholesome and mature image are enforced throughout the season when Jane is depicted next to her mother in conservative clothing while her mother sports outfits like a revealing jean short jumpsuit (“Pilot,” S1 E1) or short jean shorts, a sparkly tank top, and heels (“Chapter Twenty-One,” S1 E21).

Critical Premise:

Fueled by a desire to learn from her mother’s mistakes and the teachings of her Alba, Jane Villanueva, a pious and hardworking young Latina woman, grows up fixated on following the rules as she navigates the timeline she has created for her life. This is a story about Jane’s journey and transformation when she is pushed out of the comfort-zone of her pure lifestyle and into the unpredictable, immoral world of Raphael Solano, the father of the sperm she is artificially inseminated with.

Jane’s determination to make a decision about what to do following the insemination is heavily influenced by her familial ideals and adoration for romance. When Jane is blind-sided by deception from her fiancé, Michael Cordero, on information pertinent to her decision, their relationship crumbles and Jane relents to the growing feelings she has for Raphael. Jane desires to thrive in a relationship with the father of her unborn baby while preserving the sanctity of her family and managing her career. The involvement of Raphael’s hotel in a massive drug lord investigation, the unexpected introduction of Jane’s father into her life, and the decisions Jane has to make between her passion for writing and her career as a teacher, create an endless amount of hurdles for Jane to surpass on her path to becoming an adult and a new mother.

Recombinant of the telenova Juana La Virgin and the ABC network show Ugly Betty, Jane the Virgin will be a culturally progressive program dominated by female and Hispanic actors, giving representation to minorities in the television medium. Additionally, through the characters and the narrative, this show will draw positive attention to hot button topics like gay marriage, immigration, and female body image in the media. The great weakness of the show will be its tendency to indulge in antifeminist stereotypes and perpetuate negative concepts of female sexuality by portraying female sexuality as an irresponsible, evil, and negative concept through various characters.

Sample Episodes:

-“Pilot- S1 E1”: The theme of this episode is “unexpected life-changing moments.” This episode introduces the characters that are or will be major aspects of Jane’s life in future episodes. This pilot highlights the pivotal moments within the lives of these characters that will eventually come to influence the trajectory of Jane’s life.

-The A- story will focus on important moments in Jane’s life that influence her life path significantly. The first is her conversation with her grandmother about her virginity when she is young. The second is her engagement to Michael. The third is her discovery that she is pregnant from a medical mistake. The B-story will focus on the turning points in the deterioration of the relationship between Raphael and his wife, Petra. The most important turning point for the narrative will be Petra’s decision to artificially inseminate herself with Rafael’s sperm as a last ditch effort to prevent him from divorcing her. The C-story will focus on the critical moment in Dr. Louisa Alver’s life when she discovers her wife, Allison, is cheating on her. This discovery leads her to be so emotionally distracted that she accidentally artificially inseminates Jane during her gynecologist appointment instead of Petra. The D-story will focus on Roman Zazo’s relationship with Petra and with the drug investigation Jane’s fiancé, Michael, is doing. The story will highlight the important moment when Michael discovers Petra’s infidelity. A discovery he will later hide from Jane, leading to the demise of their relationship. The E- story will focus on Xiomara Villanueva, Jane’s mother and her relationship with Jane’s father, Rogelio de la Vega. This story will show the moment when Jane’s mother decided to exclude Rogelio from Jane’s life and the moment when she decided to reintroduce him.

“Chapter Six- S1 E6”- The theme of this episode is “seeing things differently.” Jane’s perspective of Michael, Raphael, Rogelio and her role as a teacher will shift significantly as result of the interactions she has with various characters in this episode. Xiomara will begin to view her relationship with Rogelio in a different light. And the audience will get a closer understanding of Petra’s character by learning of her past.

-The A-story will focus on Jane’s relationships with Michael, Raphael, and Rogelio and her progress with her teaching career. After finding out Michael has not been honest with her about information related to her pregnancy, Jane decides she can no longer be with Michael because she sees him differently from the way she saw him before he broke her trust. After Raphael confesses his feelings for Jane, Jane begins to fall for him, straying from their previously platonic relationship. Jane and Rogelio will make progress in their relationship when Rogelio explains that his big gestures, like buying her a car, are not meaningless purchases and instead, represent his desire to act as a supportive role in her life. Jane acquires a new position as a teacher at a Catholic high school attended by Rogelio’s former stepdaughters. The former stepdaughters are jealous of Jane’s relationship with Rogelio and consequently, bully her at the high school. Jane learns a new way to deal with the mean girls from her mother and is able to handle them differently than her high school self would have. The B-story will focus on Xiomara and Rogelio’s budding relationship and the conflict between Xiomara and Rogelio’s ex-wife. Conflict between the women causes Xiomara to view her relationship with Rogelio differently and to make the decision to distance herself from Rogelio romantically, so as to not interfere with his relationship with Jane. The C- story will focus the past Petra is running from and will provide an explanation for why she continues to attempt to use Raphael for money.

- “Chapter Eleven- S1 E11”- The theme of this episode is “signs.” The characters in this episode label various occurrences subjectively as “signs” to help themselves interpret and make decisions in situations. This method of decision-making proves to be ineffective when Jane fails to make a decision between jobs and does not agree with Michael on his interpretation of an occurrence he says is a “sign” they should be together.

-The A-story will focus on the decisions Jane is facing in her work life and her desire to find a “sign” as an indication of what she should do. Jane is given a permanent position as a middle school teacher and an internship with the writing team for the Passions of Santos. Although she is overextended, Jane attempts to keep both of these jobs with the hope that she will get a “sign” for the best path to take. She continuously misinterprets her baby kicking as butterflies that are a “sign” for a positive occurrence. Jane wants her mother to like Raphael and fixates on this idea throughout the episode, getting the two together for dinner. Jane runs into Michael at the hospital after he is injured doing investigative work. Michael tries to say that it is a “sign” they should be together but Jane does not see it that way and tells Michael she sees herself with Raphael. The B- story will focus on Michael’s investigation on the drug lord Sin Rostro and the possible involvement of Raphael’s father. The C- story will focus on Lachlan Moore’s manipulation of Petra in her vulnerable state of fear that her ex boyfriend will find her. The D- story will focus on Xiomara’s attempt to keep the promise she made to God to stay celibate when Alba was hurt in the hospital.

“Picture It”: Jane the Virgin will embrace the satirical romantic comedy-drama tone of Ugly Betty (ABC 2006- 2010) while embodying twisting and turning plot structure similar to the Venezuelan telenovela it is adapted from, Juana la Virgen (RCTV 2002). This will all be tied together by an underlying aura of a cop thriller like CSI: Miami (CBS 2002-2012).

Genre:

According to Jane Feuer, the content of soap operas has expanded and transformed over time (106). Jane the Virgin retains the method of the telenovela it is adapted from with a woman-centered world and fast-paced plot lines. Additionally, the show confronts real world value conflicts. However, the show does not possess the same exaggeration of emotion and gestures that its telenovela counter-part utilizes. This supports Fuer’s argument for the redefinition of certain received categories of genre like soap operas.

Jane the Virgin embraces a variety of the sitcom qualities outlined by the scholars in Feuer’s discussion. The show’s similarities to Ugly Betty include the embrace of a basic plot with a new situation each week, a sitcom quality identified by a scholar in Feuer’s article (Feuer, 111). Betty is an unattractive woman working at a fashion magazine and Jane is a pregnant virgin. Additionally, Jane the Virgin and Ugly Betty embody the formula for domestic comedy listed by another scholar in Feuer’s article with the mental and emotional problems, the deep feelings of love, and the belief in family that the characters experience (Feuer,112).

Jane the Virgin provides support for Feuer’s statement that television genres have horizontal recombinance, meaning they combine across genre lines, with the embrace of a cop thriller essence in its plotline (Feuer, 119). This show provides support for Su Holmes’ claim that the cultural interpretation of texts is influenced by their place on a continuum (Holmes, 28). In contrast to the real world form of CSI: Miami, Jane the Virgin’s portrayal of the cop thriller facet of its storyline has an aura of fantasy. However, the show adheres to the continuum of basic genre conventions constructed from previous texts like the covering up of important information and the incitement of suspense and surprise. Therefore, the audience is able to identify and interpret the cop thriller storyline as a part of the show’s overall plot.

Style & Tone:

* MISE-EN-SCENE: According to Jason Mittell, staging, or mise-en-scene, should convey information about a show’s setting and tone. Jane the Virgin is set in Miami, Florida and the tone of the show is light hearted and comedic (177). Consequently, the color scheme for the set as well as the costumes of the show will consist of a combination of a wide variety of vibrant and pastel colors. This will work to reflect the warm Florida climate as well as the energetic, positive tone of the show. The costuming for each character will reflect their personality. For example, Xiomara’s adolescent attitude will be reflected through the scantily clad outfits she wears. In contrast, Jane’s reserved and responsible personality will be reflected through the conservative nature of her outfits and the cross necklace she consistently wears.

* CAMERAWORK/PRODUCTION: According to Mittell, camerawork shapes the meanings of and emotional responses to the stylistic elements of a TV show (183). Camerawork, specifically close-ups, will be used to emphasize important moments of character performance that are relevant to the development of the series as a whole. For example, when Alba teaches Jane life lessons about her virginity and honesty. Close-ups will also be used to emphasize important props that act as symbols relevant to the development of the characters in the series like the white flower on the wall of Jane’s room.

* EDITING: According to Jeremy Butler, a single camera mode of production allows for more visual control by producers than a multiple-camera mode of production (43). Jane the Virgin will use a single camera mode of production that will allow producers to utilize the ordering and framing of shots during scenes to create meaning. For example, during the flashback to Jane learning about her virginity from Alba in the first episode, the shots will cut from Alba to Jane to Xiomara. Each time the shot is a single on Alba, it will be a close-up that is tilted upwards. This will show the audience Alba from Jane’s perspective and give her a sense of authority. In contrast, when the reverse is shown of Jane, the camera will be at a medium long shot and tilted downwards. This will convey Jane’s innocence and naivety to the audience and position of inferiority to Alba.