In the fifteenth episode of the first season of Jane the Virgin, we learn that tests suck. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of revenge porn
Actually, I’m gong to open this review with what’s at the end of the video:
Y’all, this love triangle is written so convincingly.
Which is part of why I had such an aversion to them for so long. I mean, yes, there was a terrible oversaturation of them, particularly within young adult fiction. But a key problem is that more often than not, the “best” partner is very obvious. That makes for a frustrating experience because the “triangle” element quickly becomes unnecessary. Is the person caught in between two people having difficulty choosing, or does the writer just hope we’ll feel that way? With Jane the Virgin, I genuinely understand why Jane was with either of these characters. She has this deep connection with Michael, and he effortlessly understands her because of their history together. At the same time, while Rafael behaves differently, he still understands Jane, too. He knew who her favorite romance writer is; he knew that her dream of being a writer was important to her. He is kind, and generous, and supportive, and even when the two of them come across conflict, he’s still willing to do the hard work to resolve it and move forward.
I get it. I get why both these men seem attractive to her and why her emotions are so complicated. Now, if all love triangles were written this convincingly, I don’t think I would have had an aversion to them. (I also went through a period in my 20s when I was uninterested in romance, and now I’m all for it, so I’m sure that played a part, too.) From purely an entertainment point of view, this also works well because I truly can’t tell where this is going. There’s narrative tension here that is immensely difficult to pull off. That’s partially from the telenovela nature of the show, sure, but I think credit is due to the writing and acting here. What a task, y’all: We have to believe Jane loved Michael. Then we have to believe that she’s fallen for Rafael, and THEN we get to this point, where Jane has to cope with the fact that the plan for her life has been completely thrown into disarray.
So I understand her actions in “Chapter Fifteen.” I get why she balks at Rafael’s proposal, even if it was about as perfect as a proposal could be. (LOOK, I FELL FOR IT, TOO. I THOUGHT IT WAS ONE OF THOSE FANTASY MOMENTS.) Marriage is a possibility, but… before the two have spent more than six months with one another? Before they’ve co-habited? Before they’ve reached any of the other significant milestones that would normally have come from being in a relationship? Of course, their relationship is hardly normal, so I also think that Jane is trying to grasp at anything that has stability, that feels like she imagined it would. It’s such a complicated situation, you know?
It certainly does not help that Michael pops up multiple times in the episode, each time reminding Jane of the easy nature they have with one another. Despite breaking things off with him, look how quickly she fell back into it. The ease with which they joked, with which they understood one another. It’s not that Jane can’t have that with Rafael. We’ve definitely seen a different kind of it between them before, but you can’t replace time. You can’t replicate experience in quite the same way. That haunts Jane, and so she focuses on things like that “test” that her abuela gives her. And while the test confirms that her doubt was misplaced, it unfortunately hurts Rafael in the process.
That’s a parallel we see in Rogelio and Xiomara, too, who test one another to see if they’ll say what they want to hear, rather than just communicate directly. This shit is hard for them! They both had to bury their feelings for one another for Jane, so I get why they don’t immediately figure out how to be actually honest. That shit takes work. It does not take tests or gotchas designed to trick a person into revealing their true feelings. I don’t think anyone was trying to be malicious about this. At the heart of Xiomara’s behavior—and Jane’s, too!—is fear. Xiomara was afraid of what Rogelio would do if she were pregnant, and Jane was afraid that Rafael was not the one.
And fear makes us do funny things.
It can also motivate us. Petra’s reaction to Lachlan’s attempt to blackmail her surprised me. First off: Fuck Lachlan for his whole revenge porn scheme. This wasn’t just simple blackmail; remember that he wanted to release the video even after she was no longer in charge just to ruin her further. That’s revenge porn, and there’s so much here that speaks to the insidious, misogynist shit at work. Like, why wouldn’t the video ruin Lachlan? Why does it ruin Petra, simply because she was filmed having sex? Lachlan believed that he had all the power here, and he exploited it. That’s what he does, right? We’ve seen him do it before. What he didn’t expect was Petra flipping the script. I appreciate, then, that it appears that Rafael went to Petra because he didn’t want to follow through with Lachlan’s plan. Right? I didn’t misread that, did I? Either way, what’s more important is Petra’s choice: She chose to leak her own sex tape and take ownership of it. That doesn’t negate that it is still a sex tape, that this circumstance was forced upon her. Still, Petra did something to take power away from Lachlan. And if she continues to succeed, Lachlan will be forced into his own circumstance: Will he stay working for the Marbella? Or will he be so annoyed and frustrated that he’ll finally quit?
I don’t care for Lachlan at all; at least Petra is interesting, and admittedly, I still want to know more about her. I feel like there’s more beneath the surface with her. And so that’s what I was thinking of as I watched this. There’s the tiniest hint that maybe Petra and Rafael could work together. For the moment, they’re a united force against Lachlan. But will that last? Will they go back to being terrible to one another? And what of Milos and Magda? Where are they? What are their relationships like with Petra?
Anyway, wanna know which joke in here is astoundingly real? When the romance author quipped that even her massage artist had a manuscript. Y’ALL HAVE NO IDEA. I had always heard of this from author friends—that random people hand off manuscripts constantly, believing that this might be their path to publication. This has 100% happened to me since becoming published in the following contexts:
- From a barista while I was on a book tour.
- From a Lyft driver, who had an extra copy of their manuscript in their glove compartment, hoping that they eventually picked up a “famous” author. (I did not take it because he wrote for adults, and I was convincing enough when describing that I wrote children’s literature.)
- From teachers.
- From students.
- From a man on the subway. (He left it on the empty seat next to me and then said I would make him a bestseller if I just read it. I made him take it back.)
It’s so fascinating that this is just a thing? But as someone who struggled to get into publishing for years, I get it. I really do! Publishing often seems like a business you get into because you know someone else. Networking is certainly a huge part of this, but I don’t know too many success stories that unfold the way people think they do. I mean… for one, I barely have time to read for pleasure these days; how would I possibly have time to read a stranger’s complete book and then… what? Elevate it where? To whom?
Generally, I actually offer advice they don’t expect, but can help. I talk to them about agents, querying, critique partners, the power of rejection… that sort of stuff. Because look, at the heart of all of this, these people just want their dreams to come true. And maybe their technique is misguided, but it’s real. (Most of the time; as is sometimes the case, people are also jerks.) So you do what you can.
Which makes me wonder… did Jane’s favorite author actually read her work?
The video for “Chapter Fifteen” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
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