In the eleventh episode of the second season of Jane the Virgin, Jane struggles with possibly inappropriate thoughts; Rogelio babysits; Michael gets closer to the truth; and Petra must reckon with her past self. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent, racism.
I don’t think this is necessarily the first time I’ve brought this up in this context, but I’m enjoying that while Jane the Virgin toys with telenovela tropes and patterns, it really excels when it—to use an unfortunate turn of phrase from Professor Chavez—digs deep into what those tropes actually mean in the real world. The idea of the forbidden romance—of crossing the line of what’s appropriate—is a staple of romantic fiction and CERTAINLY of telenovelas. And while I’m starting with Jane’s story, this motif appears across the board: What counts as appropriate? Inappropriate? When should we behave a certain way, and when are the power dynamics too overwhelming or insurmountable?
So, let’s jump into this, because… well. Jane. And her professor. I appreciated that the show didn’t try to obfuscate how potentially inappropriate this was. Jane spells it out directly, so there’s no subtlety here, but I don’t think there should have been. The fact that Jane is so open about this is what makes this compelling. There is a fantasy at play—that of the hot, intellectually challenging professor. And we’ve all seen that fantasy in some form, and maybe some of us have actually entertained it. But the line here deals with power dynamics: Is it ethical for Jane to pursue a romance here with someone who is in charge of her education? Is it ethical for Professor Chavez to entertain that, too? Who is it worse for? Who has the power?
What’s interesting is that there is a brief line (I believe from Xiomara, if memory serves me) that mentions that as long as it’s between two consenting adults, then everything should be fine. And while that may be the case on a superficial level, a deeper examination makes this a lot more comfortable, and that’s why I liked that this did not go as the fantasy dictated. Because if this was just a strict telenovela, there would have been a torrid affair that unfolded… exactly like Jane’s dream, right??? I also understand Xiomara’s enthusiasm and why she didn’t seem at all bothered by the notion of Jane dating her teacher. Sometimes, we have things we don’t see in a negative light, and Xiomara saw Jane being interested in a stable, handsome man, and I think she got excited! She wasn’t thinking of the ethical conundrum so much as she was thinking of Jane’s potential to be happy. Thus, Xiomara helped Jane feed into the fantasy. TO AN EXTENT. Because while this goes to a DEEPLY, DEEPLY uncomfortable and awkward place, I still have to wonder about Professor Chavez’s physical affection: Was that not meant as a sign from his point of view? If so, maybe… don’t touch your students? At all?
Look, I don’t want to blame Jane entirely for the missed signals because part of having power in a given social situation means accepting that your behavior can be interpreted a certain way. It means that you have to think about the ramifications of what you say and do—as well as the things you don’t say or do. And I wasn’t expecting perfection here! If anything, I found this fulfilling because it’s about how Jane really fucked up with that attempt at a kiss, and how she came to accept that her actions crossed a line she could not uncross, not matter how much she apologized. It was agonizing to see her ask to have another advisor, but given what happened, that truly felt like the best ethical choice. Creative, too! Because how can you write romance in a situation like this? Jane had to free herself from this situation if she was ever going to grow as a writer.
I admit I feel weird about Professor Chavez asking her to dinner anyway. I think an unnamed aspect of this that could make this more uncomfortable concerns his side. Has he ever done this before? Because if you’re in a position of power and you view people lower on the hierarchy of power as potential dating options… that is bad. Like, very bad. Consent matters, but I think we should also consider what kind of pressure a person is under to consent. In this dynamic, would a student feel compelled to date a professor because they’re afraid of a bad grade? Could a professor be objective when teaching that student or would an unconscious bias develop? I get that this is all from Jane’s perspective, but I don’t want to lose sight of someone who is a position of power both because they are a teacher and because they are a man.
Within Xiomara’s story is yet another subversion of the expected telenovela trope: the dramatic proposal. There are shenanigans (and heartbreak) within this story, from Xiomara finding Liliana’s ring in Rogelio’s apartment, to the CRUSHING reveal that Rogelio intended it for Jane, not Xiomara, to Xiomara discovering that the bar owner who she had a professional relationship with did not believe she was committed to being a singer. It’s a lot of emotional volatility, y’all. (I’m sticking with the metaphor I came up with on camera: This episode was like watching twenty car crashes in a row.) But this is also something that the show has been building up to! We’ve seen Xiomara struggle with not being where she wants to be professionally or creatively, and as she’s certainly made strides, she’s also been held back by various factors. So I completely understand why she turned down going to her own fortieth birthday party over playing this gig. She needed to prove that she was serious about her work, and the timing was just so awful.
Look, I also understand why she turned the proposal, despite how heartbreaking it was. In that rejection was an acknowledgement: Rogelio and Xiomara had not spoken about what kind of family they wanted. Rogelio wants more children, and Xiomara wants to focus on her career. I don’t think this problem is insurmountable or impossible to solve. Ultimately, I believe Rogelio will understand someone he loves wanting to pursue a creative life. But that doesn’t make this sting any less. It’s still so damn painful. WHY MUST THIS SHOW HURT ME SO.
The same goes for Rogelio’s babysitting subplot! Holy shit, this got SO fucking uncomfortable once Jane was in the hospital and let loose on her father, criticizing him for the whole “Mateo ate a diamond thing.” Like, that’s genuinely scary! What if it had caused Mateo internal damage? Or he had choked on it? There’s a very terror in what happened, and that fear influenced how Jane criticized Rogelio. What I didn’t expect was the brutal introspection from him, the internalization of the message inherent in what Jane said: What if Rogelio is a bad father? This relates to his plot with Xiomara, of course, but it’s also so damn revealing. Because Rogelio wasn’t there for Jane! So it makes sense that he’d be so critical of himself after this. How much of that feeling is based on guilt and shame?
For what it’s worth, I think Rogelio, if he does have children, will certain struggle with fatherhood, but… everyone does! And he’s had some experience, since he has stepdaughters with his ex-wife, right? So it’s not like he’s completely without skill. But no one knows EVERYTHING about being a parent before they become one, and they still don’t know everything even after they do. It’s a learning curve, and that’s what we’ve seen with three generation of Villanueva women; I think we’d see it with Rogelio, too.
Mutter and Sin Rostro
Hi, holy shit, WHAT. WHAT. I don’t know how to deal with this??? Sin Rostro is Mutter’s step-daughter? THIS FAMILY IS SO FUCKED UP, I CAN’T HANDLE IT. For a while, I wondered if Mutter and Sin Rostro were in competition with one another, but this… yeah. I did not see it coming. I admit that I like this plot less for the story itself—which can be fun at times—and more for how it intersects with the other characters. Like… what the fuck are Rafael and Luisa going to do in the long run with this information? How is it going to affect Luisa’s complicated relationship with Rose? What of Rafael’s already complicated notions of what it means to be a family? And what about Michael’s case? I don’t know how long this specific subplot can last at this point, but it was exciting to see Rose in a (slightly) new face here. WHAT ARE THEY PLANNING.
Hey, wow, my queer feelings are CRUSHED. I am liking Luisa’s writing more and more this season, especially as the writers are giving her a chance to round out. She isn’t used for comedic relief nearly as much. But the sheer gay ANGST of this plotline was so much? Because this, too, fits within the motif of crossing a line. Luisa is a witness in a case that Susanna is working, so it is unethical for her to pursue any sort of personal relationship with her. And while this also fits a telenovela/romance trope, the writers decided to shoot daggers into all of our hearts with some much-needed honesty. I noticed during the scene where Luisa was wired and speaking to Rose’s old driver that Susanna was having an emotional reaction, which seemed very out of character for her. Why did she care so much?
BECAUSE. Her attraction is real! She actually can’t stop her feelings for Luisa, and I can’t even imagine the conflict she’s going through. But the same issue as we saw in Jane’s plot pops up here: What line can’t be uncrossed? What power dynamic is at play, and how does that make this inappropriate? So I fully expected to see Susanna turn down Luisa’s advances because of that power imbalance, especially since we’ve seen how much Susanna hates to break the rules. That is precisely why I didn’t expect Susanna to admit that the reason largely had nothing to do with that. It was because Susanna believed Luisa’s declaration that she still loved Rose. That moment was like a punch in the chest, y’all. ANOTHER CAR WRECK. So, there goes THAT potential!!!!
That moment also has a parallel here between Petra and Rafael, though the context leading up to the same motif is drastically different. But I want to talk about another aspect of this story as I lead up to that. The show doesn’t explore it at all, but I couldn’t ignore the subtext: Petra, an upper class white woman, once yelled at and insulted a brown woman working as a barista. That act was completely unforgettable for Petra; at no point in “Chapter Thirty-Three” does she ever recall what she did to Izzie. For Izzie, it was a moment that was memorable enough that she created a piece of art born of that act of cruelty. Izzie never forgot what Petra did. And classifying it as a grudge is really not what the incident deserves. This was an aggressive, racist act, with undertones of classism, too. Izzie was beneath Petra, and thus, Izzie violated Petra’s understanding of how the world worked for people like her. It doesn’t matter the spilling coffee is a benign act most of the time. To Petra, her right to a “perfect” experience was violated, and so she lashed out.
All of that is of course bullshit, but it’s how people like Petra think. I’d say that Petra has grown since then—and she has in some ways—but didn’t we just see her mistreating people who worked for her in the previous episode? I understand the emotional reasons behind her rejection of the nurses, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the ramifications of how whiteness moves throughout the world. The show doesn’t do it at all, but I’m certainly going to.
Still, at least Petra tries to make amends, though even then, they’re for selfish reasons, since she needs Izzie’s wedding to happen at the Marbella. I only tangentially felt that she was trying to be a better person for the sake of it or because she hurt someone all those years ago. What I wanted to see was pretty simple: What was Petra willing to give up? How was she willing to do something so that Izzie would feel that Petra was genuinely trying to make it right? That’s why Petra’s first attempt was so disastrous! She did it without consulting Izzie, and she only made matters worse. It was only when she presented a solution to Izzie—one that would absolutely cost the hotel a TON of money, since weddings there cannot be cheap—that Izzie was finally on board. Petra was willing to give up the ENTIRE fee for the wedding and some of her own dignity by allowing that art piece based on her to stay in the lobby. Yes, this still might work longterm for the hotel, and that waters down the act in a way, but at least Petra tried here. She’s hurt a lot of people over the years, and I felt that ultimately, this was a better way for her to approach that.
And then, of course, there’s that last punch in the gut, that last car wreck. Rafael and Petra, after this whole thing is resolved, have a lovely, emotional conversation, one that reflects on what is good about Petra, and they KISS. They actually kissed! I was shocked by that, but not as much as I was by Petra asking Rafael if he was over Jane yet. BECAUSE WE ALL KNOW THE ANSWER IS NO. HE ISN’T.
And just like that, the fantasy is over.
The video for “Chapter Thirty-Three” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– You can now pre-order my second YA novel, Each of Us a Desert, which will be released on September 15, 2020 from Tor Teen!
– Not only that, but my very first pre-order campaign is now live for North American readers! If you submit proof of pre-order, you can get a limited edition print that comes with the book.
– If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.