In the fifteenth episode of the second season of Jane the Virgin, Jane must learn an important lesson about being liked; Alba deals with a potential curse; Petra struggles with motherhood; Rogelio copes with the aftermath of Paola. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of stalking, consent, sexual assault, and trauma, as well as a brief discussion of postpartum depression.
This was ALSO an intense episode, but it gave me a lot of wonderful things to talk about. And I also feel pretty satisfied with how these subjects were addressed? LET’S CHAT, FRIENDS.
I have a different source for the same compulsion that Jane has here. Mine comes from a dysfunctional home life! In order to adapt to the constantly changing whims of an abusive parent, I had to constantly figure out what it was that made someone “like” me. So, my need to be liked is actually a survival mechanism that I no longer need, yet I never unlearned. TRAUMA IS GREAT, Y’ALL. But regardless of the reason why Jane is who she is, it was still relatable to see her struggle with being liked. Because even outside of trauma or anxiety, I think a lot of us deal with this! And in this context, Jane is having to deal with the ramifications of her actions. It’s not like Michael’s parents dislike her for no reason. She did break Michael’s heart, and she moved on so quickly from him. What I enjoyed about this plot is that while Jane tries her best to make amends to the Corderos, the show also makes it clear that Jane did do someone wrong.
To be fair to Jane, though, Michael believed he was complicit in the end of the relationship, and throughout “Chapter Thirty-Six,” he refuses to throw Jane under the bus or let his parents do so either. As complicated as this whole situation is, that part was refreshing! Both these characters are ready to be married, and they are being mature, vulnerable, and honest with one another about their journey to this point. It was nice not to have to worry about that element. Still… whew, this was brutally uncomfortable, especially since I couldn’t really find fault in how the Corderos behaved. Look at this from their point of view! This is their son, who was harmed by Jane, and they’re worried about the same thing unfolding again. Who wouldn’t want to protect their child? From their perspective, it also looked really shady that Jane chose to be with Rogelio instead of being at her own engagement party.
Actually, when I think about that context… okay, surely Michael’s parents could have been a bit more understanding? She went to comfort her father, who had just survived being kidnapped! Wouldn’t they do the same? Anyway, that’s not even really the point. Because at the end of the day, Jane could try anything to make amends, and maybe she could find the perfect thing to repair this harm. However, I still don’t think Michael’s parents would like her. That’s their right, too! No one has to like another person, and Jane’s growth comes from giving up. Truly! She gives up on trying to please them and make them like her. That’s huge! It’s counter to what we’ve seen from here for a season and a half, and I hope it sticks. Calling back to a couple episodes ago: Jane should own her choice, and I feel like this is her doing that.
Alba & Pablo
You know, now that I’m thinking back on this episode after having watched it… what if Alba is just imagining the curse because she associates so much shame with Pablo? What if it puts her in a mindset to notice negative things because she making that sort of connection already? Despite that it’s obvious she enjoyed Pablo, the memory is tainted, isn’t it? She’s always going to think of Pablo and the terrible ramifications of having sex with him before marriage, so much so that she literally made it part of her life’s philosophy.
And yeah, some bad things happen in the presence of Pablo in this episode, but wouldn’t most of them have happened anyway? Instead, I’d like to look at this episode differently: What if this is Alba’s chance to rewrite the curse into a fairy tale? What if she gets to start again and control what happens? She’s an adult now, and she can rethink her feelings on premarital sex! She is also free to see Pablo as she wishes. Granted, it sounded like he was about to leave and go back to Venezuela, but… look, a million things could happen! This doesn’t have to end the same way it did decades earlier. The broken plumbing probably won’t help, but still! I can hold out hope!!!
I’m less interested in what intellectually challenges Jane’s advisors and more into how both Chavez and Donaldson influence the way Jane thinks of story. I’ve had some bad, bad editors over the years, but even with the ones who I fundamentally disagreed with, I still tried my best to learn something from them. Now, an editor isn’t quite the same as an advisor, and I know the context doesn’t match up perfectly. Jane is writing a novel in an academic setting. Dr. Chavez pushed Jane to consider how to use different aspects of her craft—setting, for example—to make her novel better. So what does Dr. Donaldson provide her? Initially, that’s hard to see, and admittedly, because of where the episode ends, the audience doesn’t really see the end result. We know that she introduces Jane to the Bechdel test, which is just a baseline means of exploring the content of a story, but certainly not the only thing to consider. We know that Donaldson cares not for romance or books for “bored housewives,” but what does she actually want? Fiction that says something about the world? Memoirs? Literary fiction? Dr. Donaldson is frustratingly vague about this! And yet, she does tell Jane something interest: She wants Jane’s story to have a context, a “frame.” And the more I think about that, the more fascinating it is. Why is Jane’s story happening? What’s the reason for the events in her novel? And how will she frame that for the reader? Look, I know it’s a frustratingly vague piece of feedback, but sometimes, that’s also the very best kind. My young adult editor, Miriam Weinberg, often gives me constructive feedback that answers nothing, that just pushes me in a direction that forces me to solve the issue on my own. I gotta admit to y’all: Some of the best writing choices I’ve ever made were because of exceedingly vague feedback that spoke to the heart of an issue.
I’ll give you an example. I teach a lecture frequently about how to deal with edits. (The developmental kind, not line or copyedits.) In it, I include quotes of the editorial letter I got from Miriam for Anger is a Gift, and it has a bit of feedback I have honestly never forgotten: She said that when constructing the characters—particularly Esperanza—that I should make their behaviors “legible, not likable.” They had to make sense, they had to be believable, and I shouldn’t be writing arcs that were concerned with the reader “liking” the characters. (Hey, doesn’t that sound familiar??? Guess I even wanted my own fictional characters to be liked, LMAO.) And it changed everything for me. In a way, it’s more specific than Donaldson’s request to Jane, but note that there’s no answer in either. Neither person actually says what to do with the story itself. Like me, Jane had to figure out what that meant for the story she wanted to tell, and I, for one, am excited to see the result of that.
Petra & Motherhood
I hazarded a guess on video about what Petra might be dealing with in this episode—postpartum depression—and I said that because I helped a friend (only superficially, not in a professional way, of course!!) deal with it last year. And she went through something achingly similar: she worried she wasn’t a good mother. She felt wouldn’t ever connect with her child and love them. She tried to throw herself back into work IMMEDIATELY. So, that obviously doesn’t mean Petra is dealing with the same issue, but that’s where my mind went. There’s no need for me to armchair diagnose her, though, so let’s go with what’s actually onscreen: Petra just went through A LOT. In many ways, this pregnancy and childbirth were both immensely traumatic for her! So even on that level, it’s understandable to me that she has the reaction that she does. Remember, she was deeply concerned in an earlier episode that she wouldn’t be a good mother, and at the very least, that’s cropping up again. I also wonder how much of this is because her own mother wasn’t that great or loving to her? How does she know how to be a mother when her own did not model good behavior? THESE ARE THINGS I THINK ABOUT OFTEN ANYWAY. Like… Petra grew up in dysfunction! And now she’s supposed to somehow create a perfectly functional environment for herself and her children?
I know I have a lot of sympathy for Petra and have been for a while, but I think the show does, too. It isn’t try to make her out to be a villain. (At least not anymore, that is.) Rather, motherhood is deeply complicated, and Petra was never going to behave like the Villanuevas. She has to be on her own journey, and I really hope we see her getting help. What does motherhood for Petra look like now that she’s in such a less toxic environment?
Oh, it would be nice to trust Derek, wouldn’t it? It would be nice if both of Elena’s sons realized at roughy the same time that their mother was an international crime lord. It would be nice if these two got to bond over that sort of existential drama. Who are they if their mother hid so much of her life from them? Was Derek close to his mother, and how will that affect Rafael, who never got to be? (And not just that; he bonded with her for like FIVE MINUTES before she betrayed and drugged him.) There is so much positive potential here, y’all. More than ever before, Rafael needs family!
But I’m IMMENSELY aware of what show I’m watching, and I have to be cautious here. Because y’all… I hate that I don’t trust Derek! It didn’t help, of course, that he had to act so fucking WEIRD as he took Rafael out to his boat. But this is also Jane the Virgin that I’m watching. It’s a VERY telenovela trope to have a half-brother show up like this, only for them to reveal some ulterior motive. I’M SUSPICIOUS, OKAY.
Rogelio & Aftermath
I saved this for last because I knew it would be the hardest to write about. I say that not to launch into a huge criticism, but rather to say that I was genuinely shocked at the tenderness and respect that the writers gave Rogelio, while still leaning into some of his humor. There’s a delicate balance to what they pulled off here. Normally, I’m the kind of person who likes when things are more open and direct in terms of the writing, but I think the strength of Rogelio’s plot comes from how much is left unsaid.
Now, I should say that those of us who have been sexually assaulted are not all the same; we’re not a monolith anymore than other groups are. And hell, even my thinking on this has changed over time. These days, as I’ve gotten more into victim advocacy and been trained to be someone to handle reports of sexual assault, I see a value in the way this unfolded that I might not have seen a decade ago.
The show lightly suggests Rogelio’s violation solely through the manifestation of his trauma. At no point does Paola reference it, and smartly, even as Rogelio rehashes some of what he’s gone through, he doesn’t come right out and say that he was sexually assaulted. It’s just left for the viewer to connect the dots. What that did for me was prevent me from being re-traumatized by the recounting of details. Instead, I was able to see how Rogelio struggled to talk about the trauma. He pushed Jane away when she asked about it, but not necessarily because he didn’t want to tell her. No, he was concerned about how he would be perceived, and y’all… that’s some real shit. Not just relatable on a personal level, but people who have experienced this kind of abuse can deal with a shame based on how they’ll be seen by their peers. Some men worry that being assaulted emasculates them; some women worry that they’ll be slut-shamed; some children think that they’ll be seen as troublemakers. Here, Rogelio believes he’ll be seen as a powerless victim during his interview with José Díaz-Balart. (Who really does work for Telemundo!!!)
What Rogelio really needed—and what Jane was able to provide for him—was safety. He needed to talk to someone who wouldn’t judge him, who would validate his complicated feelings, who would unequivocally love him no matter what happened. I get why he threw himself into this interview, too! Not only was it a dream of his, but I bet Rogelio thought that he could own the narrative. I still think he did (even though we don’t see the interview), but his fear stemmed from what others would do with that narrative.
I’m so glad Jane was there for Rogelio. And shit… look, I write my reviews chronologically, so I’m writing this long after I commented about Michael’s parents. Now I’m mad!!! Jane was doing the right thing here!!! Don’t judge her for this!!!
Anyway: I’m glad Rogelio’s back, and I’m thankful that the show didn’t trigger me in talking about his trauma.
The video for “Chapter Thirty-Seven” 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.