In the third episode of the third season of Jane the Virgin, Jane and Michael make a huge step forward in their relationship, which affects Jane’s writing. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane.
Trigger Warning: For extensive discussion of sex and consent.
Jane (Not) A Virgin
So, lemme start off with a bit of a critique: it is virtually impossible for Jane to have made that video mistake that ended with her sending an accidental sex tape to her professor. I get why the show pushed her in that direction; it allowed Donaldson to realize something that was missing from Jane’s novel. But as someone who has literally recorded multiple videos a week for like… eight years now? Yeah, you can accidentally start a recording, but at no point does Jane stop the recording. And save it. And name it something similar to her recording of her interview with Alba. Also, you can’t record “over” a video file with a single press of a button, like we see here?
The whole thing is ludicrous, but it’s a small bump in the road when taken in consideration with the tender exploration of Jane’s first time having intercourse. Y’all, this episode was so empathetic? And sweet? And uncomfortable? But it’s done in a way to realistically explore how Jane built up her first time and what it meant for her to actually have sex.
In short: it wasn’t perfect. It rarely is! But despite that Michael and Jane were apparently doing other sexual things together prior to this, the truth is that Jane is still inexperienced. You don’t find a groove or what you enjoy or what turns you on in just one act of sex, or at least most people don’t. Jane and Michael are deeply close, and while they’re excellent communicators at this point in their relationship, this episode reveals that they never really sat down and communicated about their specific sexual desires. It looks like they just hoped it would all work out fine. Like I said on video, we’re not really taught how to have healthy conversations about desire, consent, and sexual satisfaction! We’re just not! And it doesn’t help that some folks are told that sex belongs in marriage but aren’t taught what that sex looks like or what it might feel like. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who get their education on sex from some of the most harmful pornography imaginable, and they’re unable to distinguish what is a fantasy and what isn’t. THANKS, AMERICA. Truly, our country still feels so Puritanical and misguided when it comes to sex, so I was really, really impressed at how open and vulnerable this plot was.
Part of that came through in how their insecurities were explored. Jane, unsurprisingly, wanted perfection. She’s always been the kind of person who pursues that kind of perfection, and it’s why she panicked and faked her orgasm. She wanted her first time to be everything it could possibly be. And when things don’t go according to plan, Michael is embarrassed, so much so that he asks Jane to keep the details between the two of them. It’s interesting, then, because this pulls each character in a direction that makes their problems worse. Jane is clearly desperate to talk out this conflict, but she barely tells Lina enough details, and later in the episode, she refrains from giving her mother enough to go on either. Michael, however, comes to realize that he and Jane have to talk out the details. You can’t assume pleasure! That’s why I found it so sweet that—despite the absurd creation of it—the accidental sex tape provided Jane and Michael with a means of understanding one another’s bodies. Because isn’t that what really helps two sexual partners get closer to one another? Both of them get to talk about what feels good for themselves and what they love doing to someone else, and that is how they’ll get to a sexual groove that doesn’t require conversation in the moment. It’s one of the best things about having a close, intimate partner, y’all, especially someone who respects you and cherishes you. Lmao, and my lonely ass MISSES THIS SHIT. Whew! Let me move on before I get sad, haha.
I gotta repeat myself here: I LOVE THE WAY THIS SHOW TALKS ABOUT JANE’S NOVEL WRITING. I really do!!! It’s not just thoughtful, but it is usually a lot more detailed and nuanced than I would have otherwise expected. Now, I don’t want to ignore that Cecilia initially is not so much a character as a very real person from Alba’s past. She’s the person who ratted out Alba and told others that she was not a virgin on her wedding night. From there, Jane then creates a character—one who is played with deliberate exaggeration by Gina Rodriguez herself—and I found that to be an INCREDIBLE representation of how characters often feel in early drafts. They aren’t as fleshed out! And for me, sometimes my secondary characters are stand-ins for plot reasons. They need to push the story in a certain direction, and they don’t have much depth beyond that. What I love about editing and the developmental stages that come after that first draft are represented in this episode. And I should note how eerily well-timed this episode is, too: I am currently working on my first major developmental edit on The Insiders, my middle grade debut, which is out next year. One of the things my editor is pushing me to do is to flesh out a large cast of characters who are all in my protagonist’s life. Right now, some of them are archetypical, like Evil Cecilia is in “Chapter Forty-Seven.”
But what happens as Jane explores why Cecilia did what she did? An amazing thing happens. No, two amazing things happen. First, Cecilia begins to take shape. She’s not just evil for the sake of it, and Jane develops her into a complex character. I love that Cecilia herself calls out the fact that Jane was relying on a virgin/whore dynamic, something we see a lot in—for instance!—telenovelas. It’s in romance, too! While that’s harmful for reasons explored in Alba’s backstory, here it is shown in terms of fictional narratives. It’s just not as satisfying! Characters are too rigidly placed in categories, things can be predictable, and Jane’s story is too lifeless. But then, once Jane figures out that Cecilia has to have her own motivation, look what happens. Cecilia, first of all, becomes a whole person, which is a brilliant way to think of secondary characters. They have to have their own life outside of their interactions with the main character, and Jane’s story begins to reflect that. And then?
Jane actually stumbles on the real reason that Cecilia betrayed Alba.
Look, I don’t think that fiction is necessarily a savior in any sense, and I don’t want to place too much importance on storytelling on changing the world. It is undeniably important and can absolutely change the way people see the world, but there’s actual work that people need to do to become better people. But I love the unsaid sweetness here: that by being empathetic towards Cecilia, Jane was unknowingly empathetic towards her abuela. The act of writing should be an exercise in empathy, in understanding why people do what they do. In an idealistic world, fiction also allows readers to participate in empathy in a different context, as one who consumes the story rather than creating it. It doesn’t always work that way because of personal bias and prejudice, but I found this to be remarkably poignant.
This is the only plot in this episode that doesn’t explicitly reach a conclusion, but as of right now, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Xiomara is in a state of flux. As she tells Gloria and Emilio Estefan (!!!!!! holy shit THIS WAS THE BEST CAMEO EVER !!!!!!), she’s at a crossroads. After literal decades of working towards a career as a singer, Xo is starting to accept that maybe she should pursue something else. I’ve written about failure and expectations a few times before, and as is often the case recently, I always fall back on what I got to write about while reading Moving Pictures for Mark Reads. (To this day, it’s still one of my favorite Discworld books because of the experience that came with it.) I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, but I hit multiple crossroads throughout my attempt to become an author. My first was back when I had to drop out of college and I spent years not writing at all. I had to make my main concern in life paying rent and bills, and I little time or motivation to create anything. By the time I started blogging and doing journalism in the mid 00s, I was enjoying writing again, but it still wasn’t quite what I imagined myself doing. Thankfully, that experience gave birth to this little project (WHICH IS NOW ELEVEN YEARS OLD, HOLY SHIT). But before I started writing my first novel, I had my own existential crisis: Was I never going to fulfill this childhood dream of mine? Should I continue to invest solely in one kind of writing, since I found a lovely and surprising success in it? Even after that process began, I went back and forth on whether or not I would actually achieve it. First, my worry was that I couldn’t even finish a book; then, it was that I couldn’t find an agent; and even then, I worried that a million different things about the book would prevent it from getting published.
You can have moments in your life where it seems like you’ve made it or that you’re finally on the right path. For me, mine was getting to meet literary agents years and years ago in New York City who swore they were going to catapult me to great success. It was one of the magical moments that felt like a film. This was before I even lived in the city, and I remember believing that it was just a matter of time. They were gonna make me famous, and my dream was going to come true. Now, I am certainly not saying these random agents are on the same level as THE ESTEFANS, but I was absolutely at a crossroads. Was this it? Was my dream going to come true?
It didn’t. Not with them. They actually ghosted me, and it’s been over four years and I’ve not heard a peep from them. Is Xo at a similar moment in her life? Will she keep going if she’s dealt another setback? Because look, I understand if this is one too many rejections. I KNOW WHAT THAT FEELS LIKE. And if she isn’t confident she’ll make it after GLORIA AND EMILIO ESTEFAN came to see her, I get that. I get that she’s tired, that she has to consider that maybe this isn’t her path.
Thus, this episode ends with uncertainty. Was that gig important to her journey? Is it the first domino falling over? Xiomara doesn’t know. Hell, you almost never know in the moment if you’re on the right path. She either has to keep going or give up, and I hope it’s the former.
This plot is related to Rogelio’s choice to use his twenty-years-in-the-making favor from Gloria Estefan to help Xiomara. First: WOW, THAT’S SO DAMN SWEET. But it understandably upsets Dina, who once again feels pushed to the side because of her! Oh, Rogelio, you tweeted that you weren’t ready to pursue a relationship with Dina? THAT IS BAD. GET OFF TWITTER, MAN. This choice of his affects his professional relationship with Dina, right at a time when it is most crucial that they work together. Rogelio’s attempt to bring his telenovelas to America is complicated. Though I gotta say I loved this show’s meta humor about the very network it airs on. Weirdly, even if Jane the Virgin hadn’t been on the CW, I could have seen a telenovela-esque show working very well on the network anyway. But what does it mean to bring The Passions of Santos to America? Is it whitewashing the story, as the CW producers suggest to Rogelio and Dina? Will this only happen if someone like Rob Lowe is cast as Santos? Or will Dina’s demand come to fruition? Because I love that the two have agreed to be professional “soul mates,” yet she tells Rogelio to get more famous in America in… six months. Oh, Rogelio is going to become insufferable, isn’t he? THIS IS GOING TO BE VERY BAD and probably very funny.
Oh, Luisa. I certainly feel so, so much better about this character than I did in season one. And there’s virtually no humor here as the show explores the toxicity of her relationship with Rose. Rather, as the two fall back into a familiar pattern (at least sexually), there is a visceral and uncomfortable friction between the two of them. There’s the obvious: Rose murdered Luisa’s father! It felt so striking that despite that Luisa was still drawn to Rose, she was still able to vocalize a boundary. Luisa has changed, because I feel like the Luisa of season one would never have said what she does here. That doesn’t mean she’s fully out of the grips of Rose, and it also doesn’t mean there’s no toxicity on display. There’s still a lot! Like Rose taking Luisa INTO A SUBMARINE in order to keep her from leaving. Like, she literally could not leave Rose if she wanted to. That’s not a healthy relationship!
So when Rose presented Luisa with an ultimatum, I wondered where Luisa would land. Could she leave this person she loved? What would that love look like if Luisa couldn’t ever see her family again? In the end, Luisa actually decided that it wasn’t worth it. She was willing to lose Rose FOREVER just to be back with Rafael. Y’ALL, THIS IS SUCH A HUGE DECISION. And I know it had to be hard, but I’m so proud of Luisa!!! Of course, I also feel so bad for her because at the very end of this episode, we discover at the same time as Luisa that Rose definitely lied to her. God, was that list of murders a list of people she wanted killed? Is Derek next? Oh god, Luisa also now knows that Rose hasn’t changed; she’s still who she was. Whew, this is going to be a rough journey for her. BUT SHE LEFT. SHE ACTUALLY LEFT.
The video for “Chapter Forty-Seven” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
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