In the eleventh episode of the fourth season of Jane the Virgin, everyone has a change in perspective. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
Trigger Warning: For extensive discussion of consent, age gaps in relationship, and relationship power dynamics.
WOW I LOVED THIS, EVEN WHEN IT HURT TO WATCH.
Rafael’s New Job
What a framing device!!! There’s a part of me that’s pleased with “Chapter Seventy-Five” purely from a writer standpoint. Like, the idea that maybe this episode can help people understand what a framing device is and how it affects story… whew. THAT’S SO THRILLING. And in this episode, all the stories revolve around perspective: What happens when someone gets new contextual information about a situation they’re in? How does it change them or their path? So, let’s start with Rafael, who, like many people in this episode, is rethinking his career. He obviously never wanted to stay being a bartender at the Marbella, so while Rogelio, Jane, and Xiomara all worry about their current jobs, Rafael explores a new future. It doesn’t go that well initially on two fronts. First, that commercial real estate gig? Hi, that was both creepy AND racist! Unfortunately, there are entire industries constructed around taking advantage of the elderly and exploiting them, so I was glad that Rafael turned down that job. It leads him to another prospect, one that… I only sort of understand?
Look, as soon as someone starts talking about venture capitalists, my brain just… turns off? I truly don’t understand that whole part of the world. It just sounds like rich people talking about imaginary things that they’re all pretending are real and that momentarily matter before slipping back into the ether? What I do get is that Rafael is good at seeing potential in these projects, and even more importantly, that he learned he could do this again. I was reminded of a moment after Adam broke up with Jane. (STILL UPSETTING, OKAY.) Jane was heartbroken, but she realized that she could love again. While this isn’t the same context, I did like that Rafael had been dealt this devastating blow in his life, yet found out that he still had this passion, that he could still do this thing he liked. That’s huge! I’m also glad that he has Jane’s support. I said this on video, but it’s been really fucking cool to watch this couple have disagreements or mess up. Not because I am entertained by that, but because we’re seeing them reach solutions much faster. And they’re GOOD solutions! It shows that they really are growing as people and learning how to be with one another in a healthy way. SO YES, THROW OFF THE SECRECY BECAUSE THAT SCENE IN THE BEDROOM WAS A NIGHTMARE, NO MORE OF THOSE.
While there’s a great framing device over the course of “Chapter Seventy-Five,” I also appreciated the dual storylines of both Jane and Xiomara returning to school. Their perspectives are also changed once they’re there. I’ll be talking about Jane’s plot in the final section of this review, but I will say that while I get why she doesn’t want to be a teacher, I really liked seeing her lecture again. I WOULD LOVE TO LEARN FROM HERE.
But for now, I want to focus on Xiomara. Every so often, I entertain the notion of going back to school. I’ve spoken about it before, but I don’t have a degree. I had to drop out of college because of financial reasons. So there’s long been a part of me that feels strange about that. Like… I found success in writing in other ways. I love that this whole review project is still going eleven years later; I love that I published a novel in my 30s rather than my 20s, as I feel like I am more mature (and capable of handling the stress of being a public figure and an author) than I would have been a decade ago. I also don’t want to inflate the value of a degree or an education. I mean, I’m proof that you can still meet your goals without an official education! That’s what I want from the world!
And then I watched this, and some of those creeping doubts came back. There’s such a specific energy to college, and truthfully, I would probably feel like Xiomara if I went back to school now. (Also… who has the TIME? In THIS economy? I have books to write!) Like… did I miss my time? Am I not smart enough anymore? Am I too set in my ways and not open-minded enough? Even saying that, I still feel like I’m falling into toxic thoughts about who is allowed to go to school and who you have to be. SO BASICALLY THIS IS ALL DEEPLY RELATABLE. Which makes Rogelio’s whole part in this so frustrating. His wife is having this crisis, and yet he can’t seem to focus on anyone but himself. More on that in a sec, but like… dude. COME ON. Stop being so self-centered!
I will say that I hope Xiomara isn’t falling back on old habits with that coworker of hers. The show paints that moment as Xiomara possibly cheating, but also, Jane the Virgin has gone the misdirection route before, so I won’t react until I know.
Loyalty to Petra
Hi. Hi? HELLO. HELLO, THE ENERGY HERE. IT’S SO MUCH. And it’s not baiting at all!!!! IT’S LITERALLY THE OPPOSITE. THE SHOW IS OVERFLOWING WITH QUEER ENERGY. WITH SAPPHIC SENTIMENTALITY AND YEARNING. WITH BI AND PAN BEAUTY. (I don’t know Petra’s identity, so I don’t want to label her with one yet.) There were so many moments when I thought Petra was going to act on her attraction to Jane, though I understand why she doesn’t. Before she knew about the betrayal, I could see a few possible readings: She was trying to keep things professional. She didn’t quite understand what it meant to be so attracted to Jane Ramos. EVERYTHING IS OVERWHELMING SO CONFIDENT PETRA JUST TURNED INTO A MESS. All of these readings are possible! It could be a mixture of all them and more!
And then Jane is honest. I wasn’t anticipating how heartbreaking that scene was, y’all. But I realize now how much that fed into existing trauma for Petra, particularly of being abandoned, of the people in her life always having an ulterior motive. Of course, it’s made even worse because Petra fairly assumed that yet again, her mother was behind this attempt to send her to jail, even if she couldn’t figure out why. So yeah, that moment was CRUSHING.
But Petra is… shit, she’s resilient. She’s had to be all this time! So I get why this turns into a loyalty test for her. Petra has been screwed over so many times. (Hell, she used to screw people over all the time, too! Toxicity breeds more toxicity, doesn’t it?) She knows that Jane Ramos is compromised, so look what Petra does. She finds a way to twist this in her favor. I still think my theory that Luisa is behind this still fits, even if I remain completely confused by Luisa’s characterization in terms of writing. (I know this was something we talked about in the comments, and like I said that, it’s oddly comforting to know that some of you are also baffled by some of the inconsistent writing choices in regards to Luisa.) I mean… I guess Luisa wants to get revenge? I would understand if she was furious for being gaslight and then left in the hospital for an extra week. But all this? I don’t know.
Look, there are times when Jane the Virgin is deeply realistic. I’ll give an example from this episode: Jane’s sadness and confusion over having met her life goal, only to realize it didn’t change her entire life. HI. HELLO. I WAS IN THE SAME BOAT TWO YEARS AGO. Literally! I know I’ve written about this in regards to this show’s Jane storyline, but for most authors, we don’t experience the kind of life-changing transformation that people think we do. I mean… yes, my life changed. I published a book two and a half years ago. Those of you who’ve been in this community for a while know how long I worked towards this goal. (Last month was eight years since the origin of Anger is a Gift!) And as I’ve written about recently, my book came out, I did events for month or two, and then… bam. Crash. And that crash was intense, not just because I didn’t hit any bestseller lists and didn’t sell tens of thousands of copies. I was deep into edits on the book that would become Each of Us a Desert, and it wasn’t working. I was panicking, and I started to believe this was all a fluke, that I would never, ever be able to publish again, that I was a flash in the pan. On top of it all, my relationship with my ex was starting to crumble. I felt like a failure, even though I wasn’t. I know that now in hindsight.
But there’s nothing about pushing on after meeting a lifelong goal. God, what I would have done to have watched this at the time, to know that I wasn’t a failure at all, that this was so deeply normal for most authors. Thankfully, with some absolutely wonderful friends, I came to learn that publishing is, for most people, a long game. You keep writing. You keep making appearances. You keep publishing where and when you can, and you slowly build an audience. And I learned not to give up. It took me until the summer of 2019–two and a half years—to sell a second project, which is my middle grade book out next year. I thought it wasn’t going to happen. But I’m glad I didn’t fold, and I’m glad I had people telling me to not give up on my other dreams.
I say all this to say that it is also fun to watch Jane the Virgin go into the absurd, and holy shit. Eva Longoria. Playing a version of herself. With three assistants. SCHEDULING HER FARTS. I fucking loved it, IT WAS SO FUCKING FUNNY. And then making her cousins, fifth removed, with Rogelio? Forcing Rogelio to be the one to take a screen test FOR HIS OWN SHOW? Everything about this was a delight, and then they just leveled up the comedy with the cousin reveal, and I just… y’all. I really do love the realism, but I’m so happy that the writers are willing to dive headfirst into the weird and over-exaggerated. In this case, it worked beautifully.
I Wish I Knew
Oh boy, LET ME JUST QUOTE MYSELF HERE:
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.
I LITERALLY WONDERED THE SAME THING. But the episode that followed Jane’s decision to go on a date with Professor Chavez didn’t touch on this and instead (understandably) focused on Jane’s attempt to pursue casual sex when she wasn’t ready for that. And very quickly, Professor Chavez was gone. I completely forgot about him!
But there’s also another line in that same review that I feel like was me unknowingly unearthing a memory that I clearly wasn’t ready to talk about:
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.
Yeah. Um. ME. AND I COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT IT UNTIL THIS EPISODE. As a whole, I tend to date guys who are close to my age. Actually, three of my four partners have been older, with the oldest being ten years older. One was seven years younger. But with one exception, I didn’t really have a thing for much older guys, and I generally found it creepy. Why would someone who was so much older than me be interested?
Until a professor’s assistant hit on me.
So, not quite the same thing. I was freshly twenty years old, a sophomore in college. He was forty-two, but I didn’t find that out until after we had sex. He looked and acted so youthful, and I thought he was maybe a few years older than me. In hindsight, there was so much he hid from me, and now, nearly two decades later, I have to assume it was on purpose. He probably thought if he told me he was over twice my age, I would not have been interested. And he was probably right; that would have been a huge deterrent for me. The fact that he was an assistant in a class I was taking? I went through much of the same logic that Jane did at the time: We were consenting adults. He wasn’t in a position to affect my grades. The power dynamic was basically equal. Right?
Jane struggles with a very specific worry here: Is it her place to talk to the young grad student who is pursuing a relationship with Professor Chavez? Is she being nosy and inappropriate? But this is an episode about perspective, and like each of the characters’ journey here, having a new perspective on something changes Jane. Once she knows that Chavez has a pattern of seeking out young grad students, it sheds a new light on his behavior.
I can look back at my half-year relationship with this man—we never truly dated, as he always pushed me away from that and wanted me to keep it casual—in a different light. I have a new perspective on him. What did he see in a young, inexperienced, newly-out gay man? I had been out of the closet less than two years! I hadn’t had a boyfriend yet! And as this man took me to his apartment off campus over and over again, I felt like… like I was special. Like there must be something great about me that someone so hot and so interesting and so smart wanted to spend time with me. It was an immense boost to my self esteem.
Up until the day that his wife unlocked the front door of the apartment and I had to hide in his closet while he sent her away.
Obviously, that’s bad. VERY BAD. On multiple levels. For many years, I regaled people with this story as a comedic thing! I hid in the closet! What an apt metaphor! But then I stopped telling it. Thinking about it now, I think time and distance made the story… not nearly as funny. And as I watched Jane speaking about this frankly with her mother, all those feelings were dredged up again.
Why? Why had he done that? Did he seek me out specifically because I was so young and inexperienced? How did he hold power over me, and how did he orchestrate these dalliances of ours so that he never lost power?
In the end, I relate so deeply to what Jane ultimately decides to do. Because the truth is… I wish I knew. I wish I knew if he had done this to other guys, I wish I knew it was deeply wrong and fucked up for this man to lie to me the way he did, and I wish I knew that some people in this world want to make you feel special because you’ll forget your boundaries, your self worth, your safety.
I wish I knew.
The video for “Chapter Seventy-Five” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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