In the twelfth episode of the fourth season of Jane the Virgin, Jane and Rogelio must contend with their inner critics. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of death, grief
Rogelio is a Lot
I realize in titling this section that way that I’m stating the obvious. Rogelio is designed to be ridiculous and over-the-top. He both stars in a telenovela, and he basically is a physical manifestation of one. But the plot that unfolds over the course of “Chapter Seventy-Six” is an example of the show taking telenovela tropes and ideas and applying them to the real world. Here, something that’s been built up for YEARS is finally being addressed:
Despite that he means well, sometimes Rogelio is awful.
I know that intent doesn’t negate impact, but for what it’s worth, I do think there are times when intent does help or it at least gives context to a situation. Rogelio knew he messed up, yet in centering Xiomara, he didn’t make things better. He went way over the top AGAIN, despite being warned not to, and made things worse! He accused Xiomara of cheating when she was actually trying to re-discover her love of dancing!
Granted, the show was trying to fake us out and make it seem possible that she was having an affair, but even I didn’t want to buy that. Rogelio let his mind go to the worst place, and yet? That still didn’t affect Xiomara as negatively as his smothering did. Lord, that whole sequence where Brad and Xo are dancing and Rogelio is like… he’s like an overeager parent at an elementary school soccer game. HE HAD MONOGRAMMED SWEAT TOWELS MADE FOR THEM. WHAT THE FUCK. And I’d actually argue that Rogelio did make this about him: It felt like it was all a display of how good he was at supporting Xo!
Thus… her outburst. It was a lot. It stung. It was incredibly hard to watch, but not just because it wasn’t fun to see Xo pushed to that point. It was true. She needed her time alone; she needed to Rogelio to not be so draining to be around. And while the show draws on the humor of the exaggerated critic stereotype for both Jane and Rogelio… fuck. What a huge moment, y’all. And I genuinely hope that this is a turning point for Rogelio! The only major examination of his behavior came from that plot earlier in the show where he had to admit he treated people on set terribly. This felt bigger than that because Rogelio was forced to confront that he’s been a draining person to be around for a long, long time.
How will he change?
HEY. I LOVE THIS TROPE. SO MUCH. And this might just be one of the most perfect applications of this trope ever??? I’m so happy??? IT HAPPENED. THIS ISN’T FAKE, IT ISN’T A FANTASY, IT WASN’T JUST SOMETHING TO DRAW OUT CONFLICT AND DRAMA, PETRA/JANE IS NOW A THING. A REAL THING. THEY DID IT. IT’S CANON IN EVERY WAY IMAGINABLE.
Like, who even cares about having to write a review about anything else???
Okay, actually, I do, as there is more to say, but holy shit. I’m still reeling from this. There was so much time in this episode devoted to the two of them, too. Looking back on this, I’m appreciative of that. There’s so much tension right from that first kiss, which knocked me the fuck OUT. The fake dating trope is utilized FULLY from that point on, though I admit that by the time the kiss happened, I’d discarded of the notion that this show was baiting me anymore. It felt way too much on the surface to be the typical sort of plot other shows might do. THAT KISS WAS TOO REAL, OH MY GOD.
The way this develops… Petra trusts Jane more and more. And as she does, she feels more comfortable exploring her attraction to Jane. Let me remind you that it was PETRA who suggested that Jane sleep over to “sell” the whole fake dating plot. That wouldn’t have happened if Petra hadn’t felt safe with Jane. I don’t want to discount that Petra has a lot of trauma around loyalty, and that’s certainly a reason why she tests Jane. It’s how the whole fake dating plot arises. But I also wonder if there was an unconscious thing here: What if Petra wanted to know she was safe with Jane in more than just the obvious way?
I feel like… that would be the fic I would write if I had time because the subtext is RIGHT THERE to be explored. Which… fuck. That’s such an amazing thing to be able to say because PETRA BEING INTO JANE RAMOS ISN’T SUBTEXT IN ANY CONCEIVABLE INTERPRETATION OF THIS.
i’m. i’m overwhelmed. IT REALLY HAPPENED.
I appreciate so much that as hard as it’s been to watch Jane grieve the death of Michael, the show has made it a point to demonstrate to us that grief is not a straight progression. You don’t just consistently get better until it doesn’t hurt. I spent most of “Chapter Seventy-Six” being unsure why Jane was so weird about the moments when Rafael offered to make space for her in his new place. (Which is looking very cute right now!!!!! Good job!!!) Did she think they were moving too fast? The writers brilliant take this in a direction that hurt, but one that felt so beautifully real. It’s clear that Jane wants to think of her growing affection for Rafael in as serious terms as possible. She ideally doesn’t want this to be casual, and she wants to move towards a longterm romantic relationship with him. But that dream sits on top of another one, one that ended when Michael suddenly passed.
I’ve written this a few times now, but it still is refreshing to see this specific context addressed, since it’s not always the most common form of grief. This time around, there’s a new narrative frame, one taken from Jane’s plot trying to shake her writer’s block. (More on that at the end.) From her improv class, she learns about the “Yes, and…” technique, a means that is supposed to help her accept what she is given in class and add something to it. Y’ALL, I JUST LOVE HOW THAT WAS RE-APPROPRIATED FOR THIS INSTANCE. Because Rafael is right! He’s not here to replace Michael or that relationship; rather, Jane is allowed to respect and cherish that time AND have a new romance with Rafael. Their love can just be something new. I LOVE IT. TRULY.
So, I’ve talked about this in a few of the interviews I’ve given, but the actual spark of an idea for Each of Us a Desert came from my brother and I locating information on our biological dad. In an oddly similar set-up, we finally got his full name, and that part is HUGE when you’ve known nothing your whole life. Unfortunately, our hopes were dashed by both a lack of any records here in the US that would have fit him because he is apparently still in Mexico, and getting there these days is a lot harder than it used to be. Even then, where would we start? In an instant, our hope was dashed because of a goddamn border. But there was a moment of elation and terror there, one where we thought we might finally know more about this man.
I’ve made my peace that I’ll never know, so watching this was hard at times. I know that crushing fear and I know that crushing disappointment. I say that know that Rafael’s situation is so different than my own. Still, I really like that Jane the Virgin is handling this with care.
WHY DID LUISA BUY THE ORPHANAGE RECORDS, BY THE WAY.
Ah, imposter syndrome, you’re a hell of a thing.
So, true story: I have not looked at my Goodreads since the spring of 2018. I have never looked at my Amazon reviews. I got burned by a couple trade reviews, some particularly nasty Goodreads reviews, and someone (who should really, really know better) tagging me in a negative, insulting review of my book literally like… an hour after it came out. AN HOUR. LET ME HAVE LIKE A DAY OF PEACE, MOTHERFUCKER. At the time all this was happening, I was doing my first major rewrite of Desert, so I was especially raw. I was doubting whether I had the talent or the ability to write a second novel. What if I was only able to do one for the rest of my life?
The voice that Jane hears in this episode is exaggerated, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something very real at the heart of this. A bad or hurtful review can get in your head exactly like it does for Jane, and sometimes, that’s all you can hear when you’re trying to create something new. There’s also a whole “second book syndrome” thing that authors have to deal with! Like, to give some context to you: I had to rewrite the first draft of Desert because it wasn’t good enough, and that was happening at the exact same time as a book that had been edited nearly 40 times was coming out. One thing that was hard for me to accept at first was that I couldn’t write a book that early in drafting that would be perfect or immediately better than my first. Yet that idea got in my head and made it harder!
I also don’t want to ignore that cultural biases do play a part in all this, and I love that the writers have Jane call attention to this when she talks about the letter she wrote regarding the big negative review she got. Yes, some people actually can’t see the intent of a story because they’re too wrapped up in their own worldview and experiences. This happens ESPECIALLY to marginalized writers! When white readers, for example, are used to a white default, sometimes, they twist the apparent meaning or intent of a work of fiction to fit their view of the world. Or they project their insecurities. OR a million other things can happen. YOU STILL SHOULD NOT WRITE A RESPONSE TO YOUR CRITICS. Thankfully, Jane doesn’t. I’m glad that at the moment she appears to have gotten the lesson here: external factors can greatly influence your creative muscle, and not always for the better. And look, writers: you have people in your life who can give you constructive, caring feedback: Beta readers. Critique partners. Your agent. Your editors. You don’t need to read every single review on what you’ve produced. I read practically none of them, and it really does help me focus on writing a new project rather than obsessing over how I got the last one totally wrong.
Move on. That’s what I do, and that’s what Jane has to do at her own pace. I’m glad she’s trying different things, and I bet she is soon going to start killing it. But I hope she—and all of you!—understand that you have to take care of yourself when it comes to creativity. You have to offer yourself kindness. You can’t force it any time you want. And I really hope that Jane finds her groove again.
The video for “Chapter Seventy-Six” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– My second novel, EACH OF US A DESERT, is now out in the world!
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