In the tenth episode of the fifth season of Jane the Virgin, I still hurt, and I imagine I will right up until the final episode. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Jane the Virgin.
Trigger Warning: For manipulation, consent, trauma.
Burning the Candle at Both Ends
I’ve gotten close to burnout because I was juggling too many projects a number of times in my life. And every time, I’ve seen a common denominator involved in that, so I want to discuss this plot in “Chapter Ninety-One” through the lens of something that Rogelio says: It’s really hard to make a living off of art. At least here in the States, many of the creative industries are bizarrely secretive about how money is made from said art. I know that is the cast very specifically when it comes to publishing. When I do school visits, I often get asked how I get paid or if I’m a millionaire already. There’s a mistaken belief that all authors must be rich if they got published, and it’s… well, I think there are many factors that go into that misconception. Visibility doesn’t equal wealth, first of all, so even if something seems to be everywhere doesn’t mean that work of art is translating to sales. But beyond that, there’s also this notion that publishing (and many of these artistic avenues) are a meritocracy, that only the best, the brightest, and the most talented rise to the top.
Which isn’t true at all. But let’s use Jane’s example, and I’ll also talk about how that applies to publishing. There has been no time in my life that $7,500 wouldn’t be a life-changing amount of money, and I say that having earned a few checks now well over that amount. It’s a lot of money. I grew up poor, and the idea of a four figure check was unfathomable to me. But multiple thousands of dollars? Unreal. So, yes, getting that all at once for a treatment? You haven’t even written the first draft of the episode? Again, that’s life-changing! It’s a huge deal!
Except $7,500 per episode is actually way, way, WAY under what the Writer’s Guild of America states is the average payment per 30 minute script. And this also means that Jane would be splitting $7,500 with Dina for every episode after that if she stayed on the staff. (They don’t really get into the treatment vs teleplay split at all, so I’ll ignore that.) If you get a full time job on a show that runs for a decent amount of episodes, that could be a good chunk of money before taxes. So, beyond wanting to help her father, Jane has a fantastic financial opportunity before her. She could get out of debt. She could feel safer in her day-to-day life knowing that she might actually have some savings set aside.
I saw myself from like three years ago in this. It was hard not to. I’ve talked about advance schedules in the past, and unlike television, they are spread out in anywhere from two to five payments, with that fifth payment coming years after the book is published. (I haven’t signed a five-split advance before, but I heard they exist.) My first book contract was split in thirds; my second in halves. My young adult contract did not pay, by any standard, a living wage. Since it was for two books, that meant six equal-sized payments. That means I got my last one nearly three-and-a-half years after the first. My total advance? That was a living wage, but not spread out over that length of time.
So I pursued and took on short story opportunities, which generally pay about $800-$1,500 for print anthologies; digital anthologies always pay way less than this, and they also generally don’t have any sort of royalties built into it. Hell, I still haven’t started earning royalties out of my first book contract, and I’ve sold well over 50,000 books. Which is amazing!
But I think you can see how strange this industry is, and while Jane the Virgin certainly doesn’t get everything right with regards to publishing, they do show us how much of a struggle it is. Some authors don’t land well. I didn’t sell that many books in 2018; the bulk of them came after winning a national award and getting added to Project LIT’s roster for 2019. So you supplement your income with side gigs, with smaller projects, boosting yourself with things that might make your profile bigger in the hopes that when you do get the opportunity to sell a bigger contract, maybe your agent will have leverage to boost how much you’re being paid.
So you burn the candle at both ends. You have to. At least, that’s what a lot of us tell ourselves in this field, and unsurprisingly, this leads people to some pretty toxic places. Like thinking you’re only worth your output as a creative. Like devaluing your own health because you’ve got to keep working. Like pursuing a project because you mistakenly believe it’ll help you achieve “success.” Oh, these are all personal things, by the way, not just general notions of toxicity. They’re all things I’ve done. I’ve been so exhausted that I’ve mixed up projects or forgotten significant things. And thankfully, therapy is helping me to learn to get rid of these tendencies AND to get me to ACTUALLY SAY NO TO THINGS.
I’m glad that after all that Jane went through, someone gave her the space to say no, to focus on what she wanted rather than what she felt obligated to do. I have more to say about Rogelio, but it’s worthy to note that when he finally approached Jane about his pilot script, he truly made her feel safe to hand everything over to Dina. That was the best thing for her! She was on such a roll with her novel, but she understandably felt compelled to finish the pilot first, for personal AND financial reasons.
Also, pay your writers more. Like, in every industry. Seriously.
So, this entire story is from the point of view of the parents in this scenario, so I want to acknowledge that as we continue. It’s not about Mateo’s ADHD diagnosis as much as it is about Jane and Rafael’s reaction to it. And initially, these two don’t really handle it well in two completely different ways. Rafael is completely closed to the idea that his son needs any specialized help or that he is neuroatypical; he refuses to book any tests for Mateo. Jane, while concerned, decides to undermine Rafael’s decision—which definitely had problems with it and certainly needed more discussion—by booking the tests behind Rafael’s back. It only gets worse from here, and it’s hard to interpret this without acknowledging that this couple’s recent break-up played a part in it as well. Like, it’s easy to see that the whole lawyer/custody issue upset Jane because it felt like another confirmation that her and Rafael’s romantic potential was further from reality.
But as they’ve had to learn in these last few episodes, they have to put Mateo first. They just do! And having a diagnosis might make things uncertain, but at least there’s an answer. At least there are paths forward. And more important than everything else, perhaps Jane and Rafael can start to understand their son better, particularly in how he sees the world and how his mind works every day. That is invaluable, and I’m eager to see what plan they’ll move forward with.
As I said on video, I see Rogelio’s arc as what he spells out here to Dina while he’s begging her to be the sole writer on his new project: He is genuinely trying to change. Not changed, as if it’s a complete project that’s now completely over. It is an active process, and it’s something he still fumbles. He is still making mistakes. But Rogelio’s story over these five seasons has made strides to show us how he truly is trying to become a better person. If he hadn’t been, he’d honestly be completely insufferable at this point. (Shit, at times, he still is!) But what does change MEAN? And why should Dina even bother to put herself into a situation that could end so poorly? LIKE IT HAS A BILLION TIMES BEFORE.
Because look, Rogelio’s personal growth is great, and it’s a treat to watch him get better and become more willing to go with empathy. However, what about growing as a person at the expense of someone else? Just like Dina, for instance! So I loved that the home insurance metaphor was taken from Rafael’s scene in the house he (hopefully!) sold and applied to other parts of this episode. Rogelio brought character witnesses to Dina, but then also brought a contract for his own behavior. That way, there was a structure in place in the case that Rogelio didn’t do as well as he could.
That doesn’t mean everything will go smoothly, but at least now Dina has some recourse if things don’t go her way. It’s a good first step.
There is definitely a lot that bothers me Rose. Like… an endless list of things, honestly. But let’s just focus on what she does to Luisa here, because I fully believe she’s manipulation Luisa again. Look, the first red flag, aside from the fact that this is a situation involving Rose? The fact that Luisa was drunk when Rose had her sign those documents. There’s the consent issue here, since doing something like this while one party is inebriated is a NIGHTMARE. That doesn’t seem like love to me at all; it looks very much like Rose wanted insurance of her own in case things went badly. And they have! Luisa finally turned on Rose and Rose is in prison. So, here’s Rose’s collateral: the papers that Luisa drunkenly signed. Was she coerced by Rose at the time? I imagine that’s the case. It doesn’t seem out of character for her at ALL. Plus, that’s the whole reason for Bobby, right? To have someone assisting in Rose’s manipulation of Luisa. For… what? Revenge? Is she trying to get out again? Does she just want to ruin the lives of the Solanos? I STILL DON’T GET HER ENDGAME. Which frightens me!!! We only have nine episodes left!!!!
MY QUEER HEART. IT CAN’T HANDLE THIS. Oh my god, it’s almost worse that these two women had been trying as hard as they could to make their relationship work. It’s almost worst that the reason for this break-up is INCREDIBLE SENSIBLE AND FAIR. Like!!!! I was devastated when JR left at the beginning of the season! But it wasn’t as sinking or as brutal as this.
It’s because they both still love one another, they want to be together, but a combination of emotional trauma and timing has made it painful for JR to continue seeing Petra. Which fucking sucks. Like, I don’t have a more clever way to say this. IT SUCKS. SO MUCH. It sucks because it makes sense. It sucks because it actually sounds like this is the best decision for JR. I have LITERALLY moved hundreds of miles to a new city in order to start over. I did that after a break-up in 2010 when I moved to the Bay Area, and I did it again in 2015 after another break-up. Actually… shit. I think this last break-up was the first one where I didn’t move super far afterwards? I’M ADAPTING.
Anyway. The one silver lining in all of this: That scene near the end with Jane and Petra. I don’t question how close they are. At all. This show has sold me their friendship so fucking well, y’all, and it is a testament to the cast and crew who have made this so believable! Of course Jane was the first person that Petra went to post-breakup. OF COURSE!!! And of course she knew that Jane would be the right amount of sympathetic and kind, because that’s what kind of friend Jane is.
THIS STILL SUCKS, I WANT THEM BACK TOGETHER.
The video for “Chapter Ninety-One” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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