If you are a female, imagine yourself going for your regular yearly pap smear and walking out of the doctor’s office with something extra you totally did not ask for: a pregnancy. I don’t know about you, but I would totally start freaking out.
That is exactly what happened to Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez), a religious young Latina whose family traditions vows to protect her virginity until she marries the right person. Her abstinence is suddenly out the window when a doctor, who was having a complete nervous breakdown over relationship issues with his wife, mistakenly inseminates her artificially with sperm from a man called Rafael Solano (Justin Baldoni). He just happens to be Jane’s boss and the man she first shared a kiss with.
What could possibly be going through her mind? She has never had sex in her life, but she is now pregnant. Without the backstory, many think she is like “Virgin Mary.”
All Jane can think about is her family, because her grandmother Alba (Ivonne Coll) adheres to Catholic traditional believes that Jane should protect her “flower.” The entire ordeal screams Spanish-speaking telenovela drama, which might be new to the American audience. This explains why the audience loves the series and has gathered rave reviews from critics.
The new CW show is a loose adaptation of the RCTV hit soap opera “Juana La Virgen.” The original was created by Perla Farias and broadcasted in Venezuela starring Daniela Alvarado (Juana Perez) and Ricardo Álamo (Mauricio de la Vega). In the U.S., it aired on Univision.
In this new version, Jane gets pregnant at 23, while in the original, it happens when she is just 17 years old. Juana wanted to travel abroad to study journalism and Jane is currently in school pursuing a teaching degree. Even though numerical wise there is not a big gap in age, in reality, the mindset is different.
This is not the first time a Latino telenovela gets adapted for an American audience. We have seen a successful adaptation of “Yo Soy Betty La Fea” into “Ugly Betty.”
Coming from someone that watched the original series in its entirety in the Dominican Republic when it initially aired in 2002, I find CW’s version light, bubbly and just fun to watch. It’s more of a comedy series than a drama series.
“Juana La Virgen” was more realistic, melodramatic and intense, which sometimes are major characteristics of telenovelas. Contrary to Jane, Juana had no connection whatsoever to the father of the baby, but ended falling in love with him.
The show had to be made into a mix or comedy and drama in order to work because we are in different times than we were 12 years ago when the original was made. Artificial insemination was a taboo at that time. Very few had access and means to challenge human nature with complex reproductive technology.
The really funny part in this series is that Jane’s father, Rogelio de la Vega (Jaime Camil), is a famous telenovela star. In reality, the actor actually is. Camil is an established actor that has starred in numeral Mexican soap operas as main antagonist and protagonist.
Gina Rodriguez does a fantastic job portraying her character without falling into the Latino stereotypes.
What will happen to Jane and the baby? We shall find out, since CW ordered a total of 22 episodes with 13 already in the can. It seems we have a lot more “Jane” to go. It should be fun to watch.
Montclair State | New Jersey