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By: Yuliana Salinas
As a kid, I grew up with TV shows like Full House, Lizzy McGuire, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Friends. I idolized the main characters so much in real life that I followed their fashion trends and never missed out on their movie or album projects. At a young age, I really picked up on the fact that none of the main characters looked like me, but I didn’t think too much of it. It was the type of shows that kids and teens my age were talking about at school and I also wanted to be part of that conversation. Besides, I knew I could tune into Univision to see someone like me in the telenovelas that I would watch with my mom! Don’t even get me started with Amigas y Rivales, Clase 406 and Soñadoras!
Growing up in a Spanish-speaking household and vibrant Mexican community in Chicago made me appreciate the value of being Mexican-American. Not only did I learn to take pride in my heritage, but I was also proud of being bilingual. I was very fortunate to have been born and raised by hardworking parents in a large, diverse city in the U.S. – so I asked myself; why couldn’t I find a show on a mainstream network with the main character looked like me, were bilingual, and showcased hardworking parents, like my own?
The makeup of Latino celebrities in TV shows has been very slim in the last few years and still have a long way to go. In a recent study conducted by Columbia University,”The Latino Media Gap: A Report on the State of Latinos in U.S. Media,” shows that from 2010-2013, “Latinas did not play any television leads. On television, Latinas accounted for 67% of Latino supporting roles.” Meanwhile, the study goes to share that in 2013, Devious Maids premiered with an all-Latina main cast. In 2014, only two Hispanic actresses held television leads – one of them being Gina Rodriguez. And in 2015, America Ferrera was one of the few Latina stars to be featured on a TV show, while the show Telenovela premiered with an all-Latino cast.
It is no wonder I couldn’t find these shows on mainstream media. Latino actors and actresses are facing constant challenges in Hollywood, but that doesn’t mean they are not trying to defy stereotypes and bring inspiring portrayals of Latinos on to television. In particular, I believe Jane the Virgin does a great job at showcasing a very personal, inspiring and cultural Latino story. And we must take note that Hispanics are also multigenerational and not all speak Spanish as fluently as others, which is true of the main character Jane. But it’s a show that is representative of and relatable to not only multigenerational Latinas but to me as well – even non-Hispanics can find the show and main character as inspiring.
It’s a great heart-warming invitation to view a Hispanic-American household that transcends the reality of Hispanics living in this country. It’s the type of show that I’ve always envisioned watching!
Now in its second season, here are 5 reasons why Jane the Virgin is the type of show that Latinas need in mainstream media:
Teaches Younger and Older Women to Value Abstinence
Jane’s virginity is the main premise of the show, but the way it is presented to younger girls and women of all ages is that Jane’s choice to remain abstinent is rooted in a personal promise to her Abuela. From a very young age, Jane has been taught by her religious and loving grandmother to remain abstinent until marriage. Though she is tempted to lose her virginity to the man that she loves, Jane remains true to her promise.
Reinforces Family Values
The family is everything in this matriarchal and multigenerational household that always stands for each other and are by each other’s side. It’s a pure and strong love that unites all three women regardless of the language that they communicate in because Abuela is the only one that speaks Spanish. This very tight-knit family knows all too well the value of faith, family meetings, dinners, and encouragement for one another.
A Look into Latino Culture
The show does an extraordinary work at sharing the heartening story of the Villanueva household as a genuine and cultural depiction of a Latino family in the U.S., whose main character isn’t “whitewashed” or stereotypical.
Promotes Higher Education
This is absolutely the MOST important and valuable theme of the show. In a recent study by the Pew Research Center, “5 Facts about Latinos and education,” in 2013, it shows that among Hispanics ages 25 to 29 had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher. The show depicts Jane as she completes her college degree and immediately starts looking to enroll in a master’s writing program. BRAVO! This is incredibly encouraging to promote higher education among the Latino community.
Main Character is a Role Model IRL
Our very own Chicago native, Gina Rodriguez is badass! Not only do I think she’s great for representing the city of Chicago, but when Gina took the role of Jane she made a difference in the way Latinas are portrayed in mainstream media. The show and Gina really do give a voice to Latinas everywhere that we can achieve anything! Meanwhile in real life, Gina has since become a huge advocate to helping promote other Latino actors and actresses via her hashtag social media movement, #MovementMondays. I mean she’s just awesome!
Is there another reason you would add on to this list?