'Jane The Virgin's LGBT Characters Are Changing Things In A Big Way (Looking At You, Luisa)
Jane the Virgin is one of the absolute best new shows to bust on to the scene. It's been rightfully celebrated with awards and acclaim for it's incredible performances (I am forever grateful that it brought Gina Rodriguez and Jamie Camil into my life), clever use of telenovela conventions, and smart writing. The show has helped advance television with its diverse cast, and sensitive portrayal of single motherhood and religious life. Jane the Virgin is progressive because it treats LGBT couples the exact same way it treats straight couples: equally effed-up and not saccharine or sentimentalized.
In an interview with lesbian culture site After Ellen, Jennie Snyder Urman, who developed the show, discussed her desire to write fully-formed lesbian characters. “I always like to have characters where sexuality is not the issue but it's just part of the fabric," she said.
It is often an issue on television that the conflicts and characteristics of LGBT characters are inexplicably entwined with their sexuality, making them "token" stock characters or just vehicles to teach the audience a lesson. For example, Chris Colfer's character Kurt on Glee resonated with people across the world, but he was only given plotlines that involved his being gay. In the previous tradition of gay representation on television, the issues Luisa would face on the show would be about coming out and encountering daily bigotry, which subtly suggests that gay people are defined by their sexuality. Instead, Luisa's identity as a lesbian is accepted as a given, and we are able to explore different elements of her personality.
“I love how the writers write her. They sort of made her into this lovable train wreck character," says Urman in the same interview. Having Luisa's family accept her sexuality can be just as powerful a message of hope to young gay viewers. While it is empowering to see people deal with the same issues you do on screen, Jane the Virgin tells viewers that acceptance is possible and that there is hope.
Sophie Lilla and Nicole Boyce wrote over at NYU's queer entertainment column, "It’s nice to indulge in a queer relationship that feels just as campy and satirized as all straight relationships on CW shows. It can be a relief at times to not have to watch another queer couple die at the hand of a homophobic or suicidal storyline."
Luisa and Rose's presence on the show is not to fill a quota for LGBT representation; they are genuinely fleshed out and given plot twist after ridiculous plot twist, just like every other character on the show.
It's likely that many series would have portrayed Luisa and Rose's affair with the conflict being that they are both women, rather than the Jane the Virgin treatment wherein Rose is Luisa's stepmother and a (SPOILER ALERT) dangerous drug dealer who murders her father and later steal's Rafael and Jane's baby.
Luisa, Rose, and Luisa's new flame Juicy Jordan are given the same intricate plotlines and difficult dynamics as every other romantically inclined character on the show, because in reality, couples are just couples and love is love. Plain and simple.
Image: Warner Bros. Television