Two of my favorite and most-binged shows are Being Mary Jane and Jane the Virgin. If you watch these shows, you know their addictive nature go beyond their entertaining plots. The power in these shows is in realistic representation. Gabrielle Union, star of Being Mary Jane and Gina Rodriguez, star of Jane the Virgin, give black and Latina girls someone to look-up to. As they navigate their professional lives, love lives, and relationships with friends and family, they pass on every lesson learned to the other brown girls in the world who will or have experienced the same things.
Here are some of the things these beautiful Janes have represented realistically:
The value of hard work. Both Janes go after their dreams and work hard for them.
In each show, the sacrifices women of color have to make to gain success are apparent. In Jane the Virgin, Jane must balance work, raising a newborn baby, and attending graduate school in pursuit of her dream to be a writer. We witness her grapple between missing out on her son’s life and the possibility of missing out on her own dreams. In Being Mary Jane, M.J. must work long hours at a high profile job as a news anchor. Her high-pressure career puts pressure on her love life, family life, and mental health.
Men men men. Each Jane struggles to find love and keep a grip on who they are.
Team Michael or team Rafael? This struggle tears up social media and Jane Villanueva in the show. On one hand, she could choose Rafael, someone she shares culture with but who comes from a different economic status and holds different values at heart. On the other hand, she could choose Michael who knows Jane through and through but does not challenge her.
M.J. has a lot of men to choose from, but she is still untangling the strings of her past relationship with David, her college lover. She struggles with her love for him and the uncanny ability both have to hurt each other.
Sex life. Each show is completely transparent with the sex lives of each of the Jane’s, and they are vastly different.
Jane Villanueva is a devout Catholic who committed herself to being a virgin till marriage at a young age. At 23, she is still a virgin and becomes pregnant after being artificially inseminated. As she becomes a mother, she questions the value in holding onto her virginity.
Mary Jane has a very active sex life. She has the opposite problem as Jane, she wants a baby but has not been able to get one. In the series premier, she steals semen from her complicated lover David with the intention of “turkey basting”- I mean artificially inseminate herself.
Family Drama. Each Jane has her own considerable family drama, but still places great value in family relationships.
Jane Villanueva grew up in a multi-generational household comprising of her grandmother and her mother, which gives her a unique outlook on life. She also grew up without knowing her father. When he enters back into her life, she must balance how much involvement she wants him to have with her and her son.
Mary Jane’s family grew up well-off, but as the Paul children reached adult life M.J. becomes the highest income earner. As her siblings ask her for money, she is caught between wanting them to succeed but also wanting them to be self-sufficient. M.J. also deals with criticism from her parents who are quick to respond when she does not act in the way they raised her to.
The Value of Words. Both Jane’s value the power of words.
Jane Villanueva has always been a writer and a lover of romance. She strives to bring the feelings of love come alive in her writing and in her personal relationships. This causes her to have a romanticized view of the world and be vulnerable in her dealings with others.
Mary Jane keeps inspiring quotes on the walls in her home. She finds inspiration in the words of authors, and intertwines these words in her show and in daily conversation. These words giver her strength that she hopes to pass on to others.
Beyond their respective shows, both Janes find value in words through advocacy. Gina Rodriguez has used her celebrity to highlight other Latino performers, advocate for women’s rights, support anti-bullying campaigns, and the list goes on. As a survivor of sexual assault, Gabrielle Union speaks out about her experience to empower others in similar situations. She also advocates for black rights and healthy living.
Thank you to these Janes for giving black and Latina girls role models! Keep the magic coming!