I never wanted to write this post. What I wanted was to finish watching season 3 of “Jane the Virgin” on Netflix and go out on the inevitable cliffhanger, and at least be able to recommend the show with some reservations. Instead, I stopped after the 18th episode of the season and said enough is enough.
Actually, it is apparently NFP awareness week right now and a lot of Catholic bloggers are writing on the subject. So what better time to write about a show that epically fails at almost every of its frequent and rich opportunities to showcase Catholic sexual morality?
A young woman who has pledged virginity until marriage accidentally gets artificially inseminated and conceives a child. Sounds a little far-fetched, I know, but they add in sufficient plot details and comments on the irony to make it believable.
Now, from the get-go, there are some obvious moral problems here – i.e. artificial insemination being portrayed as an acceptable thing to do (the girl doesn’t actually do it on purpose, but another character was attempting to), when we know it’s definitely not. But there were enough good things going for this show, early on, that I was able to overlook this big moral flaw at the start.
The High Points
I’m not going to lie, there are a lot.
This show didn’t hook me immediately, but close to it. It’s an hour-long, so supposedly a drama and containing plenty of dramatic elements, but it’s also often freaking hilarious. There is a voice-over narrator who adds tons of humor and irony, and it’s all just a lot of fun. There are a million plot twists and turns that leave you saying, “What!” and starting the next episode.
It made me laugh, and it made me cry. A lot. When a show can do both of those things consistently, it usually means it’s a pretty darn good show.
It also did have some moral high points, early on. Like when Jane decides to not get an abortion – she tries to just think of the baby as a “milkshake” inside her, so that she doesn’t get emotionally attached, but it does not work, simply because it is actually a baby. So far so good.
And the whole saving-yourself-for-marriage aspect is great too, of course. Initially, anyway.
The purity pledge itself is a little skewed. The show starts with her heavily making out with her boyfriend, on her bed. I mean, come on, people. Not exactly a recipe for purity. And though there are some high points to the whole saving-yourself gimmick (like when she finally gets married, and she imagines the statues in the church singing, “Go have sex, Jane!” and it just feels very celebratory, like that’s worth waiting for!), on the whole it’s pretty messed up.
For starters, her grandmother has kind of instilled a fear of sex into her, and it is often missing the whole, “Hey, it’s actually great and totally morally acceptable once you’re married!” aspect.
And then we also get Jane’s mother legit saying that there is nothing whatsoever to feel guilty for, when having premarital sex. She calls the grandmother’s premarital abstinence view “unhealthy.” (In a way, what the grandmother has said is unhealthy, but not at all for the reasons the mother is talking about…)
There’s also the large, rather disgusting issue of the viewer discovering, once Jane does get married, that she and her now husband, while abstaining from actually having real sex before marriage, did engage in other sexual stuff. So tell me, people, WHAT WAS THE POINT? There was no point. There was no chastity, no purity. They seriously might as well have just had real premarital sex.
And thus was the sexual morality of my religion, which I hold dear, reduced to a poorly developed plot gimmick.
Now, I forgave a lot in this show all along. I fast-forwarded or looked away while they had borderline stuff like the sex scenes of her at-times slutty mother, or the weird lesbian stuff of a secondary character. I held out hope that the premarital virginity issue would ultimately be portrayed positively, because it definitely was at times. I sighed but kept watching when Jane and her husband (both Catholic, but certainly poor ones!) blatantly admitted to contracepting. I relished the here and there positive portrayals of Catholicism, hoping that those good aspects of the show might become more frequent. But…
It became so trashy.
How I wish it hadn’t. Because a lot of it was so good, so compelling, so entertaining.
Throughout this most recent (third) season, there were just way too many times where the sensual and sexual elements were played up and prominently featured. Until finally, Jane (whose husband has now died – I know, spoiler, but I really don’t care at this point because I am super pissed that I had to stop watching it and don’t feel I can recommend it anymore…) decides she wants a fling of meaningless casual sex with a hot guy. I thought, well it won’t actually happen – the show’s gimmick is essentially that she doesn’t have sex. And then it happened. And I turned it off in disgust.
I don’t even care anymore about the compelling side-plots of murder and everything else going on. The show has become filthy, and I hate that.
We’ll find ourselves a compelling, excellently done show about legit Catholics who might be flawed and imperfect at times, but at least have a clue about what they should be doing. Though at this rate, we might all be waiting until one I’ve written someday gets produced.
Because “Jane the Virgin” has left me seriously disappointed and rather disillusioned.