JUANA LA VIRGEN
Juana la Virgen is a 2002 telenovela written by Perla Farías and produced by RCTV in Venezuela. The show takes place in Venezuela, where the protagonist, Juana Pérez, is a 17-year-old in high school. She lives with her mother, uncle, and grandmother who seem to have a bit of tension with each other. Her mother is in a relationship with a man who claims to be getting a divorce, a relationship the grandmother opposes. While the mother’s immaturity is an issue in the show, this analysis will not examine that aspect of the program. Instead, I focus on the first episode where Juana gets accepted into her dream college in Los Angeles, California, but is accidentally inseminated on her first visit to the gynecologist by a distracted doctor who mistakes Juana for a surrogate, thus impregnating her. Juana, however, doesn’t discover this until later.
JUANA LA TELENOVELA
In the first episode of Juana La Virgen, three key characteristics stand out. First, Juana is a 17-year-old high school student who just got accepted into college. In the United States, pregnancy at a young age is looked down upon. It seems that it is also discouraged in Venezuela, however, since the show’s drama involves the fact that she became pregnant at a young age.
The second characteristic is Juana’s relationship to her virginity. In the first episode, Juana states that she chooses to stay a virgin because she hasn’t found anyone she wanted to lose it to, which provides some perspective into how virginity is seen in Venezuela.
The third characteristic was the use of Spanish as the primary language throughout and the tone of the show. The primary language of Venezuela is Spanish, so it would make sense that their television shows would be reflective of this important aspect of their culture. These three characteristics are called to attention because of how differently these issues are reflected in the U.S. version, Jane The Virgin – discussed later.
The first characteristic that is notable is Juana’s age. Interestingly, in Juana La Virgen Juana becomes inseminated at the young age of seventeen with Mauricio’s child.
Mauricio is significantly older than Juana; he is around his thirties.
The show does a good job of reflecting the attitudes about young pregnancies in Venezuela. According to UNDATA, as of 2011, the legal age for girls and boys to get married is 12 years with or without parental consent in the country.
Furthermore, the national average of teenage pregnancies in Venezuela is 13.5%. Taking into account both these pieces of information, it would be more acceptable to have a character getting pregnant at a young age.
In addition to her getting pregnant at such a young age, it is important to also note that she and Mauricio begin to become romantically interested in one another as the show progresses.
This component of the show shines light on how age gaps in Venezuela are more accepted compared to the United States, where romantic relationships between someone under the age of 18 and someone as old as Mauricio in the telenovela may be illegal.
JUANA AND HER VIRGINITY
The second characteristic that is notable is the relationship between Juana and her virginity. In this Venezuelan telenovela, Juana states in the first episode of the show that she chooses to stay a virgin because she has other priorities and isn’t particularly interested in anyone in that way.
Her attitude towards her own virginity gives some perspective into how young women view their virginities in Venezuela. She prioritizes her career and educational goals over seeking a relationship
The writers of the show may have incorporated this aspect of the main character’s personality to reflect the way many young girls of the time were focused on their careers. In addition, they could have included this aspect to encourage young girls to accomplish their goals before seeking a relationship.
On the other hand, Juana’s choice to stay a virgin may give insight to the way that the writers may be trying to shine light on the importance of choice in women’s sexuality.
Though Venezuela doesn’t have an official religion, the dominant religion in the country is Roman Catholic and the Virgin Mary is heavily idealized. Therefore, Juana’s attitudes on her own virginity show a step away from religion and toward her own autonomy.
LANGUAGE AND TONE
Lastly, the third characteristic that is notable is the usage of Spanish throughout the show and the serious tone of the plot.
In Venezuela, the official language is Spanish and therefore, the telenovela was in Spanish. Though it makes sense for the show to be in the country’s primary language, it is important to note that it is reflective of the culture in Venezuela and their primary language.
Furthermore, the show is dramatic and maintains a serious tone throughout, making its events seem more realistic. Though the concept of being accidentally artificially inseminated is over the top, the show is able to make it seem like a realistic possibility in how it presents the characters and the story.
JANE THE VIRGIN
Jane the Virgin is an American television comedy series created by Jennie Snyder Urman. The show focuses on a young woman named Jane Villanueva, who is accidentally artificially inseminated at 23 years old and decides to keep the baby. Jane grapples with the challenges of suddenly becoming a mom of another couple’s child, all the while being in a relationship with her long term boyfriend/fiancé Michael Cordero who is opposed to the pregnancy.
Unlike Juana La Virgen, where Juana doesn’t know the father of the child prior to her accidental insemination, in the U.S. version of the telenovela Jane had a previous romantic encounter with the father of the child, Rafael Solano. In addition, the artificial insemination was meant for Petra Solano, the wife of Rafael who wanted the baby to trap him in their marriage. Rafael was unaware of the possibility of a pregnancy unlike Mauricio who desperately wanted a child. Furthermore, in Jane The Virgin Jane becomes aware of her pregnancy and complicated relationships in the first episode compared to the various episodes it takes for Juana to find out she is pregnant, let alone Mauricio who is the father.
WHAT MAKES JANE THE VIRGIN DIFFERENT?
In Jane The Virgin, the three characteristics of age, virginity, and language are significantly different. Jane is a Venezuelan-Mexican American, 23-year-old waitress, studying to be a teacher. The second characteristic shows up in Jane’s relationship with her virginity. In the U.S. version of the show, Jane has strived to remain a virgin due to familial pressures from her abuela and religious beliefs that one should be married before having sex. Finally, the third characteristic that was notable was the combined usage of English and Spanish in the show.
Similarly, it is important to note that in Jane The Virgin, the show itself has an added element of reflecting telenovelas. Though the show attempts to present itself as a novela, it makes an effort to call attention to the conventions of the telenovela. For example the over-the-top plot twists, revivals of characters previously thought dead, and quirky imagery.
The first characteristic that is notable between the two shows is Juana’s age in comparison to Jane’s. As mentioned earlier, in Juana La Virgen Juana is accidentally inseminated and becomes pregnant at the age of 17. In comparison, Jane is a 23-year-old studying to become a teacher and has a serious relationship with a detective, Michael. Similar to how the age of Juana demonstrates the attitudes of pregnancy and relationships at a young age in Venezuela, Jane the Virgin’s choice of making Jane over the age of 18 reflects the attitudes of pregnancy and relationships at an early age in the United States.
In the United States, child marriage – marriage of youths under the age of 18 – is actually legal in 44 states. However, in the United States Statuory Rape laws protect children under the age of 18 who have been forced by someone older than 18 years to engage in sexual intercourse. The child marriage laws have been controversial and attempts to repeal laws that allow children to marry in many states have failed. Though child marriage laws allow children under the age of 18 to get married with the permission of their parents, many American citizens oppose the law. Furthermore, child marriage laws in Florida were banned in 2018 and now in order for individuals to get married, they must be 18 years or older.
Since Jane the Virgin was filmed in Miami, Florida, and aired in 2014, the age of the protagonist may have been a factor relevant to the setting. The choice to make Jane 23 years old removes the stigma of child pregnancy in the eyes of the audience.
JANE AND HER VIRGINITY
The second characteristic that is notable in Jane the Virgin compared to Juana La Virgen, is the relationship between the main characters and their virginity. In Juana La Virgen, Juana chooses to stay a virgin because she is focused on her future goals and doesn’t want to get involved with anyone. However, in Jane the Virgin, Jane is a virgin because of family pressures from trying to please her grandmother, Alba.
In the very first episode of the show, the narrator talks about how Alba told Jane that her virginity was a precious part of women’s identities. Alba compares virginity to crumpling a flower and explains that there is no way to reverse the damage to the flower. Similarly, if Jane loses her virginity she would be unable to reverse the action. Alba emphasizes that Jane should never forget the analogy and the narrator confirms that Jane never did.
The episode then cuts to Jane making out with her boyfriend Michael and telling him that she can’t have sex with him until they are married, however, her attitude toward sexual intercourse isn’t negative. Her reaction to Michael reflects Jane’s personal feelings, but her choice to not continue is impacted by Alba’s flower analogy.
Throughout the first season, the audience is introduced to Alba’s faithfulness to her religion and how important it is to her, which she re-enforces in Jane.
Understanding the aspect of virginity in Catholicism and how the Virgin Mary is looked up to, we can see that Jane’s decisions to stay a virgin is also impacted by religious pressures. This aspect of Jane the Virgin represents Latiné Catholic families in the United States and the religious pressure felt by second generation Latinés.
LANGUAGE AND TONE
Lastly, the third characteristic that is notable between Jane the Virgin and Juana La Virgen is the primary language used throughout the shows. In Juana La Virgen, Spanish is the only language spoken. However in Jane the Virgin, both Spanish and English is used though the primary language used is English for the most part.
In the United States, there is no official language and therefore, the show’s choice of both languages reflects the fact that both languages are spoken in this country. Furthermore, as of 2019, statistics show that there are 41,757,391 Spanish speakers in the country and in fact, in Miami the Latiné population makes up about 71.57% of the city. Though not all Latinés speak Spanish and not all those that speak Spanish are Latiné, the show took into consideration the demographics of Miami and the languages spoken in the United States.
As an American adaptation of Juana La Virgen, which is a drama, the show takes many elements and the main plot from the original. However, the show also makes a critique of novelas and their role in Latiné families by not only presenting the highly dramatic elements but also by making the series very light-hearted and comedic in comparison to the original.
The show depicts Jane, her mother, and her grandmother as avid telenovela fans. This choice of tone and perspective of Jane’s family reflects how telenovelas are important aspects of Latiné families, however, they are taken much more lightly and comedic than they are in their mother countries.
“To be seen and heard is a simple human need. To be invisible in a world of loud voices is heartbreaking and dehumanizing...The under-representation of Latinos in Hollywood both on and off screen is not just a feeling; it’s a sad reality…Latinos are not only prominent and loyal in the consumer market but also make up one of the largest demographics at the box office every opening weekend. The fact that we are not seen on screen despite our vast contributions is devastating.”Gina Rodriguez
JUANA Y JANE
By contrasting Juana La Virgen with Jane the Virgin, we can see the ways that Latin American programming and U.S. programming reflect differing cultures. Juana La Virgen reflects some Venezuelan culture and beliefs while Jane The Virgin reflects some U.S. Latiné beliefs and culture. However, it is important to note that Jane The Virgin follows the plot of the original Latin American show which doesn’t focus on many realistic struggles faced by Latinés in the U.S. Rather, it only provides glimpses of what might be seen in Latiné families in the U.S.
Though Jane the Virgin is limited in the representation of Latinés in the United States, it still contributes to this representation by having a primarily Latiné cast, especially the protagonist. Having Latiné characters in the spotlight is an important part of having good Latiné representation in U.S. television. In Mary Beltrán’s Latino TV: A History, she describes how in the 1970’s young Latiné Americans began to fight back against their marginalization by making colleges acknowledge their histories and culture. They were tired of being “minor characters” in both real life and on television.
Furthermore, in the early 2000’s, more diversity enters television through the efforts of both the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition. Shows such as George Lopez and Greetings from Tucson which focus on Mexican American households made their debuts on the screen in this period, which helped to expand the ways Latinés are portrayed on television.
Similarly, Jane the Virgin helps change the narrative about Latinés in the United States and suggests that shows about Latinés are popular. About 24% of those who watched the show were Latiné and 54% were non-Latiné according to a survey conducted on who watched the show. The statistics on viewership reflect the popularity of Latinés in television, however, it also shows that there was a low viewership by Latinés. It is unclear why, however, it is possible that many Latinés didn’t relate to the show which would suggest that representation of Latinés was limited.
Modern day television in the United States has struggled to provide accurate representations of Latinés within the country. The cultural differences between who and where the telenovelas are viewed allows for a better understanding of how telenovelas have impacted Latiné communities in the United States.
Analyzing both Jane the Virgin and Juana La Virgen allowed me to discover an important difference in how these shows reference the different social norms of each country.
The social culture of Venezuela where Juana La Virgen takes place and the United States where Jane The Virgin takes place have differences that are taken into account in translating telenovelas into U.S. programming.