In its three seasons on air, The CW telenovela Jane the Virgin has earned a reputation for not only expertly balancing heartwarming comedy with melodramatic twists and turns, but also for being a progressive series that never shies away from the opportunity to discuss hot-button issues.
Earlier this season the series was praised for the way it handled a character's decision to have an abortion. In Monday's "Chapter Sixty-One" the series again tackled a big issue: the increasingly relevant topic of immigration, a naturally recurring theme for a series about three Latina women living in Miami. In the episode, Alba (Ivonne Coll) — who received her green card last season — is outraged by the ICE raids occurring across the nation and is appalled after witnessing a wealthy white woman tell a Spanish-speaking woman she "should learn how to speak English" because "this is America."
When Alba eventually finds her voice and attempts to persuade her new boyfriend Jorge to march with her for immigrants rights, he refuses and it's revealed he is, like Alba once was, an undocumented immigrant. Unlike, Alba, however, Jorge was scammed by the lawyer he was working with to get his green card, and has been using his cousin's social security number ever since.
The storyline is in response to heated real world conversations taking place in the United States and around the world. But even more directly, it's a response to the number of ICE raids that swept the nation in the wake of President Donald Trump's inauguration. Because of its setting and the women at its center, Jane the Virgin is in a perfect place to tackle this important issue, something that didn't escape the notice of series creator Jennie Snyder Urman.
"I think it's so important [to tell these stories] because it's important to the community that we're representing and it's important to the country that we're living in," Urman recently told TVGuide.com. "I think if Jane and her family were not aware of what's going on, it would be false for them, given that they live in Miami and they are a Latina family."
And [Alba]," she continues, "we've already seen her go through the process of getting her green card, so these issues have to weigh on our family as they weigh on a lot of the country."
The discussion about immigration doesn't stop with Alba, though, because this isn't something that exists in a vacuum. Jane's 4-year-old son Mateo is quick to pick up on his great-grandmother's anger and disgust, and he eventually asks his parents about it. "Why do some people not want peace in this country?" he asks a shocked but not really surprised Jane (Gina Rodriguez) and Rafael (Justin Baldoni).
"Well, that's actually a really good question and a really hard question," replies Jane. "Because this country was founded by people who came from all over, like your great-grandma. Because they dreamed of a better life with more opportunity. But some people, well they can't see that, and that's just a stinky, old fact."
By incorporating the complexities of an immigration storyline in this way, Urman and the Jane the Virgin writing staff are able to tell important, timely stories in a way that feels authentic, not just to the show but also to its characters.
"We look for ways where we can tell it where it's not outside of our story but where it's inside of our story, [where it's] personal and between characters so they're not preaching," Urman says. "They're reacting to situations that are affecting them and we try to take it and make it very, very personal. So in this case it has to do with Alba and her new boyfriend and what Mateo hears and what he thinks of that. So we take the big issues and then make them smaller and more personal within our family."
This isn't the first time the show has addressed immigration issues — the Season 2 storyline involving Alba receiving her green card was in the works long before it actually happened — and given the current state of the world, it's not likely to be the last. But right now we should celebrate that Jane continues to tackle these important issues and give voices to those who might not be heard otherwise.
Jane the Virgin airs Mondays at 9/8c on The CW.
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