What We’re Watching

“Jane the Virgin” Chapter 89: Love is in the Air, Just Not for Jane

This week in Jane the Virgin, Jane’s luck in love seems to have run out while other characters finally get theirs. Chapter 89 brought us more fun times with Rogelio and we finally get some clarity on Alba and Jorge’s “will they or won’t they” relationship. The founders of Mujeres Problemáticas discuss their highs and lows of the episode and place their bets for how long Rafael can actually stay mad at Jane.

CRISTINA: I thought this episode brought the fun! Yes, things were sad for Jane but everyone else (except Raf and Mateo, still stuck in her love triangle) had a pretty interesting week. Let’s start with everyone’s favorite Rogelio. Poor guy — after all that drama with River Pheonix, his pilot gets rejected! They want someone younger and something with more edge. So who does he draft? Jane of course.

NICOLA: I love how Jane the Virgin provides such a refuge for actors of all ages. It’s so rare to see a male latino character dealing with getting older in an emotionally open and vulnerable way. And that’s what Rogelio does best. It was good to see Rogelio stick up for himself and let Jane know that she let him down by not finishing the proposal for his show. I love how real their relationship has become.

CRISTINA: Really, everything with Rogelio is the best. And speaking of fan favorites, Petra and JR also met some obstacles in Chapter 89, specifically Petra’s daughters trying to sabotage their relationship because they think JR is a “bad guy,” having seen her shot Milos last season. Turns out there wasn’t a bad man in their room, they planted the email to Milos, and, in this episode, they make Petra think JR’s about to shot.

What I loved about this plotline was seeing Petra the mom coming through. She’s raised two little mini-me’s who are tough and smart and willing to manipulate to get their way. It was great to see them both take after their mother and use their Petra-ness “against” their mom (even if they were just trying to protect her). It spoke volumes that Petra was willing to give up her new romance for the girls and I am here for it.

NICOLA: This show has so many layers and it’s incredible. Instead of just talking about gun violence they’re able to have a comprehensive conversation about trauma, violence, and mother-daughter-dating relationships. First, it’s hard being a single mom, balancing caring for your children and falling in love (arguably for the first time). But add the crazy situations that exist in Jane the Virgin including accidentally-maybe-on-purpose killing your twin sister and it gets significantly more complicated. Petra has grown and we see that in how she deals with JR and her girls. Not only is she willing to sacrifice a new love for her kids, which season one Petra would not have done, but she seeks out therapy for her girls to process the trauma. I have loved watching Petra become this strong, caring, and open woman.

CRISTINA: And I’d argue that Rafael and Jane showed some growth this episode too. Rafael gave her a very firm rejection — no means no Jane — but the two set about figuring how to co-parent as exes. I still think they’ll end up together and everyone saying Rafael is a jerk is refusing to see him as a human being rather than just a love object. I mean, what’s a person supposed to do in his situation? He’s been clear about his boundaries and wants a partner who picks him first — it’s good that he sticks up for himself. Plus, you know if Jane actually needed something (like when Xo was sick), he’d be right there. Rafael may not want to be with Jane romantically right now, but he still loves her for who she is and as the mother of his child.

NICOLA: I agree! Rafael is doing a great job in my opinion, dealing with his feelings in a mature way. When trust is lost it takes time to rebuild no matter how much you might love someone. It’s important to carve some time for yourself and to remember that your happiness does not depend on another person. Rafael is doing the work. He is investing in his relationship with Mateo and in his career goals. Honestly, Jane could take some cues from him.

CRISTINA: Agreed. The best part of the episode was certainly Alba FINALLY getting hers. She’s come a long way from the person who said a woman who has sex before marriage is like a crushed flower — never the same (or beautiful or valuable) again. Now Alba’s found a healthy relationship with sexand love within her Catholicism and that includes more acceptance of herself and Xo. It was so great to see her and Jorge acting like the couple they are and him finally admitting his love for her. They deserve all the happiness.

NICOLA: Yes, the world of Jane the Virgin is deliberately inclusive. Each character has had the opportunity to experience love, loss, joy, anger, and moments of change no matter their race, age, class, or sexual orientation. And that’s the representation we so desperately need.

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“Jane the Virgin” Chapter 88: A Miami Girl in Montana

Jane the Virgin went on a field trip to Montana this week so our heroine could focus (and resolve!) her love triangle issues. With bedazzled cowboy boots, flannels, and hats, Chapter 88 brought the fun while also revealing just how different Michael’s become through his years on the ranch. The founders of Mujeres Problemáticas discuss their highs and lows of the episode and finally pick sides between #TeamMichael and #TeamRafael.

CRISTINA: This week’s episode took place almost entirely in Montana and the city-girl-goes-country dynamic was pretty great. Yes, there were the costumes (those shoes! those hats!) but there was also the lack of technology giving Jane trouble. She couldn’t text Xo! How would her and Michael do long distance without FaceTime? So many problems being off the grid!

But the best part was seeing Jane get down and dirty. She shoveled shit, fixed a fence, and was generally the hard-working ranch hand we KNOW Latinas can be. I mean, we are the original rancheras.

NICOLA: Agreed — I definitely liked this episode. It’s one of the few episodes where we get to see Jane out of her comfort zone, and the first out of Miami. She’s away from her family, her busy schedule as a working mom, and sadly from Rafael who’s still grieving their relationship. It was fun to see. Honestly, it’s clear Jane needed this time and so did we as the audience. This whole season has mostly been us waiting to see who Jane picks and it finally came to an end. I for one was ready, regardless of who she picked.

CRISTINA: I am grateful Jane was able to sort out the love triangle — it’s been weeks of this mess! But I got a little bored without Alma, Petra, and Rogelio. Jane certainly needed the time and space to decide but I’ve got to say Michael v. Rafael is my least favorite part of the show. And a whole episode just on that — too much for me!

Of course, judging from the reactions on Twitter, I’m the only one who feels that way. Everyone was so upset — #TeamMichael because it’s time to say goodbye (again — I get it, it’s rough to have him right there and still not get that happy ending) and #TeamRafael because of all that time Jane spent “exploring it” (not to mention he’s not ready to let her back in).

NICOLA: Yeah I have to say I am also kind of annoyed and agree with you. The love triangle with Jane, Michael, and Rafael has never been my favorite storyline. I’ve always been #TeamJane and my favorite episodes are when Jane’s storyline isn’t completely driven by romance. I also think by making Michael slightly different from the goofy-loveable-crazy-about-Jane detective we loved was, forgive the pun, a total cop out. It’s clear that Jane could never have chosen between the two if Michael hadn’t changed a little.

CRISTINA: The more this season progresses (and the more reactions I read from Michael stans), the more #TeamRafael I get. He’s been such a supportive friend to Jane through everything — her marriage to Michael, her grief after he died, her ambitions to become (and grow) as a writer. I just really appreciate him. And I don’t think him having boundaries or advocating for himself is a bad thing! He’s a (fictional) person too and letting Jane walk all over him would end up being bad for both of them in the long run.

NICOLA: I agree — Rafael’s feelings are totally justified. Hey if I had just been dumped by my significant other while they try to figure out if there’s still a spark with a previously dead ex, I would also be upset and generally untrusting. I just hope once Jane wins Rafael back soon, which I’m confident will happen. Then, we can focus more time on Jane becoming the world-renowned writer we know she can be. And obviously more Rogelio. I request this every episode but it doesn’t make it any less true.

CRISTINA: You know my love for Rogelio is unending. I cannot get enough of him. Also, more swing scenes, please. The Alba-Xo-Jane matriarchial line is what Jane the Virgin should be all about. And I have no doubts Jane will win Rafael back. Gina Rodriguez is just SO hard not to love. She’s got that kind of charm that’s irresistible and if I have trouble resisting it, there’s no way Rafael will be able to. He’s just got to put up a good fight to keep the plot moving through the next few episodes!

NICOLA: Yes, we’ll see how long Rafael can resist what I’m sure will be Jane’s multi-tiered extensive, organized, and emotional strategy to win him back. And let’s face it, there’s nothing I love more than a determined confident Jane. Now that she’s made her decision, I don’t think there’s anything that can stop her from getting her telenovela-esc dream life. Or is there…(drama).

via GIPHY

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The Complicated Intersection of Love and Excellence

Our relationships are supposed to make us stronger: “you challenge me to be better,” “I learn so much from you,” “you’re my best friend.” They’re all clichés you hear at weddings and see on anniversary cards. Yet, as a recent New York Times article reminded us, relationships don’t always turn out to be fountains of support and encouragement — particularly for women.

The stats show that despite what the fairy tales tell you, women are less happy when married and our earnings go down when we have families (while men’s remains unaffected). So for many women, the struggle between love and professional excellence is on-going and often ending in loss: careers suffer, relationships suffer.

So what’s a modern, ambitious woman to do? Where can we look for role models? Please don’t point me to the thousands of starlets and women business leaders who’ve answered the “how do you balance it all” question. That’s a dead end — I’ve never found anything useful there and I bet you haven’t either. Instead, let me present an unlikely source of knowledge and understanding: Shonda Rhimes’s Grey’s Anatomy.

Most medical shows have life-and-death as their central conflict (and Grey certainly has plenty of that), but for the last 15-seasons, I’d argue, the show’s central question has been how do you navigate the intersection of love and excellence, the ways in which they conflict and the ways in which they merge.

Hear me out. The show literally starts with young resident Meredith Grey sleeping with her superior. Their relationship — Meredith and Derek — propelled season after season of the show and arguably still does, even after Derek dies in season 11. Yet, it wasn’t all candlelight, love triangles, and steamy sex. There was also Meredith navigating how having Derek as her partner helped and hurt her career. It starts with her subverting the perception that she’s sleeping her way to the top. Then, there’s how she changes her specialty, giving up neurosurgery because it’s better for her relationship if the two don’t work that closely together.

In the later years, when Derek’s tapped by US government (this was under Obama mind you) to head a groundbreaking research product into the human brain, Meredith has to grapple with balancing Derek’s needs and her own. How can she fight for her career and the community she’s built in Seattle if they stand in the way of Derek’s destiny to save humankind? Unsure of what to do and even what to feel, it’s Meredith’s (real) person Cristina who has the solution. She says Derek may be very “dreamy, but he is not the sun. You are.” With these words of wisdom, Meredith goes ahead and picks herself. It’s a brave and somewhat controversial chose, particularly for us women who are taught to be self-sacrificing, especially in this sphere. Her stance works for her but it’s not easy — Derek, like so many real men, doesn’t just see Meredith’s worth and respect it. He has to be dragged into accepting her autonomy and her status as an equal. And he’s one of the good ones!

Of course, Derek isn’t all bad for Meredith’s career either. Yes, he gets her more time in the OR and research opportunities (even if they’re ill-fated), but he also serves as an intellectual partner, encouraging her to challenge herself. They draw that tumor on their bedroom wall and figure out how to tackle it together. They bounce ideas off each other and share successes and failures. It’s not as simple as him standing in her way. It’s complicated.

And Meredith isn’t the only one with complex relationship dynamics. Think about Cristina’s pension for sleeping with her mentors. Burke, Colin Marlow (her professor at Stanford), even Owen — she picks her partners because she finds their brains, their knowledge, their accomplishments sexy. They teach her so much, particularly Burke whose tremor and the ensuing cover-up send Cristina’s learning and skills at cardiothoracic surgery into warp drive. But the lines get murky when this extremely ambitious woman finds that her lovers’ wants don’t match her own (see having children). When you’re in a relationship with your mentor, breaking up means a broken heart and major career setbacks.

It turns out, aligning two separate people’s dreams and ambitions is not easy. Navigating this conflict is made more difficult in our patriarchal society that puts men’s needs above women’s, particularly when it comes to career. But that doesn’t mean these issues only exist for women in heterosexual relationships. Callie and Arizona deal with it, both about going to “Africa” for Arizona’s Carter Madison grant and then later co-parenting Sophia with Callie’s very heterosexual baby daddy Mark.

In a recent episode, we see Meredith’s latest love interest Deluca unsure how to navigate his colleagues and particularly his superior Richard Webber (and Meredith’s defacto father) knowing about his relationship with Meredith. Deluca brings his awkwardness into surgery, potentially letting his love life get in the way of his learning. The scene mostly plays for laughs — it is easier for men in this particular sphere after all — yet the conflict remains.

It turns out there is no easy answer for how to navigate the intersection of love and excellence. Remember that episode in season six “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked,” when the residents discuss “if you had to choose between the thing you love, surgery, and the person you love, which would you choose?” Of course, it’s Cristina asking the question (because she’s facing it with the Owen-Teddy-Cristina love triangle to end all love triangles). And of course, Cristina chooses surgery while Izzie chooses love. But the rest of the group is unsure. Meredith tries not to answer, advising her friend not talk about it. Cristina only sort of heeds her advice, declaring later to Teddy, “I choose surgery over a guy. I’m not gonna apologize for it, especially to you… I want to be great, and I want to learn from you. I choose my gift.” And the episode ends with a tense conversation between Meredith and Derek in which she tells him “in the choice between surgery and love, You chose surgery. You chose ambition today.” And he responds, “so did you… We’re the same.”

These discussions where we clearly name how our relationships hinder and help our professional ambitions are rare. They’re infrequent in real life and on screen — even broaching the subject can be taboo. But they are vital to address the gender gap at home and in the workplace. How else do we suss out our personal priorities, get the support we need (from our partners and friends), and make the best decisions? We can’t unless we know what we are facing. So let’s follow Shonda Rhimes’s lead and recognize the intersections of love and excellence. It’ll be good for all of us.

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Discovery: Where to Boldly Go?

The second season of Star Trek: Discovery ended with a major cliff-hanger: Michael Burnham and the gang catapulted through space and time and we have no idea where/if/when they will end up.

To get to this moment, they had to battle artificial intelligence hell bent on “destroying all sentient life,” chase down an emo Spock and deal with his daddy-issues, solve the mystery of Michael’s parents (including finding her mother alive before losing her again), and that’s not all.

Lots of questions remain: is Control really dead? Why did Spock and friends have to vow never to speak of Discovery again (other than the show’s creators trying to explain why we never knew Spock had a sister before)? And speaking of Spock’s family, how did Sarek and Amanda manage to visit Discovery on the eve of battle but not get any ships to help? Is Captain Pike really doomed to the horrible fate he saw in the time crystal? How can we get more or Rebecca Romijn’s Number One (hair, make-up, and attitude)? Will we see more of Ash Tyler and Section 31 (or in Georgiou’s spinoff)? Was all of season two just an extended Spock (or Borg) creation story?

But, for fans of Discovery planning to tune into season three like me, the central question remains: what is in store for Michael and the crew? The finale made it clear they could go anywhere in space or time. The only hint was the possibility of finding themselves on Terralysium again. Remember it’s the Earth-like planet in the far-flung Beta Quadrant housing the few thousand technology-less humans rescued by Burham’s mother from an earlier, darker time in human history.

There are some upsides to this possibility: We could see more of Burnham’s mother, Dr. Gabrielle Burnham (I guess the lady astrophysicists of the future still take their husband’s last names) played by the formidable Sonja Sohn. Every moment she was on screen was electrifying and her newly-resumed relationship with Michael certainly deserves deeper exploration.

We’d also get to see how the Discovery crew (all of them seemingly scientists, engineers, and computer lovers) would survive without technology. I can’t imagine the next season will consist of them learning to grow potatoes so there is a certain Battlestar Galactica-y appeal in seeing them figure out how to live without a network. In this scenario, Discovery could delve into questions about the role of technology in our lives: what makes us stronger versus what makes us weaker? What is essential and what are we better off without? How do you keep growing if the ways in which we grow (aka technology) end up destroying us?

Alternatively, if Control really is “dead” a trip to Terralysium could put Burnham and crew on more of a Voyagerlike trajectory, battling to get home (assuming the spore drive is unusable now). If that’s the way we go, Discoverycould focus on issues of identity when so many of the traditional markers are gone. Do they stay in uniform? How do they pick a captain without Star Fleet? What does this mean for our favorite mutineer? The list goes on.

Personally, having spent the first two seasons of Discovery in the decades prior to the original Star Trek, I’d like to see the show move from prequel to sequel. Wouldn’t it be fun to catch up with Sisco, Janeway, Worf, etc. in their later years? I hear Jean Luc Picard is getting a series along those lines — perhaps Discovery could jump-start that process by taking us first to Bajor. Let’s see what Kira Nerys is up to. I can’t imagine she had kids, but wouldn’t she be a hilarious mother/grandmother? Her future could provide such interesting context into what warriors do after the war, how societies build after they’ve met their Gods. Certainly, in these troubling times, our world could use the critique of capitalism that Quark and the Ferengis always provide. How would Michael and Saru and Tully even respond to our favorite large-eared aliens? It would be so ripe!

But as much fun as that’d be, the truth is, I don’t actually care about where or when Discovery goes. I do care that the show embeds in its journey the big questions Star Trek is so good at asking about humanity and progress and morality. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Star Trek nostalgia Discovery offers, bringing me back on-board the space ships with their form-fitting uniforms, far out noises, and familiar characters. But I LOVE Star Trek’s morally based storytelling, its optimism about humanity paired with its willingness to take a hard look in the mirror (remember how Generations premiered with Q putting the entire human race on trial?).

We’re in the era of prestige television — it’d be a shame for the Star Trek franchise to abandon what made it so good, so timeless, and so influential to begin with. Discovery hasn’t gone deep on the big questions yet but it’s not too late. Let season three boldly go into the intellectual, the nerdy, the moral quandary. It’s the biggest adventure of them all.

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“Jane the Virgin” Chapter 87: Bringing Back the Joy


Jane the Virgin’s Chapter Eighty-Seven aired this week, giving fans a much-needed break from all the heartache. Mujeres Problemáticas co-founders Cristina Escobar and Nicola Schulze discuss.

CRISTINA: Well we’re six episodes into season five of Jane the Virgin and we finally have an episode that doesn’t feel like getting stabbed in the heart! Hooray! And Chapter Eighty-Seven was so funny. I mean Alba sharing masturbation advice – amazing! And who hasn’t at least considered Barack Obama as their fantasy man of choice (just me?)? Whatever. It was delightful.

NICOLA: Yes, it’s very refreshing to be reminded that surprise! women don’t stop having or thinking about sex at age thirty-five like most television shows would like you to believe. And watching Rogelio and Xiomara figure out their sexual chemistry after chemo felt authentic and hilarious at the same time. Rogelio’s fantasy was particularly funny as it took jabs at the inner thoughts of hetero men.  


CRISTINA: Yes! There was a lot of sex for a show with the word “virgin” in the title. Petra’s awkwardness in front of JR’s friends was great but of course, the best scene was Jane trying to teach her to loosen up on the dance floor. The sexual tension, the silliness, these two great, different women’s bond. It’s why I’m such a fan of the show

NICOLA: Let’s face it the last couple episodes have been kind of a bummer but Jane and Petra’s relationship continues to be a ray of sunshine in an otherwise emotional roller coaster of a show. Each of them is learning how to build more than just a cordial relationship with each other but an honest true friendship and it’s fun to watch.

CRISTINA: And this episode also brought back the Sin Rostro plotline. I knew she didn’t give the real reason she killed/gave Michael amnesia! But there are still so many unanswered questions. What’s the deal with her black web thingy? Who’s our nefarious hacking, pie-bringing friends? How’s all this going to relate to our central conflict: the love triangle?

NICOLA: Ugh the love triangle. To be honest I’m still mad at the Jane the Virgin writers for doing this to us. I mean there is no way everyone (anyone?) can make it out without severe emotional scarring whether it’s Rafael and his depression, Jane and her relationship with Mateo, or Michael’s confusion around his own identity.

CRISTINA: I don’t care whose team you’re on, you’ve got to feel for Rafael! Jane is putting him through hell (I mean she’s in an impossible situation too, but still) and all of his attempts at drawing healthy boundaries get thwarted. Give this man all the anti-depression pills. He’s just trying to take care of himself and no one will let him.

NICOLA: Agreed. I’m just tired and I’m ready for this to be over. Although I am excited for Jane and Michael’s trip to Montana. Hopefully, this time together will end with either a sense of closure or a new beginning for both characters so we can all move on. Also, I’m hoping that we get to celebrate Xiomara being cancer free soon because I don’t think my heart could take any more bad news.

CRISTINA: Xo better be ok! This show has served off enough heart break already! I can’t even think about the possibility of her not making it. As much as we’re both #TeamJane, I do wish she’d hurry up and pick. Because the thing is, the show isn’t really about the love triangle between Michael, Rafael, and Jane. It’s really about the one between Jane, Xo, and Alba. That scene on the bench where they all started crying and then cracked themselves up – it was perfect. Can we have more of that, please?

NICOLA: Yes, more simultaneous crying sessions please. At the heart of Jane the Virgin has always been the Villanueva women and it’s comforting to see that no matter what happens they’ll always have each other.

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Becoming Exceptional: What We Owe Michelle Obama and Beyoncé

I have been watching and rewatching the glory and salvation that is Beyoncé’s Homecoming. The over 2-hour film chronicles her historical performance as the first Black woman to headline Coachella. The film is everything and shows the strength and dedication of a woman who has reinvented so much of the music industry. Truly, there is nothing I can say about Beyoncé that hasn’t been said already, she is an icon, artist, visionary, activist, and the closest thing to a representation of God on Earth.

On the same day Homecoming came out, my mom and I saw Michelle Obama on her international Becoming tour in Amsterdam. I wore a graphic dark green dress with flowers cascading on the back and front. As we were leaving, my dad asked why I had chosen to wear such a nice outfit, “It’s not like Michelle Obama is going to see you.” I laughed and simply said, “It’s Michelle Obama.” The 17,000-person venue was filled to capacity with a majority non-Americans beaming eagerly to see a woman who stands as a symbol of hope.

Michelle Obama in the Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam. © ANP

Now, this might seem like just a coincidence — to have a single day where I was blessed with so much uplifting feminist centric content. But for me, it was as predictable as my morning coffee because Black women continue to be the chosen source of encouragement for millions, whether some admit it or not.

With our country at war with itself ideologically, Black women are consistently the ones creating poignant work consumed by the masses. Whether it’s Oprah, Michelle Obama, or Beyoncé, Black women are serving as the leaders we all look up to. I mean, how many think pieces did we read about Oprah running for president after just a short Golden Globes speech? These black women are without a doubt exceptional but we have to be careful. We can’t think of Black women as superheroes coming to save us. And we certainly can’t expect any one person to “save us” from this mess. (I’m looking at you white women)

Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming has already sold more than 10 million copies, quickly becoming one of the best selling in history. In her book, Obama details the difficulties of being a Black woman in the White House, a historic monument built by slaves. Watching her on stage, I was inspired but at the same time, I recognized the work and incredible restraint it must have taken her to be as successful as she was as First Lady.

Michelle Obama and Beyoncé are not just motivational, they’re financial powerhouses. Netflix paid Beyoncé 60 million dollars for a three-project deal and watching Homecoming, I think Netflix got a pretty good deal. And her bankability is particularly impressive because Beyoncé does not let the audience forget who she’s constructing masterpieces like Homecoming for: Black women. It’s obvious in her lyrics, dancers, musical interludes, attitudes, and themes. Suddenly finding myself with a more flexible income, I went to my first Beyoncé concert after graduating college. I wanted to see the woman who had kept me awake as I studied for finals and reignited the power of the word feminist. I’d never seen a performer who more perfectly speaks to this moment in time. She spoke of the past but appealed to our present.

As I reflect on both Michelle Obama’s work and Beyoncé’s art, I am reminded of something we should all acknowledge: we owe Black women a debt that can never be repaid. They are the ones driving and creating our popular culture, creating work and activism (cough Tarana Burke cough) that captivates not only Black women but all of us.

Their burden is heavy, one of exceptionalism and brilliance. It’s not a coincidence that Black women continue to rise to the top of our cultural zeitgeist, they’ve worked the hardest. In a country that has continually told black women they are not safe, very few have made it to the top echelons of our society. It is this lack of systemic privilege that makes their work even more spectacular.

Michelle Obama and Beyoncé are two of the few Black women who have overcome the barriers society put in front of them. Not only do Black women continue to make 61 cents on the white man’s dollar, Black women continue to face the highest rates of maternal deaths, disproportionate rates of violence, and few positions of power. In recent years, I’ve found myself turning more and more to Black women for inspiration, and it’s clear we must support Black women whether they are a billionaire, a leader of this nation, or an artist. It’s the least we can do.

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“Someone Great” is the Romantic Comedy We Need

When I was pre-teen and teenager, the women dancing in their underwear on screen were white and super thin. Think Cameron Diaz and Kirsten Dunst. They had this carefree cuteness, this unquestionable right to be fearless, sexy, and the center of attention. All of us wanted to be them, as unattainable as that was for the vast majority of us.

Fast forward to 2019 and I’m watching Gina Rodriguez jam out in her choneys on Netflix’s Someone Great. This film is the updated romantic comedy we need, following Jenny, the 29-year-old music critic who’s T-shirt declares she’s “Latina AF.” She’s brown and proud, regularly using Spanish. And she’s just as plucky and beautiful as her white predecessors. The camera spends some quality time on her thighs and I am here for it. She’s talented and driven, landing a new job that will move her to San Francisco from New York and give her a full staff to supervise at the ripe-old-age of 29. She’s not as squeaky clean as her earlier, romantic comedy counterparts (or even Gina Rodriguez’s other alter ego Jane Villanueva), doing a wide variety of drugs on the sidewalk. But she’s still romantic, seeing her love story as star crossed and using her power as a writer to express her feelings poetically in voiceover.

And like all excellent romantic comedies, Someone Great features fabulous outfit after fabulous outfit. Throughout the day we spend with Jenny in New York, people keep remarking on her clothes like she looks ridiculous. But I’m here wondering how I can get her whole dated, grunge, barrio clothes now. And of course, the same goes for her friends, who manage to look stunning in every shot, including the obligatory getting-dressed-to-go-out montage.

In fact, in addition to Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise as the best friends, Someone Great also delivers on the romantic comedy classic of the cameo. There’s Ru Paul as the over-the-top and top-end drug dealer. There’s Rosario Dawson as the boyfriend’s cousin who works at Vogue and manages to both sympathize and condescend to Jenny simultaneously. And as a nod and much-needed update to Sex in the City, Girls, etc., there’s New York itself, another romantic comedy staple, appearing browner but just as glamours as always.

Yes, seeing a brown-skinned, black-haired Latina get the full romantic comedy treatment — dance breaks, wardrobe changes, fantastic female friends — is so satisfying. Much of the tone of Someone Great is not joyful though, it’s sad. The film brilliantly portrays the late-twenties angst of Millenials. It is hard to be at the stage where you’re transitioning from all-night benders to farmers’ markets, from screwing the wrong person to declaring your love, from post-college bacchanal to full-fledged adulthood.

But usually, TV and film only allow male characters the kind of transgressive, lost, and sympathetic coming-to-age stories that Jenny and her friends get. Think of the era of the man-child film, embodied by Knocked Up. That was in 2007. Before even the flashbacks of Jenny and her crew. There were so many of those films. Meanwhile, unmarried women’s existence past 30 was only just getting to be fun and not tragic on screen, thanks to Sex and the City. TV’s made some great strides since then. But it’s taking romantic comedies a long time to catch up or include brown people.

Something Great fulfills and advances the promise of earlier, feminist shows, giving us a new set of women that better reflect what the world and New York actually look like. And Something Great has the courage so many of its predecessors do not — it’s happy ending does not include a relationship. Jenny doesn’t get back together with her boyfriend. No new love interest appears to save her from her broken heart. She doesn’t even have bone it out as DeWanda Wise’s Erin helpfully suggests. No the “Someone Great” of this film is Jenny herself, choosing and finding herself. This is the romantic comedy of my dreams. Enjoy.

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Killing Eve Presents the Terror of Male Entitlement

Everyone has a weakness, even our favorite female assassin. From the moment we met her, Villanelle has been nearly bulletproof. Able to anticipate and manipulate any situation, she’s maintained her confidence and dominance, until this week’s episode. For the first time since Killing Eve began, we see Villanelle like never before — scared and vulnerable.

After stealing a new, more age-appropriate wardrobe from a laundromat, a wounded Villanelle finds herself perusing the aisles of a supermarket contemplating her next move. As she enters the frozen food section, she appears desperate and frustrated until she sees a nondescript man by himself. From the moment she innocently smiles and he hesitantly smiles back, it’s clear he’s her next target. In classic Villanelle fashion, she constructs a story of a damsel in distress, searching for a rescuer, and the man, Julian, quickly comes to her aid offering her a ride and a place to stay.

What happens next is unexpected. A female assassin whose finally met her match in the human embodiment of toxic masculinity and fragility. The moment Villanelle enters his house, she is faced with a frighteningly extensive collection of dolls. And this doll collection perfectly foreshadows Julian’s relationship with women.

Dolls in and of themselves embody the worst (and most petrifying) stereotypes of women. They are meant to be aspirational versions of young girls that you can dress up and manipulate for your own enjoyment. With delicate porcelain faces and tiny adult clothes, dolls are collected with the intent to only be admired. Obviously, if you view real women like this, you have a problem.

With Villanelle, Julian seems to believe he’s found a doll of his own. Although he insists he wants to take care of her, he continuously ignores her. As she begs for ibuprofen, Julian dismisses her, saying she’s being ridiculous and that she merely has a cold, returning only with flu medicine. The more she voices her concerns and needs, the more frustrated and dismissive he gets. Villanelle is not a wallflower, but unfortunately, with Julian she learns her only way to remain safe is to play the harmless, victim female role. He implements a similar system on his mother who lives in the house with dementia, locking them both in their rooms “for their own good.”

What’s truly terrifying about this episode is that instead of a dangerous Russian prison, this episode more accurately reflects the obstacles, both mundane and horrific that many women face everyday.

Meanwhile, Eve has returned to work with some new team members, Jess and Hugo. Hugo is a cocky and entitled-Eton grad who constantly questions Eve and her work — whether it’s helping her with a slideshow or interrupting her mid-sentence. While obviously not the same situation as Villanelle, Eve is experiencing the hurdles that many women face in the workplace from (annoying/patronizing male colleges). In the end, it’s satisfying watching Eve prevail as she correctly identifies that this new victim wasn’t’ killed by Eve but a new female assassin.

Killing Eve continues to use the narrative of a spy thriller to undermine gender stereotypes and expand the genre. This episode is specifically poignant as we see an example of the horrors that many real women fall victim to: men’s need for control and dominance. In the end, Villanelle escapes Julian, making me smile for all womankind as she stabs him. Eve similarly triumphs and as an extra bonus to us lady viewers, we receive a new great skin care routine courtesy of our favorite boss Carolyn Marten. (Google’s pigs’ placenta mask)

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Why the “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” Finale was So Satisfying

“Romantic love is not an ending.” So says Rachel Bloom’s Rebecca Bunch in her mic-drop moment of the final episode of Crazy Ex-GirlfriendNo, she doesn’t literally drop the mic, but she may as well — staring straight into the camera and letting all us viewers know that this lesson is for us.

After four seasons of critiquing the stories we tell about romantic love, the show delivers on its feminist principles, showing how a man will not complete Rebecca no matter how handsome, rich, or well-matched with her. In fact, we spend the opening sequence of the final episode in a Christmas Carol-esque dream sequence in which Rebecca sees her future with each love interest. In them, she gets what she always wanted — becoming a pretty bride, having a happy pregnancy, being the matriarch of a loving family — but in none of them is she truly happy. Greg, Nathaniel, and Josh each fail to complete her.

Because frankly, that’s not how relationships work. No partner will fulfill allyour needs. Yes, they can help you grow and be a source of great satisfaction but they will not fill the holes inside of you. Only you can do that — no matter what romantic comedies tell you. That’s the conclusion Rebecca and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend reach — and I couldn’t agree more.

While in some ways, this ending was predictable (the show has always been clear about its feminist point of view), in other ways it was quite a surprise. After all, much of the final season focused on getting Rebecca and Greg back together. He moves back to West Covina, they get back together, break up, and seem to have the most real relationship. In the penultimate episode, Rebecca goes on a date with each of her three main suitors a la The Bachelor, the idea being that she’ll be able to choose afterward. Josh and Nathaniel pull out all the stops, creating beautiful, romantic moments. Greg originally plans to just hang out for his date but he gets spooked by all the fanfare his rivals dream up. He makes arrangements for a romantic balloon-ride (with Weird Al, no less), but his plans get ruined when his car breaks down. So Rebecca and he end up just hanging out, playing games while they wait for the mechanic. In this decidedly unromantic setting, he tells her “you’re the love of my life” and at that moment, they seem fated to be together. Just like in the actual Bachelor, the sign of real love is not who you can get carried away with but who you can find magic within everyday interactions. Despite being firmly team Nathaniel, after that episode, I figured Rebecca would end up with Greg.

And in most shows, she would have. Trailblazer and general feminist badass Mindy Kaling ended the Mindy Projectby reuniting Mindy Lahiri with her first love — Chris Messina’s Daniel Castellano — a guy who belittled her about her weight, demanded she quit the job she loved (while he worked the same one), and generally gave her hell. And this was a show that started with an explicit critique of romantic comedies and continued in that vein by making Mindy more vapid and problematic as it went on.

Sex and the City famously reunited Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw and Chris Noth’s Mr. Big in an ending. He literally goes to save her from an abusive partner! With all those relationships, sexual escapades, and heartbreak, the morale of Sex and the City seemed to be that friendship is as important as romantic love. The foursome of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte is the show’s one constant. Aren’t you more invested in Carrie and Miranda’s relationship than any other on the show? And yet, the ending didn’t back that up. Carrie needs a man for her story to end — whether you count the ill-conceived movies or not.

In most stories, feminist or not, leading ladies end up with their first, often forsaken love — Mr. Big, Daniel Castellano, etc. That’s why I expected Rebecca to pick Greg and the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s creators did everything to lead me in that direction, from bringing him back to leaving Greg to be the last to be turned down. But despite the misdirection and the universe seemingly pulling another way, Rebecca picks herself.

Earlier in the fourth season, she realizes the law doesn’t make her happy, but she hasn’t yet found what will. The pretzel shop is fun but it’s not (spiritually) fulfilling. Instead, she has to find her true calling and who helps her do that? Not Josh, Nathaniel, or Greg. Paula. It’s through talking to her best friend that Rebecca sets out on her real adventure — telling her story through song-writing. In the intervening year, it is Paula, Heather, and Valencia who encourage her, giving her the support she needs to overcome her self doubt. This is a show that values women’s friendships, demonstrating their real value from beginning to end.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend concludes the moment before Rebecca publicly performs for the first time. In true Rebecca-fashion, she has a long wind-up, recounting her journey since moving to West Covina and what’s she learned since turning down each of primary suitors. She says “When I’m telling my own story for the first time in my life, I am truly happy. It’s like I just met myself. Like I just met Rebecca. I came to this town to find love, and I did… And now, for the first time in my life, I can say that maybe I’m finally ready for the other kind of love… But whoever it’s with, it won’t be ‘ending up’ with someone, because romantic love is not an ending, not for me or for anyone else here. It’s just a part of your story, a part of who you are.”

It’s such a satisfying conclusion. It doesn’t preclude the possibility of romantic love, but it does knock romantic love off its pedestal. Yes, we may talk about that type of love more but it’s not the most important type of love. Committing to a partner is not an “ending” but a stop along the journey. The door is still open for Rebecca to marry and have kids with Nathaniel or Greg (Josh, thankfully, has found his happiness somewhere else) but whether she builds a relationship with one of them, someone else, or no one at all, that choice doesn’t define Rebecca. It doesn’t define any of us. Instead, our stories are really about who we are, what we do, and how we manage to love ourselves.

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“Jane the Virgin” Chapter 84: The Impossible Decision

This week on Jane The Virgin, the Villanueva’s explore the themes of conflict and communication. Whether it’s a dealing with a former nemesis-turned-friend or two great loves, making decisions and dealing with conflict is difficult to say the least. And no TV show know how to deal with these themes better than Jane The Virgin. The founders of Mujeres Problemáticas discuss their favorite parts of the episode and how to recover from the emotional whiplash of the ending.

NICOLA: Wow! I’m still reeling from that cliffhanger! But before we start delving into the shocker that was the last minute of the episode, let’s talk about the rest of the episode.

I loved this one. It reminded me of the genius that is Jane The Virgin — no show better juggles multiple storylines and yet is able to give each one the detail and space they need. I was so happy this episode gave Rogelio more of a substantive storyline. He deserves it. And what a better way than to talk about one of the most pressing issues of today: pay disparity.

CRISTINA: Yes, any time Rogelio is on screen is time well spent! And he was just perfect in this episode — misbehaving on set, unaware of the pay gap (and then trying to argue that he should get paid more because he’s a man), recognizing River’s genius and still advocating for himself. There really is not a better man on TV. He’s over the top but sympathetic. A Latinx type but not a stereotype. I just cannot get enough of him.

I particularly loved how he pivoted the conversation from gender to race. Watching it, I was like “why didn’t I think of that?” And then how River used it for her own PR gain — priceless! Jane the Virgin is so smart on these social issues, addressing race and gender without being preachy. Did you notice that Jane was reading a headline about Trump’s racist immigration policy in the next shot? It was subtle but meaningful storytelling — one of the many reasons I love this show.

NICOLA: I think partnering Rogelio’s pay battle with the boys and girls fighting was a great parallel. In a world of so much conflict, it’s nice to remember we all used to be children and think about how much we’ve grown (or not). Watching Mateo, Anna, and Elsa show their frustration in specific ways, then seeing how gender plays into it was another great chapter in Jane the Virgin parenting.

CRISTINA: Chapter 84 had SO much good commentary on gender. There was the equal pay plot line, the difference in how boys and girls are allowed to fight, and the upper class version of female-empowerment Petra is teaching her girls. Did you catch that they were reading Lean In before brunch? What are they six? Petra’s raising little CEOs and I love it. Both her and the twins saying “don’t touch my body” was a great parallel too. No shrinking violets in the Solano family!

NICOLA: Jane and Petra have become one of my favorite relationships on television. If this was any other show, they would have trapped in a perpetual catfight. But on Jane the Virgin gender stereotypes are meant to be disrupted. It so important to flip the narrative and break the stereotypes of women fighting over a man, and the way they did that in this episode was even sweeter. Jane clearly thought that Petra was mad/jealous of her and Rafael when really she just needed her friend. It was the best and made my my heart sore.

CRISTINA: I loved how this episode revisited the show’s classic conflicts — Jane vs. Petra, Michael vs. Rafael — but updated them. You could argue that Jane and Petra have really come full circle, but they’ve been frenemies for so long, I’d say this sibling rivalry has been there for a long time.

My favorite way the show updated its long-standing themes was the sexy-times scene between Jane and Rafael. After her being so fraught about her sexuality (thanks Catholicism) for so long, it was great to see her enjoying sex, worry free. Get yours Jane!

NICOLA: Jane The Virgin really knows how to tell a story. Since the beginning, it was always framed as a story about love and that hasn’t changed. What has evolved is the concept of love — it can be romantic love, friend love, or familial love. I think the writers have created the perfect telenovela one that is evolved, complicated, and nuanced.

CRISTINA: That ending though. It had me punching my couch pillows. Jane had just let Michael go — again! How many times is she going to have to say goodbye? Is Jason going to turn into Michael now? Or will he still have Jason’s personality and interests but just with Michael’s memories? I just don’t know how much heartbreak one person (Jane, me, everyone else watching this show) can take!

NICOLA: I will confess I cried when Jason said goodbye to Jane. It felt like the end of a chapter, or a wound that just finished healing, until it WASN’T. Watching the final minute where Jason gets Michael’s memories was a shock — I felt so conflicted. I usually am Team Raf but in that moment, I empathize with Michael. And after some serious processing, I’ve decided I’m purely Team Jane. She has an impossible decision ahead of her and whatever makes her happy, I’m good with. I think no one envies her decision at all. All I have to say is good job Jane The Virgin writers you won.

CRISTINA: You know, I thought I was tired of the Jane-Rafael-Michael love triangle, but it turns out I’m not! The show creators keep finding new and interesting ways to present it and I’ll be tuning in until it’s over (and then rewatching the entire series back-to-back several times, I’m sure). Jane the Virgin is just that good.

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