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Jane the Virgin

“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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Guilt, Heartbreak, and Hilarity in Episode 83 of “Jane the Virgin”

After the shock of last week’s premiere, The CW’s Jane the Virgin is out with its second episode. Chapter Eighty-Three centers on the idea of guilt — whether it’s religion or the internal struggle between right and wrong, our favorite characters all seem to be struggling with it. The founders of Mujeres Problemáticas discuss their thoughts on what to make of this episode of Jane the Virgin.

NICOLA: This episode had me from the start: guilt is definitely written into my family’s genetics. And there is something about guilt and immigrant stories that go so well together, like chile and cheese. My abuelita and my mom both had a story for each situation that would basically guilt me into doing what they wanted. But maybe that’s because I grew up religious what about you Cristina?

CRISTINA: Well, as someone who went to CCD, I know plenty about guilt, Catholic or otherwise! And as Jane experienced, sometimes it’s easy to throw your conflicted feelings on the church even when the guilt is really coming from inside you. It’s part of our culture, how we talk to our parents, how we talk to ourselves. But, of course, I loved the jabs at the church like when Rafael said, “I don’t want Mateo thinking he’s going to hell every time he’s done something wrong.” And Jane said, “That’s not what the church teaches… at first.” Dying!

NICOLA: I’m one of the only Latinx people I know who’s family is Protestant. Sorry Catholicism but when we immigrated, we left our religion. I still feel guilt has this unique relationship to religion, even if the majority of my guilt comes from trying to fulfill the expectations and dreams of my immigrant family.

Obviously, I imagine this guilt is NOT the same as you might feel when you find out your previously dead husband has come back to life with amnesia five years later after you already found happiness with another man who happens to be the same man who you had an artificially-inseminated baby with.

CRISTINA: Haha right, Jane’s guilt is a special case. It’s so extreme but that didn’t mean my heart wasn’t breaking all over this episode. That scene where we saw what both her and Rafael wanted to say but didn’t broke me. How many times does that happen in real life? Why are missed connections like that so devastating? And, of course, there was that moment when Jane thought Michael/Jason’s memories were coming back. That feeling of disappointment for something you’re not even sure you want — everyone can relate to it.

NICOLA: Agreed. I think Jane the Virgin’s writers give us an interesting life lesson through Jane. Oftentimes our society depicts decisions as very black and white, that there is a right answer and a wrong answer for everything. The reality is most of the time our decisions and experiences happen in a very gray area. I feel like this is where Jane is right now, she’s dealing with her unresolved feelings for Michael/Jason and her past with him and the current love of her life Rafael. And surprise — there is no right answer!

The person I really feel the most for this episode is Alba. Now that Jorge is able to get his Visa to see his mother, Alba is left to process all the feelings. For a character, that always played by the rulebook, it’s been refreshing to watch her come into herself. I think the Alba we met in season one would never have made a decision to get married in a matter of hours. But this Alba from season 5 feels more fearless and breaks the mold that TV often gives to older women. Older women can make mistakes, fall in love, and yes, also serve as a family’s moral compass. It’s great to see Alba have such a full storyline separate from being a grandmother.

CRISTINA: Agreed. Alba is amazing and her storyline this week was so poignant. Did Jane the Virgin always make us cry this much? Have I forgotten what it’s like to watch this show? So far, this final season has had SO MUCH FEELS. I need to prepare myself better to handle it!

Of course, it wasn’t all tears. There’s always Rogelio for comic relief and the craziness of the plot to keep things moving. In fact, I have a conspiracy theoryfor you. I think Sin Rostro was lying about why she gave Michael amnesia. I mean, she’s not exactly trustworthy, you know? I have no idea what she’s really up to but I think she’s using Jason to drive a wedge between Jane and Rafael. That line-dancing kiss was so awkward! And then he pretended his dog ate the divorce papers after just threatening to leave (not to mention the eyes he makes for Petra)?!?!?! I don’t buy it. Something is up and I don’t trust Jason/new Michael at all.

NICOLA: Me too! Maybe it’s because I’ve been comfortable on Team Rafael for too long but something seems off. I knew it the moment Michael/Jason took her line dancing. Then again, I don’t trust any form of forced dancing activities. The connection between him and Sin Rostro seems too clean cut and I can’t help but believe that a woman with face changing abilities would let Michael/Jason off that quickly.

The only person that centers me on this show is Rogelio and this episode didn’t disappoint. He unapologetically perfectly balances his vain and self-absorbed tendencies with his love and support for his family, creating the perfect character. I think Jaime Camil deserves an Emmy just for his eyebrow acting alone.

CRISTINA: Yes, Rogelio was hilarious. The kayaks, the extended whaaaaat, the part in his hair. He really couldn’t be more himself and I love it. People as fancy as the Atlantic and the New York Times have been writing about his new mode of masculinity and I agree. Sometimes it’s hard to look past how hilarious he is and see that he’s also so culturally significant. Damn, I’m going to miss this show!

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The Emotional, Impossible Season 5 Premiere of “Jane the Virgin”

The CW’s Jane the Virgin is back for its fifth and final season, causing Latinos everywhere to tearfully rejoice that we get more time with the Villanuevas, however limited. The founders of Mujeres Problemáticas discuss their thoughts on the season premiere and why this show is so great.

CRISTINA: I missed Jane so much! This is one of the rare shows that makes me feel seen and I’ve just been aching for it.

NICOLA: Agreed! This show will always and forever have a special place in my heart. For five seasons, the Villanuevas have been my favorite family on TV. I’m sad to see them go but so excited for this season.

CRISTINA: The premiere didn’t disappoint. It turns out Michael, Jane’s beloved, thought-dead husband is back but with amnesia. It’s classic telenovela and in true Jane the Virgin form, done with such a thoughtful, emotionally honest (and devastating) way. After all, we spent the second half of season three grieving Michael with Jane. So to see him come back just when Jane was getting happy again was rough. Add on to that the fact that he’s not really back. His body is, his smell even, but the man we knew is not.

NICOLA: I know. If I got a nickel every time a character on a telenovela got amnesia, I’d be a rich lady. But somehow one of the most overused tropes in the telenovela complex felt like the perfect choice to set up the season. Devastating for sure but excellent for storytelling. Jane has this history of seeing her life and relationships through romantic-novel rose glasses. So to have Jane, whose based much of her own narrative on finding, loving, losing, loving, then finally losing Michael (Jason) forces her to reflect and makes for very powerful television.

CRISTINA: Yes! And that power/pain was shown perfectly in the seven-page, single shot monologue Gina Rodriguez delivers, walking us through just how impossible her situation is. Is she married? Is she not? Who is this person who call himself Jason and likes dogs instead of cats? Why did this happen? How is she supposed to respond? Why does nothing make her feel better?

Watching it, I welled up several times but was so captivated by the performance it was like my tear ducts forgot how to cry. As her co-star Justin Baldoni said, if Gina doesn’t get all the awards, something is very wrong.

NICOLA: Totally agree, that monologue was not only technically crazy difficult but such a wonderful connection point between the audience and Jane. We’ve been with her for four seasons, watching her fall in and out of love, finding herself as a writer and as a mother, and dealing with unspeakable tragedy. And when we left her last season, it seemed like Jane was in such a good place. So this season, seeing her perform seven-pages of her rapidly asking all the questions we have, at a rate of about five questions per minute, felt like the perfect scene to connect us back to our favorite protagonist.

CRISTINA: Petra also had a fun B-plot this episode, dealing with her ex-husband Milos, getting dumped by Rosario Dawson’s JR, and being checked out by Jason/Michael. I love how they’ve rehabilitated her character, taking her from villain to hero without actually changing the core of who she is. I’m certainly rooting for her (and wishing I could pull off/access her wardrobe).

NICOLA: Petra’s character has always been one of my favorites and truly showcases the talent and intent of the Jane the Virgin writing team. I’m definitely sad to see that her relationship with JR might be over. Clearly, I am not ready to accept that one — we need more Rosario! I am excited to see Milos back and him in the teddy bear was hilarious. I could “bearly” stop laughing.

CRISTINA: Then there’s the matter of poor Rafael. He’s in the toughest spot here. Upon finding out that Michael was alive, he made the deal to bring him back for Jane even if meant sacrificing his relationship with her. It’s another impossible situation and one that Rafael deals with grace and honor, even as it’s clearly tearing him up inside. For me, it showed just how good Rafael is for Jane, even if she’s not always good for him. Nicola — what do you think? Time to join #TeamRafael?

NICOLA: Ugh I’m not sure. I’ve always been torn between the two. Mostly, because I love Jane so much and I’m fairly convinced there is no man good enough for her. That aside, I feel like it’s a incredibly difficult decision, one that the show creators crafted with complete knowledge of how confused and crazed they’d make Jane and us, the audience, feel. I do like the possibility of getting at a greater, more existential, question: can you truly compare two people you’ve loved?

Jane the Virgin has taught us a lot about the different forms that love can take and how love can transform and change people (cough Rafael cough). Jane and Michael had a wonderful relationship but it definitely took them awhile to get there. The same could be said of Jane and Rafael: they went through definite trials and tribulations and the Rafael from season one is definitely not the Rafael from this season. I genuinely feel at this point that you can’t compare the two: one’s from her past and one is in her present.

CRISTINA: I have no idea what Jane’s going to do but I doubt she’ll end up with “Jason,” unless he morphs back into Michael somehow. That said, the central question for me has never been what guy she picks, but rather how she finds happiness. And I loved seeing her process it all through writing. Also, that scene where she pushed her father out of the way so she could use the mirror was priceless. If Jane the Virgin has to end, can’t Rogelio get his own spin off?

NICOLA: I am definitely here for that! I could talk forever about what a gift Rogelio is to television, and how he does not get the credit he deserves. I feel like he definitely has earned a show of his own. Or maybe a crossover episode on the freshly renewed One Day at a Time? Dear TV networks I hope you’re taking notes.

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Jane, Eve, Issa

Some 75% percent of our media comes from the white, male perspective and it all feels the same to me: tired. Men have been speaking for so long, it’s like they’ve run out of things to say (not that the prospect of repeating themselves is getting them to shut up).

Luckily, there’s a lot of amazing, women-centered media out there from comedies to thrillers to prestige dramas. To help you avoid the same old, I’ve pulled together the ten shows I’m most looking forward to in 2019 — that all just happen to center women (last year’ spoilers ahead):

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies

The award-winning first season of Big Little Lies featured Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley as mothers in the elite community of Monterrey, CA, subverting the superficial suburban mom trope and portraying domestic violence in a more thoughtful way than I’ve seen before.

The second season, set to premiere in 2019, is a bit of coup — partly because the first season wasn’t supposed to be a “season” at all but rather a self-contained mini-series and partly because it was based on a book with no sequel. But the market talks and season two is bringing in none other than Meryl Streep, promising more of Zoë Kravitz’s character Bonnie Carlson, and (finally) featuring a woman director. Count me in.

Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife

Taking place in 1960’s London, each episode (for seven seasons and counting) of Call the Midwife features at least one birth, depicted with unusual candor, sympathy, and heroism. The show has not been great on race (the first two plots with Black characters featured interracial babies born of affairs between Black men and white women) but Call the Midwife added a Black nurse in season seven and has since been clearly trying to address its wrongs.

Centered on women and our bodies — both the act of giving birth and the physical nature of nursing — Call the Midwife dramatizes aspects of the human experience we rarely see. With season eight coming in 2019, tune into this show for beautiful costumes, a warm vision of humanity, and women as nurses, nuns, and mothers.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Round Up

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

This musical comedy exploring mental health issues and the false romance narratives that bombard women, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend manages to leave you humming and thinking. This year will complete its final and forth season and lots of questions remain: what does a happy ending look like when it comes to mental health? Will Rachel Bloom’s Rebecca end up with one of her past flames? Or would she be better off alone?

As I’ve written before, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a feminist project, featuring a diverse cast and re-writing the rules of who can be loved. It’s also one of the least watched shows on television so it’s good to support and show content makers that audiences will tune into quality, feminist content. Plus, there’s lots of salty pretzels.

The Crown

The Crown

Netflix’s budget-busting juggernaut, The Crown, is back for a third season with a new cast as the Queen and her royal family age. I’ll miss Claire Foy’s ability to be emote without emoting, simultaneously expressing power and insecurity. That said, I trust the show creators to cast well again and this time hopefully without a gender pay-gap from the beginning.

I’ve learned a lot of history from this show as the Queen engages in nearly seven decades of world events. And while the colonial perspective can be rough (who cares how the monarch feels when its millions of brown people risking their lives for their self determination?), the show explores the difference between public and private personas beautifully while offering a unique insight into privileged British life.

Grey’s Anatomy

Set to become the longest running medical drama, Grey’s Anatomy will finish up its 15th season and probably run the first half of its 16th in 2019. Shonda Rhimes is no longer involved in the day-to-day but seasons 1-7 veteran Krista Vernoff is at the helm and bringing the show back to its old stalwarts: love-triangles, extreme medical situations, steamy hospital romances. I love Grey’s and having it made it this far, plan to see it to the end.

Grey’s Anatomy has always featured a diverse and inspiring depiction of leadership, excellence, and sexuality and that hasn’t changed. And as the titular Dr. Grey has gone from starry-eyed intern to widowed, award-winning physician, these fifteen years have allowed us the rare treat of watching a complicated woman’s evolution and continued adventures, sexual and otherwise, into middle age.

Insecure

Insecure

I’m excited for the fourth season of Issa Rae’s Insecure, coming out in 2019. Following a group of “basic,” 30-something Black women in LA, Insecure deserves all the awards for its hilarious exploration of identity, romance, and what it means to be a striving Black woman. It’s fixed everything you hated in Girls and Sex in the City, somehow making you nostalgic for your old, shitty apartments and ringing humor out of racial injustices large and small.

Season four promises to be just as good with the group’s lives only getting messier as Issa and her best friend Yvonne Orji’s Molly Carter date roommates and Issa seemingly going into business with her ex’s current partner. Bonus points of you watch live with Black Twitter.

Jane the Virgin

It’s Jane the Virgin’s final season and I’ll miss the Villanuevas. This Americanized telenovela started with an accidental, artificial insemination and has built upon this fantastical premise to explore motherhood, class, racial identity, Catholicism, and immigration to name just a few. The original love triangle seems to be back with Brett Dier of Michael Cordero fame returning in the season four finale to mess up the expected proposal between Justin Baldoni’s Rafael and Gina Rodriguez’s Jane.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a more thoughtful, fun, and heartwarming portrayal of Latina identidad on television. In fact, the show’s secret weapon seems to be its compassion for all its characters — mothers of all stripes and types, people rich and working class, women with hugely different attitudes toward sex — allowing the viewers to sympathize with each end of spectrums we normally find so polarizing. Also Jamie Camil is an international treasure.

Killing Eve

Killing Eve has everything spy aficionados could want: globe trotting, international intrigue, double crosses, and murder. Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri, the bored M16 operative, became the first Asian women nominated for a lead actress Emmy and is set to host the Golden Globes. Her talent is met by Jodie Comer’s diabolical assassin, Villanelle. The binge-able BBC hit is now on Hulu and season two is slated for release in 2019.

With all the trappings of a traditional thriller, the woman-ness of Killing Eve is unmistakable. Both the killer and detective are women and that opens up new avenues of psychological intrigue like when Villanelle, obsessed with Eve, fills her suitcase with beautiful, perfectly fitting clothes and sends it to her house, managing to fulfill a female fantasy and threaten her love object at the same time. The sexual tension between Eve and Villanelle further heightens the drama (particularly in contrast to Eve’s relatable but boring relationship with her husband) as does the female-gaze of the camera work. With Oh and Comer signed up for the second season, 2019 is sure to bring more of the steamy, pulse-racing fun.

Shrill

Based on the book by the same name by Lindy West, Shrill is set to premiere in 2019 starring and co-written by Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant and produced by Elizabeth Banks. Those names are enough to get me excited — especially because I love Lindy West. She came up as a journalist under Dan Savage, helped pioneer Jezebel, and has since graduated to a feminist New York Times column and writing best-selling books.

Shrill is West’s memoir, telling the story of a fat young woman who’s striving to improve her life and career but not her body. All of which makes it the perfect vehicle for Bryant and I can’t wait to catch it on Hulu.

Vida

Vida

Latinas are the least represented demographic in media so a show that’s Mexican, queer, and ambitious has me tuning in. Starz’ Vida follows two Latinx sisters returning to Boyle Heights to take over the family business after their mother’s death. There, they confront gentrification, their mother’s lesbianism, and aspects of their own identity.

Picked up for a second season in 2019, Vida is clear in its intention to expand the portrayal of Latina and Latinx experience on TV. Latinx show creator Tanya Saracho has spoken out about how she uses her success to lift up la raza and the show even has a Latina behind the camera in Carmen Cabana — this despite the notoriety of cinematography for how few women fill its ranks even in the sexist entertainment industry.

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Why the Golden Globes Prove We Need to #MakeLatinasVisible

Last week, The Golden Globes announced their nominees, and it didn’t take us long to realize that no Latinas were nominated this year. Sigh. To be clear, we weren’t surprised but disappointed. After all, it was the 2015 Golden Globes that confused Gina Rodriguez for America Ferrera. For the past 74 years, only 12 Latinos have won Golden Globes and out of the 12 only 3 have been women.

The Only Latinx Winners in Golden Globe History EVER

  1. Rita Moreno, “Best Supporting Actress” in West Side Story, 1961
  2. Andy Garcia, “Best Supporting Actor” in The Godfather Part III, 1990
  3. Jimmy Smits, “Best Actor in a TV Drama Series” in NYPD Blue, 1995
  4. Benicio del Toro, “Best Supporting Actor” in Traffic, 2000
  5. Alejandro Amenabar, Director, “Best Foreign Language Film” for The Sea Inside, 2004
  6. Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, “Best Motion Picture” for Babel, 2006 and “Best Director – Motion Picture” for The Revenant, 2007
  7. America Ferrera, “Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series”, for Ugly Betty 2007
  8. Gina Rodriguez, “Best Actress in a TV Series or Comedy” for Jane the Virgin, 2015
  9. Gael Garcia Bernal, “Best TV Comedy” and “Best Performance By An Actor in a TV Series (Comedy)” for Mozart in the Jungle, Amazon Studios, 2016
  10. Oscar Isaac, “Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie” for Show Me a Hero, 2016
  11. Adrian Molina, “Best Animated Feature” for Coco, 2017
  12. Guillermo del Toro, “Best Director” for The Shape of Water, 2018

There are countless Latinx actors, writers, directors, and screenwriters that have deserved to win awards (or at least a nomination). From the women of Vida, to Rita Moreno’s One Day at a Time, to the writers of Jane The Virgin, to Mj Rodriguez from the groundbreaking show Pose, we get passed over time and time again.

#MakeLatinasVisible

It’s almost 2019 people! We should not be satisfied with just one film getting all the attention (although we are rooting for Roma to bring home some statues).  You see no one film, TV show, character, or actor can represent something as dynamic as our community, the Latino community. Let’s be real – we purchase 23% percent of all movie ticket sales. We deserve to see ourselves at the highest levels in these award show, represented across the categories for all our meaningful, impressive work.

There are over 55 million Latinos in the U.S. So why do we continue to be shut out of the national conversation? Join us and #WeAllGrow in calling for a change. Let’s #MakeLatinasVisible.

P.S. Shout out to Sandra Oh who will be the first Asian Woman to host a major awards show! Because when women of color win, we all win #WomenofColorUnite!

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On Teenage Witch Reboots: “Sabrina” vs “Charmed”

Witches are having a moment. And not just because it’s Halloween. The witch trope is everywhere as female power is being reimagined, reclaimed, and re-vilified in the media, religion, and of course politics. We have a  President who has reporters running around investigating which is really the “greatest witch hunt in history.” Then, there was the mass hexing of Brett Kavanaugh, which is hopefully taking further effect on Tuesday. Brujas even appear in our very own tagline here at Mujeres Problemáticas.

So it’s no wonder the media has delivered us not one, but two teenage witch reboots this October. Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina premiered on October 26 and follows Kiernan Shipka of Mad Men fame as Sabrina, the new and improved teenage witch. You remember the original with Melissa Joan Hart, Caroline Rhea, and Beth Broderick as three blonde witches living with their black, talking cat. Meanwhile, the CW premiered their Charmed reboot on October 14 writing all three of the witch sisters as Latinx (although not managing to cast three, actual Latinas). The original brunette trio was Shannen Doherty, Alyssa Milano, and Holly Marie Combs in what they argue was a feminist show in its day.

Today, the The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the Charmed reboot position themselves as feminist TV, centering women, our power, and its consequences – aka they both have things to say. Yet, strangely, one of these shows is getting a lot more attention than the other. Any guesses as to which? Yes, you are correct, the blonds are getting 725 TIMES MORE ARTICLES. I did the math. Try it yourself. Do a Google News search for both shows and get some variation on what I got: a staggering 10.8 million pieces written about Sabrina and a much smaller 14,900 on Charmed. What gives?

Perhaps it’s that Netflix is a much more prestigious channel than CW. Netflix has won two Oscars, ten Emmys and five Golden Globes for shows such as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Master of None, and The Crown. Meanwhile, CW gets passed over so much, it’s become a running joke with critical darlings like Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend continuing to get snubbed by most awards shows. But why? Maybe it’s not the quality of the shows but rather the gatekeepers who dole out awards don’t take seriously programming who’s intended audiences are young people, young women, and the oh-so-misunderstood young women of color? As mainstream an outlet as TV Guide said that if Jane the Virgin “aired on ABC, maybe it would’ve already gotten an Emmy nod.”

So if the Television Academy doesn’t take young women seriously, who does? Normally, I’d say feminists. Feminists are always arguing that society needs to pay more attention to what young women are saying, doing, and thinking. Yet, I’m pretty disappointed here too. Jezebel ran a thoughtful critique of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Bitch dived into the show’s feminist arguments. Neither publication managed a thousand words on the feminist ideas in Charmed, despite both publications being aware of the show (Jezebel covered the build up the CW premiere and Bitch listed the show as one of 14 to watch this fall). I imagine they had to pick. They couldn’t write TWO stories on teenage witch reboots and they picked one.

They picked Sabrina. And so did everyone else. Maybe it’s because of Kiernan Shipka’s larger presence, compared to the three relatively unknowns in Charmed. Looking at the numbers, Kiernan has 838K followers on Instagram and 67.2K on Twitter. The Charmed stars have about 650K on Instagram and 82.7 on Twitter COMBINED, making their social media presence less than Kiernan’s. On the qualitative side, Mad Men was a groundbreaking and critical darling while the Charmed stars are coming from shows you’re less likely to have heard of or in parts you’re less likely to remembers. Of course, parts for women of color are much harder to come by – overall, women get just 40% of the speaking roles on television and only 33% were women of color or just 13% overall. None of the Charmed stars would have been even considered to play John Hamm’s daughter.

Sabrina vs Charmed

But I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s that Netflix’s PR machine is 725-time better than the team at the CW. I don’t think it’s that Sabrina came out all at once, allowing TV writers to binge watch the whole thing, while those wanting to write on Charmed have to wait for weekly installments. Those things may play a role. But the underlying reason can be found at the intersection of racism and sexism, clearly the extra penalty women of color pay for existing in this society.

Rarely do you get such a clear example. Here we have two eerily similar shows. They’re released weeks apart. They’re both reboots of early 00’s hits. They’re both about TEENAGE WITCHES. It’s pretty darn specific. Yet one show centers a white girl and her experiences while the other features Latinas. And that show gets taken more seriously. It takes up more space. It is deemed more “feminist.” There’s no getting around it. Race is the key difference. And that’s fucked up. As we say at Mujeres Problemáticas, it’s hard out here for a bruja.

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Hi Fall TV: I’m Latino and NOT a Criminal

Dear Fall TV:

I’m writing to let you know that I’m Latino and not a criminal. Also I exist. Hi!

So before you can say “Latino Magnum PI,” I want to let you know that I’m also not part of the criminal justice system. I’m not a perp, victim, cop, DA, or personal investigator. Crime’s not really a big part of my life. One time my wallet was stolen. It sucked. BUT it was hardly a defining experience. Also, I’m not part of the drug trade. I’m not a mule, addict, dealer, mob boss, or corrupt politician profiting off the people’s suffering. True, I have been known to smoke weed from time to time but that hardly makes me a candidate for the Latino reboot of Friday.

That’s why I get so frustrated when so many of the Latino roles I see on TV have to do with drugs, crime, or the oh-so-stereotypical drug-crime combination. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing Karla Souza as Laurel Castillo, one of the law-student co-conspirators on How To Get Away With Murder. I’m thrilled that la raza gets an unheard of TWO parts on Brooklyn 99. But I’m frustrated that when it comes to “prestige” drama, we only get leading roles if it’s Mayan MC or Narcos.

Brooklyn 99 gif: "Your entire life is garbage"

The fact is Latinos make up 12.5% of the American population. Yet, we’re only 5.8% of folks on TV. It’s even worse if you’re a woman (hi ladies!) because then we’re dealing with not just racism but sexism too. For Latinas like me, the numbers stack as 6% of the population in real life, but just 2% on TV. That makes Latinas the least represented ethnic group when compared to our numbers in the population. It’s not good.

It’s particularly not good when you realize how many of those small numbers of roles are wasted on the Latinos-as-criminals trope. You see a good 50% of Latino immigrants on TV are portrayed as having committed a crime and a quarter of all Latino storylines are crime-related. This despite the fact that Latinos and Latino immigrants ARE NOT more likely to commit crimes. Don’t believe everything you see on TV people (or that you hear the President of the United States say).

You can see why I’m so frustrated. It’s like TV, politics, and the powers that be are all trying to sell me the message that my family and I either A. don’t exist or B. are gangbangers. Neither of which is true (see the beginning of letter).

Now Fall TV, I do want to give you some credit. It’s not all bad (even if statistically it’s horribly). I am a witch, so good job on the Latino reboot of Charmed. At least you got that one right.

But seriously folks, can we get more Jane the Virgin’s? What is this universe where a show about being accidentally artificially inseminated rings the most true to the Latinx experience? And, of course, Jane isn’t even on this fall – we have to wait until 2019 to see the final season. In the meantime, I’ll be comforting myself with America Ferrera in Superstore, Gabrielle Ruiz on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and the original GOAT EGOT Rita Moreno on One Day at a Time. Because those are the women representing Latinas as regular, interesting humans on TV. It would be great to see more of us. Thanks!

Sincerely,
Cristina (no relation to Pablo – I’m not even Colombian. My family’s from Durango (Mexico, not Colorado)) Escobar

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