Jane the Virgin and the Case for Team Single Mom Jane

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Two episodes back on Jane the Virgin, we saw Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) break down after she nearly set her house on fire, burning moxa on her feet to turn her breech baby. Jane tearfully explained to her grandmother that she made her DIY moxa to prove she can do things on her own, now that she is unexpectedly becoming a single mother. As vulnerable as Jane was in that moment, she still made bold decisions the next morning: quitting her job and seeking full custody of her baby from her ex-boyfriend Rafael (Justin Baldoni). In the following episode, Jane vented to her ex-fiancé Michael (Brett Dier) about wanting to be a good mother, without having it consume her life. Michael reassured Jane, but also told her that she needed to be more realistic with her goal of writing a novel, which eventually resulted in Jane choosing to pursue a graduate program for writing.

These past two episode have been great for Jane’s character development. We finally saw our protagonist feel the other emotions that come with motherhood, like fear. And at the same time, we’re seeing her grow into an inspiring woman by continuing to work on her personal goals despite her situation. And so I’m hesitant to tune in to tonight’s season finale. In the promo, Jane goes into labor with her family present and Michael challenges Rafael for Jane’s heart, giving everyone on Team Michael hope, and annoying everyone else on Team Rafael. It is the kind of season finale that many viewers anticipated from Jane the Virgin. But I’m not sure if Jane choosing either of those teams is the right way to go. In fact, I want a new team: Team Single Mom Jane.

Throughout the season, the show has built solid cases for each man in Jane’s life. Rafael and Jane love each other, and he can financially support her and the baby, but you can’t deny the chemistry between Jane and Michael. Their relationship-now-friendship just feels organic. Still, as it currently stands, Jane is single, but she’s definitely competent of being a mother all on her own with, of course, a strong support system that includes her mother and grandmother. So here we see an opportunity for Jane the Virgin to disrupt the typical storylines seen on TV. Next season, the series should explore the ups and downs of a twenty-something Latina single mom, while she’s going to graduate school. You won’t find that anywhere else on TV, and it would be a compelling narrative for the Peabody and Golden Globe-winning show.

What really would make Jane the Virgin even more groundbreaking would be if it asserted itself in the discourse of single motherhood portrayals in entertainment and media, especially for single mothers of color. Many of the beloved single mothers in sitcoms and one-hour shows are mostly white. Case in point. Out of the 11 single mothers loved by iVillage, only one was a woman of color—Dr. Camille Saroyan (Tamara Taylor) on Bones—and no women of color made The Huffington Post’s list of favorite TV single mothers. These women were written as caring and supportive mothers, who have great relationships with their children (i.e. Lorelai Gilmore and Susan Ward), women who were bringing their careers into the mix of motherhood (i.e. Angela Bowers and Miranda Hobbes). All these characters are rightly praised and beloved for going against society’s gender expectations and typical nuclear family life. But these kind of single mothers also exist for women of color.

In Ugly Betty, Hilda Suarez (Ana Ortiz) was supportive of her son Justin’s (Mark Indelicato) journey in discovering his sexuality. If you’re looking for a caring single mother of color who wants the best for her daughter, Nikki Parker (Mo’Nique) on The Parkers is a prime example. Then there’s Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) on Grey’s Anatomy, who juggles motherhood and an incredibly stressful job. However, it’s also the single mothers of color who are more often given destructive and ignorant stereotypes. Last year, a new documentary called 72% investigated the “single mother phenomena in the African American community” as 72% of black children are now born to single mothers. Instead of being heralded like their white counterparts often are (especially in the case of those TV lists), single mothers of color are ultimately constructed as a societal problem.

But the truth is, single mothers of any background are often valued less, or even demonized for being single parents. While single fathers are often applauded for “stepping up,” single mothers are held to higher expectations. If a single mother makes a parenting mistake, it’s often read as a reflection of her gender and circumstances. But on Jane the Virgin, Jane could never be painted as an irresponsible or lazy mother. Showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman has created a character who is smart, earnest and resourceful—a female character who can offer a positive portrayal for young, single mothers.

Even though Jane the Virgin operates in a telanovela-fantasty world, it is still a series filled with real human emotions and issues. Urman has proven that she can thoughtfully cover real-life matters (i.e. Immigration Reform) with the help of her personable cast. It’s for this reason that I’m batting for Team Single Mom Jane, because I know that Jane the Virgin can utilize Jane Villanueva’s unique storyline to tackle the single motherhood narrative, and all of its complexities.

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