Jane the Virgin & risk-taking

Jane the Virgin mostly makes me giggle, but one episode struck more than my funny bone in the way it treats the theme of taking risks as a young, responsible woman.

This show, which is in its first season on the CW, tickles with its undercover feminism and genuine emotions amidst goofy, over-the-top characters and telenovela-inspired plot twists. Gina Rodriguez excels as Jane, a thoughtful young woman who gets accidentally artificially inseminated and (small spoiler) develops feelings for the father of the baby. Jaime Camil, as Rogelio, is actually hilarious as a superstar who discovers he is Jane's father. Add a thousand other events and people in Jane's life and you've got a hit that, surprisingly, doesn't get swept away by its own drama.

In a recent episode, Jane finds herself doing something she never thought she would; she breaks up with her stable, detective fiancé for the man whose baby she's already carrying. Michael, the fiancé, is her rock and his feelings for Jane never waver. Rafael, on the other hand, is passionate but harder to nail down. But they have undeniable chemistry, so she goes for it. This sounds like a completely typical trope in romantic comedies, which it kind of is, but for some reason it doesn't feel cliché. Here's why.

Yup, I can feel the chemistry from here. 

Up until this point, Jane has lived her life avoiding risk and instead banking on responsibility and stability. She harbors dreams of writing fiction but has gone to school for teaching. Her mom raised her as a single woman, so Jane has learned never to be dependent on men. She works two jobs to put herself through school. So when she finds herself actually a pregnant virgin at no fault of her own, she wants to throw her hands up, admit defeat to the gods of "good things come to those who wait,"  and pursue those potentially life-changing butterflies she feels with Rafael, especially after hours-long conversations with him are making her fall in love.

I sort of love this story line. First of all, Jane is a character who is strong-willed without being reckless, considerate without being demur, and a role model while still allowing room for error. We need more characters like her on television.  Second of all, the story subverts the traditional romantic comedy, which treats the woman as a shell of a person by which the obstacle of securing a man she becomes whole. Jane is already her own person with legitimate aspirations, and she is feeling things in her heart that make her want to take a risk which could enhance her life, or change it for the worse. For once, this "risking everything for love" story is one I can get behind, because Jane feels more three-dimensional than many romantic comedies--a character with real agency.

Which, of course, makes me reflect on all the times I have or haven't taken risks. Yes, I moved to two foreign countries to pursue passions, but I always knew I could come home (and alas, I have), so for some reason those adventures still feel like calculated risks. More often, though, I've had the nagging "should I text" thoughts after someone exited my life too soon (either by my design or theirs) and the hope that going all-in could change our fate. I've had the friendly brunches/drinks/dinners with exes, where I've kept my composure and shown them, mostly truthfully, that I am doing great and that my life has its direction (like Jane's, regardless of partner). Many times I've accepted these events as the right thing and eschewed regret. But I don't think I have ever irrevocably risked it all, even though when I was younger I thought I wore my heart on my sleeve; I've discovered I'm sometimes way too rational, and hence I shy away from true risk-taking behavior.  Even recently I realized, thanks to a discussion with a friend, that the way I drink (casually, never in excess) has never been to let loose to the point of forgetting or exceeding limits; it's to get a little closer to the authenticity of a moment in which the rational details of time, place and company merge with the monumental emotions of certain moments. I love feeling overwhelmed by the emotional gravity of stories I hear/read/watch, but in my own life I tend to let rationality dominate. When slightly buzzed, I feel that it's easier to merge the rational with the emotional sides of my brain and I want to get better at this sober.

But I also can't lie and say I don't dream about a moment in my life where I grab my bike, pedal through the snow, and show up unannounced at someone's door and say, let's do this. For real. You're worth the risk.

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