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“Jane The Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez took home a Golden Globe award Sunday night, and her win is an awesome thing for TV. Imagine, if you will, the “Jane” narrator telling you precisely how to feel right now in his magically dramatic accent: You should 1) be just thrilled that a Latina woman is so visible on TV, 2) appreciate the return of absurdist whimsy in a medium ruled by heavy-handed realism and 3) proceed to roll around in the boundless optimism of the show until it returns for the second half of this killer first season. Indeed, “Jane The Virgin’s” success means something for the future of TV (far beyond just putting The CW on the map as something other than “that crappy channel that made a show out of ’10 Things I Hate About You'”). There’s a lot to appreciate in this story of an accidentally artificially inseminated virgin. Hopefully, that Golden Globe will be enough to break down any dwindling skepticism.
Let’s start with the obvious merit of diversity. “This award is so much more than myself,” Rodriquez said in her moving acceptance speech. “It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.” She’s right, and it wasn’t the first time she had spoken out about identity. Rodriguez chose “Jane” instead of a role in Lifetime’s “Devious Maids,” because she didn’t appreciate the way the latter show represented her people. “I found it limiting for the stories that Latinos have,” she said, explaining the choice at a TCA press tour back in June.
Representation is important. This feels obvious. Although, apparently it isn’t since American TV is the whitest and most homogenized thing since homogenized milk. In general, just seeing people who look like you on TV (or, as she put it, as “heroes”) is a big deal. And “Jane” provides that visibility in a realm that is severely lacking. (Note: We are now approaching the whitest Oscars since 1998. Ugh.)
Something that’s maybe less easy to appreciate is the tone of the show, if only because it comes across as effortless. A pregnant virgin, love triangle, drug-fueled murder investigation and the return of a long-lost father figure (Rogelio forever!) should all feel like way too much. But it doesn’t. All of the over-the-top scandal works because it is played so authentically (largely via Rodriguez’s performance). No matter how absurd the plot point, showrunner Jennie Urman has her characters react as they really would react should such a thing — death by ice sculpture, finding out your father is a soap opera star, artificial insemination, what have you — actually happen. She’s true to her characters, and refusing to cut short those…