From where I stood, the banner blocked the American flag that hung at the center of Citrus Park Mall in Tampa. It showcased ‘Jane the Virgin,’ the latest in an influx of TV shows inspired by sexual inexperience. It would premier, the banner said, on Oct. 13.
First, I asked what any virgin beneath that banner would: “WHERE’S MY BANNER?” Then, I marked my calendar.
The show, about a a virgin who — as a result of a doctor’s distraction — got artificially inseminated when she should have gotten a Pap smear, premiered as promised on Monday, and (spoilers to follow), I watched it. Here’s how I sum it up:
A) Funny, but B) chock full of stuff the Catholic Church doesn’t condone (nonmarital sex, artificial insemination, homosexual sex, abortion pills), and C) surprisingly pro-life.
Here’s what I didn’t like, followed by what I did:
I didn’t like what underlies Jane’s virginity.
- In a flashback, we watch a very young Jane (elementary school-aged) carefully cradle the bud of a white rose while her grandmother speaks to her in Spanish. After marveling over how pure and perfect the flower is, Jane’s grandmother instructs her: “Crumple it.” Jane doesn’t wanna, but she does it anyway. Then, more instructions from her grandma: “Now try to make it look new again.” Jane looked at the crumpled bud, helpless to do what her grandmother asked her to do. “I can’t,” Jane said. “Yes,” her grandmother confirmed. “You can never go back, and that’s what happens when you lose your virginity.”
So, the show’s narrator confirms, Jane didn’t. But analogies like Jane’s grandmother’s are terrible. For so many reasons. Including but not limited to this: if we equate a person who hasn’t had sex to a perfect flower and a person who has had sex to a damaged one, we have implied that all the people who have had sex — including the ones who were married as virgins — are damaged. We also imply that sex is bad, which contradicts what we who practice chastity believe: that sex is good (why do you think we want to save it?). But writers of ‘Jane the Virgin,’ I get it: network TV about a girl who practices the virtue of chastity is probably not what the public wants.
I didn’t like that Jane and her boyfriend stopped just short of sex.
- As high school Arleen would shout during sex scenes in movie theaters: “IS THIS REALLY NECESSARY?”
But here’s what I liked about the show:
I liked that Jane and her boyfriend, Michael, had been dating for two years.
- It’s a bad example, because the couple — though not having sex — wasn’t exactly chaste, and because Michael was clearly only ‘willing’ to save sex — but it depicted, nonetheless, the existence of the possibility that couples can abstain while they date.
I liked that it was hilarious.
- Kudos to the writers for crackin’ a Catholic virgin up.
And — finally — I liked that it took a pro-life turn.
- The gynecologist prescribed Jane a pill designed to terminate a pregnancy. But Jane didn’t want to use it. In the poignant scene, Jane confronted her mother, who was pregnant with Jane as a teenager. Jane, who had been led to believe that her grandmother forced Jane’s mother to carry and raise her, asked if her mom would have had an abortion if her grandmother hadn’t told her not to. Jane’s mother couldn’t answer the question. And that devastated Jane.
But in a scene that followed, Jane’s grandmother told the truth:”When your mother came home (and revealed her pregnancy), I told her to have an abortion,” her grandmother said. As it turned out, Jane’s mother said no — she wanted to raise Jane. “I carry that shame in my heart every day,” Jane’s grandmother said. “You have become the best part of my life and this will be the best part of your life, too.”