SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Chapter Seventy-Five,” the 11th episode of the fourth season of “Jane The Virgin”
“Jane The Virgin” is getting in on the conversation around #MeToo and #TimesUp.
In “Chapter Seventy-Five,” Jane (Gina Rodriguez) revisits her grad school experience and with age, wisdom and reflection begins to see her relationship with her professor Jonathan Chavez (Adam Rodriguez) differently.
“I’ve always felt a big responsibility in terms of portraying sex, sexuality [and] choice in terms of who Jane is and who watches the show and what we want to put out in the world,” series creator and showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman tells Variety. “[This story] came out of the sea change — the long needed sea change happening right now. Obviously we talk about it every day in the writers’ room, and it makes you look back on everything — so many interactions. It’s been so empowering on every level to watch so many people coming forward.”
Urman and her team wanted to engage in the conversation, too, but in a way that felt natural for the world of the show they had set up.
The approach, therefore, was not to dive into a backstory of assault that had never been touched upon in a character’s history before — or even to set up a new one in the present day timeline. Instead, Urman wanted to reflect on a story that was originally told with a romantic gaze and show another side.
“The events that we showed were perfectly fine, but what if there was more to the story that you didn’t know?” Urman says. “So much of what you’re realizing now is that there are patterns, and you’re one of many, and people who transgress [do so] often usually. We wanted to figure out a way within Jane’s world on how to engage with what’s happening right now.”
This led Jane to catch Chavez kiss a student and begin to wonder if preying on young, impressionable women is a pattern for him. While she once thought they shared a unique connection that made their relationship special — so much so that she almost lost her virginity to him — now questions of abuse of power emerge in her mind.
“We need to be looking at these power dynamics and talking about them,” Urman says. “If you want to have a consensual relationship with someone that has more power than you, that’s totally fine — that’s a valid choice — but she felt like she didn’t have all the information when she made that choice.”
Urman admits that upon reflection, the story of Jane dropping Chavez as her advisor so she could pursue a romantic relationship with him stirred a feeling of discomfort among the writers — so much so that it inspired a return to it in order to present a more nuanced and full picture.
“We wanted to look at the gray area, so that Jane could be working it out,” Urman says. “Even though it was fine [at the time], it doesn’t feel as fine in retrospect. We wanted to see how this moment has changed the way people look at stories and the way Jane looks at something that happened post- the Me Too movement.”
In the world of “Jane The Virgin,” the university Chavez taught at did not have a policy about such relationships, which added to the complicated gray area of the situation. It was an area ripe with storytelling possibilities — including shedding a light on the fact that in today’s climate, institutions need to look at and possibly revise their conduct policies.
It was also important for the show to give Jane a moment of speaking her peace, not only to Chavez but to the student she saw him kissing.
“We talked a lot about what Jane’s responsibility would be in the situation,” Urman says. “She felt a responsibility to talk to the other girl in the situation so that she would have the information necessary to make a choice. Because in retrospect, Jane thought she wasn’t [as] special and what transgressed [with Chavez] made her feel icky. She wanted to wade into this grayer area and have some solidarity with the girl who came after her.”
“Jane The Virgin” airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on the CW.