The television industry has never been all that diverse, but recently networks and cable shows have begun to embrace various races and cultural identities.
“Jane The Virgin” is a show that is opening the door for minorities within the acting community. The series is one of a new group of shows that gives its audience a distinctive visual perspective from what we are use to seeing on TV. It provides the audience with a refreshing story line that introduces diversity within the media.
“Every role that I’ve chosen has been ones that I think [is] going to push forward the idea of my culture, of women, of beauty, my idea of liberating young girls, of feeling that they have to look at a specific beauty type. And I wasn’t going to let my introduction to the world be one of a story that I think has been told many times,” said Jane The Virgin’s lead protagonist, Gina Rodriguez, 30, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
Since the beginning of Rodriguez’s career, the actor has been standing for what she believes in. Growing up she rarely saw actors who resembled her and it made her realize that there needed to be a stronger representation of Latinos within the industry.
Although the ratings did not skyrocket, “Jane The Virgin” debuted a promising start. According to Variety, Nielsen showed ratings that averaged a 0.6 in an 18-to-49-year-old demographic for the CBS series. The show has delivered the highest rating in its time period in two years since “Gossip Girl.”
CBS realized it lacked diversity and decided to take action by letting actors of color who are 18-years-old or older submit resumes and photos for a chance to be a cast in the CBS daytime dramas, “The Young and The Restless” and “The Bold and The Beautiful.” This is a way they plan to give employment opportunities to all actors, regardless of background.
“Diversity requires action and we see this as a very intentional way of bringing attention to diverse actors and continuing to open doors to the most successful daytime franchises in history with this new and additional avenue of access,” said Josie Thomas, Senior Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer of CBS Corporation.
Greg Braxton, Entertainment Reporter from the Los Angeles Times explained that The CW traditionally has not focused on presenting minorities in prominent roles. In fact it has focused more on young caucasian actors, making it rare to see other cultures represented in the media.
UCLA’s Ralph J. Buche Center, created a report based on diversity in the film and TV industry called “2014 Hollywood Diversity Report: Making Sense of the Disconnect.” The study revealed that minorities had lead roles in just fewer than 11% of the 172 films considered.
Meanwhile, according to The Hollywood Reporter, President of The CW, Mark Pedowitz said that over the past three seasons The CW has made it a “mission to grow and broaden” the networks audience.
“Jane The Virgin” has averaged 1.6-million viewers. The series is based on a Venezuelan telenovela, ‘Juana La Virgen,’ where the main character Juana (Jane) becomes pregnant after her gynecologist mistakenly artificially inseminates during her routine check up. The show touches on many issues, one in specific is the idea of religion. Jane’s grandmother is a very religious woman and it is shown throughout the show.
According to Los Angeles Times TV critic, Mary McNamara, it is something that is not seen on television very often. It is a way to share a cultural message to the viewer. The show does not address racial issues like the TV show Back-ish but it is an example of a story we would not have seen on television a few years ago.
“The show is a big win for The CW,” said McNamara. “The power dynamics within the [show] are really well-done.” This fall in broadcasting television we have been able to see an increasing rate on diversity casting but more importantly there has been an increase in diversity within the stories and “Jane The Virgin” is one of them.”
Characters from the show are predominantly women based. What is significant here and shows change within the media industry is that the main character Jane, (Gina Rodriguez), her mother Xiomara, (Andrea Navedo) and the grandmother Alba, (Ivonne Coll) are all Latinas. This is something that is particularly rare because women are never seen as lead characters on television, specifically non-caucasians.
“As a hispanic I think it is wonderful to finally see an actual story that can show others we are just like everyone else,” said Bernice Ponce resident from Commerce, CA. Ponce is a regular The CW viewer and for her to finally see some change within the media really has brought her joy. Ponce says she finds it great seeing her ethnicity on TV but it is not so much that she is excited about. “It’s the fact that The CW is giving its viewers, such as myself, a new storyline that shows Latinos in a different outlook that really gets me,” said Ponce.
Of course Television is something that should connect with viewers, and that’s the point Rodriguez shares during her interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“We want to be able to connect, she said “We want to cry. We want to look at our lives on screen. It’s clear to me that execs need to step outside of their office and really look at life. We are in interracial relationships. We speak multiple languages. We’re multiple religions inside of that. I have Jewish ancestors. My sister converted to Judaism. I have Christians and Catholics and Buddhists in my family. I have multiracial, multiethnic relationships. We need to start casting color-blind because there is no specific anymore.”
Rodriguez explained how there should be difference in story lines just because a non-caucasian actor or actress is portraying the role.
“Yes, being a maid and being a landscape artist … these are phenomenal professions that pay really well,” she said “I mean my sister’s nanny makes a lot more than the majority of my friends. These are great, wonderful careers except they’re not the only stories. And trust, me, its not just Latinos that are doing these jobs. I felt very limited by the opportunities I had in Hollywood to play the maid, the pregnant teen, the drug addict. Those all exist, but they all exist in every ethnicity and culture. I wanted to tell stories that showed little girls because when I was younger, I didn’t see us in Casablanca and these phenomenal movies that told the human story.”
Rodriguez didn’t become an actress to gain wealth and success. She decided acting was her calling because she wanted to embody those who are not represented in the media industry.
“The way I grew up, I never saw myself on screen,” said Rodriguez to the Los Angeles Times. “I realized how limiting that was for me. I would look at the screen and think, ‘Well, there’s no way I can do it, because I’m not there.’ And it’s like as soon as you follow your dreams, you give other people the allowance to follow theirs.”