In this assignment, I will argue that Janethe Virgin exemplifies Forbes’ category of Religion in Pop culture.Thinking critically about Jane the Virgin in light of Clifford Geertz, allowsme to conclude that religion is a set of symbols that provide a worldview, andthat religious symbols establish long lasting moods and motivations in people (Pals2006,270). The basis of my phenomena is centered onthe TV show Jane the virgin. It is a romantic comedy/ drama telenovela whichwas released on October 13, 2014 on the CW Network. It is based on the Venezuelantelenovela soap opera, Juana la virgin, and is written by Jennie Snyder Urman while being producedby PaulSciarrotta, Merdith Averill, Corinne Brinkerhoff, and several others. The series stars Gina Rodriguez who plays therole of Jane Villanueva, a young Latina Virgin hailing from a religious homewith strong Catholic backgrounds, that mainly being her grandmother. She becomespregnant after she is accidentally inseminated during a check up at thehospital.
After this happens, the series starts to take some form, showing usthe aftermath and situations that had led up to that point in the life of Janethe Virgin. During the course of this series, therehave been various instances where religion in pop culture can be seen bothimplicitly and explicitly. Primarily, it can be seen that the life of Jane thevirgin is an allegorical parallel (Forbes and Mahan 2005,12) to that of Marythe virgin as seen in the bible, where they both do not get pregnant through orthodoxways. Jane gets pregnant through an accidental artificial insemination (Season1, Episode 1) while still being a virgin while Mary gets pregnant through theholy spirit while still also remaining a virgin.
Another instance where religion in pop culturecan be seen is in the way Hollywood and the Media reinvents, reinterprets, orrejects certain epitomes/models (Forbes and Mahan 2005,12). This can beobserved in the some of the characters in the TV show, such as the nun, Mother Constantine,who is not portrayed as your typical everyday nun, one who follows all thecommandments of the Lord and has dedicated her life to serving him. Instead,Mother Constantine is portrayed as a person who at a point in her early life asa nun stole artworks and who also harbors numerous secrets (Season 3, Episode51). Although she is not the focus of the film, it is in accordance with Forbesstating the explicit representation of religious figures in films (Forbes andMahan 2005,10).
Clifford Geertz is the theorist whoseapproach to religion best suits this TV show. Geertz is an American cultural anthropologistwho proposes that religion is “a system of symbols which acts to establishpowerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men byformulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing theseconceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seemuniquely realistic” (Pals 2006,270). Geertz focuses mainly on symbols and theeffect they have in a person’s life, shaping them into who they are by establishinglong lasting moods and motivations in them (Pals 2006,270). This can be seen in the life of Jane as hergrandmother, Alba, a devout catholic woman instills the importance of purityand abstinence in her. Abuela Alba gives Jane her version of a sex talk withthe use of a simple white flower. She explains to little Jane (Season 1,Episode 1) that her virginity is like the simple unblemished rose, pure andpleasing in the eyes of God and that if she becomes impure or dis-virgined shewould instead be a crumpled rose. This shaped Jane into the woman she became,trying to always stick and adhere to the teachings of her abuela, ensuring shekept herself pure and always ensuring that in whatever relationship she was in,she never let things, such as foreplay get too far. This is a prime example of Geertzapproach as the symbol of the unblemished/crumpled rose established a longlasting motivation in Jane’s life.
Another explicit symbol that can be seenthroughout the series is the symbol of the Cross. The Christian cross is a representation of the pivotalinstrument used in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and as such is a well knownsymbol for Christianity. The cross is a predominant feature in Jane’s home andis hung on the wall. Abuela Alba also owns a rosary which she prays with andcan also be seen to give her some sort of comfort as she tends to touch it wheneverthings aren’t working out for her. Statuesof the holy mother Mary can also be seen in the series. These, according to Geertzestablish powerful and evasive motivations (Pals 2006,271). After analyzing Jane, the virgin in the context of Forbes’ religion inpopular culture, it is apparent that religion is indeed very present in theseries.
It is a building block for the series itself as the concept of it surroundsphenomena that occurred for Jane to give birth a virgin. Symbols also do play ahuge role in the series as can be observed and Geertz view on religion helps usto understand the importance of these symbols and the roles they play in thelives of the characters/actors and how that shapes them into who they are.