Cultural and racial portrayals within the television industry are rarely accurate or present at all. The majority of people displayed on television, or within the media industry in general, are white. When individuals that are not white are shown on television, they are often depicted in the same, stereotypical way and through a narrow lens that ultimately promotes a limited, and often times false, prejudice about those ethnicities. From the years 2012 to 2013, approximately fifty percent of Latino television characters were not given any names or credits. Gina Rodriguez is an actress that is consciously aware of this fact and is a strong believer in, and is making movements towards, changing this.
Rodriguez, born and raised in Chicago, Illinois on July 30, 1984, began her screen acting career through her role as Beverly in The Bold and The Beautiful in 2011, but gained more attention through her lead role in Filly Brown which appeared in the Sun Dance Film Festival. However Rodriguez is arguably most popularly known for her current role as Jane in the hit CW program Jane the Virgin. Jane the Virgin is a critically acclaimed show with a rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The CW network’s first Golden Globe nominations are due to this program, such as nominations for the best musical or comedy television series. For her role as Jane, Rodriguez was also nominated within the same categories for best actress.
Jane the Virgin, due to its popularity, has taken advantage of its large platform and has addressed issues of ethnicity and gender. The program revolves around a Latino family, more specifically a mother, daughter and grandmother. To have a program revolving around a household family of Latinos without any attachment to stereotypes of labour or criminals is rare. However, in addition to this, the fact that the show revolves around three women makes it one of a kind. Jane the Virgin addresses important and often ignored issues of wealth, class, citizenship, and stereotypes surrounding gender and ethnicity.
It is due to the premise of the show and the various issues that are addressed within it, along with Rodriguez’s desire the change the way that Latinos are portrayed in this industry, that Rodriguez accepted the role of ‘Jane.’ Prior to Jane the Virgin, Rodriguez was offered a role in the hit Lifetime program Devious Maids however turned it down due to the stereotypical and redundant role of a Latino maid. “Though being a maid is fantastic” says Rodriguez, “there are other stories that need to be told.” Jennie Snyder Urman, Jane the Virgin’s showrunner, commented on this, saying that “it takes a tremendous amount of courage to turn that down when you’re in that mode, and you’re hustling and you’re trying to get that break. To say no, you have to have an extraordinary sense of self and confidence and belief that it will eventually will work out. It’s stunning.” On the same topic, Rodriguez commented on her actions saying that “I am not going to take a role because there’s money. It might extend to my checkbook but not my integrity.”
Throughout Gina Rodriguez’s career she has demonstrated that her passion is not acting. Rather her passion is her culture and creating an accurate and fair representation of ethnicities and genders within the television and media industry in order for other ethnic children and girls to not have to wonder why no one on screen looks like them, as Rodriguez once did when she was a child. “The one thing ‘Jane’ has given me…is my freedom as an actress and my ability to help others.” I will leave you with words from Rodriguez that contributed to her motivation towards her goals as an actress and activist; “I know [my dad’s] words of ‘I can be anything I want to be’ were true. That’s what kept me strong. You fall; you get back up. If you don’t get back up you’re already stopping your success.”
Author: Sarah Pouramn
Sarah Pouramn lives in Toronto and resides in Waterloo when she is attending university. She works with Habitat for Humanity as a builder and as an Executive Events Coordinator and believes that everyone deserves a fair shot at their goals. Sarah also works with The Community Edition, a Waterloo Region newspaper, as the Social Media Editor. Follow Sarah on Twitter @itsmesarahpea and on Instagram @sarahpouramn.
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