What How Wee Readers – well I hope you all had a good holiday time in december – and for all our sakes let’s hope 2022, is slightly less depressing than 2021. Yet there are still bright days in even the darkest times, and I have to admit something quite exciting happened to me. I’ve finally, I have a new job! While this is undoubtedly a good thing, because it’s a housekeeping job it’s very physically hard work, and because I’m high functioning autistic – I also find it very emotionally draining too.
Which for the sake of this post means that after work, I usually collapse on my sofa and binge watch my current favorite Netflix show: Jane the Virgin. Jane the Virgin is a very loose adaption of the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgin; that premiered on the CW network in 2014 and finally reached the end of its five season long run, on July 31st 2019. The series tells the story of devout catholic Jane Villanueva, who has promised her grandmother that she will stay a virgin until she gets married. A prospect that doesn’t look that far away when it looks like her long-time boyfriend – Michael Cordero Jr – is set to propose. However, things start going wrong when during a routine smear test – Jane gets accidently artificially inseminated.
And things only get stranger from there.
Who is Michael?
Michael is introduced to us as a hardworking, and cunning detective – who loves Jane with all the power of his still beating heart. His purpose in the story is to be one point of the love triangle between Jane, Rafael and himself. #TeamMicheal for life, if you couldn’t tell – not uncommon plot point even outside of the Romance drama. Can anyone say, Hunger Games – pour some out for my hommies on #TeamGale, we can’t win them all.
While Rafael represents new and exciting love in Jane’s life – being the father of her artificially conceived baby – Michael is the old and the familiar. The love that has stayed true, long before the plot got involved. And part of the conflict for the story is which kind of love will Jane choose – the flashy new kind, or the old and true.
Ultimately Michael is a person of two sides – he is a brave man who could have well been the hero of his own story. And he is an inconvenient man, who could well have been the villain of Rafael’s story. But ultimately, he is neither because in the end this is not Michael’s story, or Rafael’s story, it’s Jane’s story.
Thus, to truly understand Michael as a character we must examine his role in Jane’s story, and how he ultimately subverts it. And what is his role you might ask?
The disposable fiancé
To best illustrate exactly what the Disposable Fiancé is as a trope, I would like you to think back to one of those terrible Christmas films you saw over the holiday. Don’t look at me like that, we all see at least one, don’t lie to yourself. Okay you’ve got the film in your head, good. Now unless the film is very specific, you’ll probably going to come across some surprising similarities between each of their plots.
First, you’ll have a woman who thinks she’s satisfied with her city life, complete with city long-term boyfriend/ fiancé. But then suddenly, inciting incident happens and she has to pick up and move/ stay temporarily in a sweet, innocent, village out in the country. Something that I can tell you for a fact, is not true, the village I used to live in was not innocent or wholesome at all. Anyway, where was I, oh yes – where finally she meets the one true love. Who sometimes is a lot nicer than the original fiancé, but most of the time is only better because he visualizes a superior way of life.
The strangeness here is not really that so many films follow the same formula over and over again, it’s Netflix, that’s basically all they do now. It’s not even notable that the choice between a person’s social life is encapsulated in their love interests – I mean that’s basically every piece of fiction ever. No, what I find notable is the wrong path is illustrated by such a long-term relationship.
My point, if this life is wrong for her and she’s so easily going to throw it away – why make them engaged at all?
Could it be high-lightening how we as a society are always looking over the hedge at what we don’t have – to fill that aching void inside ourselves? Could be, we are a capitalist society after all. Or could it be that to establish the strength of the writer’s preferred couple, the heroine’s romantic-false lead has to be a big enough threat to the course of true love. And we can’t have him be that, by being a caring and loving partner – after all, then we might feel bad that he’s being emotionally cheated on.
Or perhaps there’s no reason at all.
Regardless of the reason why ,through this example we have established some basic facts, and common traits of our Disposable fiancé.
- He’s established a long-term relationship with the heroine before the start of the story.
- He often engages in morally dubious actions – to establish that we’re not supposed to be rooting for him as the end goal love interest.
- He’s often encapsulates the kind of world (and or mind set) our heroine needs to escape and or grow out of.
- When the main couple does get together, the fact that this man has to have his heart broken so that our lovebirds can have their happy ending – is treated like a good thing, if it’s mentioned at all.
- Before the events of the story, the heroine believes she’s happy with him.
Ways in which Jane the Virgin stays true to the disposable fiancé trope
- An already established relationship with the female lead – yep, Michael proposes to Jane in the very first episode, and if the plot hadn’t already gotten started, she would defiantly have said yes.
- Morally dubious actions – Though a good man deep down and where it matters, Michael does engage in some shifty behavior at the start of the show. Including but not limited to, bribing Petra to break off her affair with Roman so Jane will give the baby to her; and conducting an illegal search of Rafael’s (the rival to Jane’s heart) secret safe, without a warrant.
- Heroine is (or at least believes she’s) happy before the story – yes, Jane is very happy with Michael before the plot.
Ultimately though what segments Michael as at least in part a disposable fiancé, is that he and Jane are not endgame for the series. So, in the narrative sense no matter how far the story goes to relay Michael’s worthiness as a character, he will always be disposable. And that’s a sad thought for any character.
Ways in which it subverts the disposable fiancé trope
- Encapsulates the kind of life that the Heroine doesn’t need – No, there’s no hints that what Michael and Jane want at the beginning of the series – marriage, kids, a happy and stable family life – ever diverge.
- His heartbreak is treated as joke at best, or a triumph of the hero at worst – No, whenever Jane and Michael break it off, both parties’ feelings on the matter are treated with the kind of seriousness that such things deserve.
However, the neat list aside, I belive that what really subverts this ‘disposable finance’ trope in Jane the Virgin, is the fact that Michael stays in the story far longer than your average disposable boyfriend/fiancé should. He’s there throughout the story doing his detective work, or reminding Jane of their time together. Often not deliberately just by still continuing to exist in the story.
Which is ultimately one of the strengths of not only Michael as a character but Jane the Virgin as a whole – it goes beyond the ‘main’ couple getting together. Of course, there’s nothing wrong, per say, with a story ending there. But by going past that point – past the first break up of Jane and Michael. Where Jane realises Michael’s being lying to her about Petra’s affair, and just can’t trust him anymore. Past the point where she tearfully gives him his ring back; and even past the point when that same night she madly kisses Rafael, and gets together with him. By going past that point, the show highlights that often the main weakness of the ‘disposable fiancé’ trope is not actually the fiancé himself. Counterintuitive as that sounds. Sure, in a lot of the more badly written Netflix /Hallmark films he is a card-carrying scumbag with no greater depth to his character than a speed bump. But to be honest, fixing his character won’t fix the story. You can make him the nicest guy on the planet if you want, or at least make him feel like a real person. But either way something in the story will feel hollow and that’s because the fault lies not in the character himself but the role he represents.
For if such a long term, well-established relationship is nothing but disposable, then the love that is replacing it must be something truly transcendent. And that’s a lot to put on any relationship, let alone one that’s so often in its infancy. While I have watched some films that try to answer this by illustrating the superiority of the new love interest – often on a moral ground – to the old one, sometimes they don’t even try that much. Relying instead on how terrible the ‘disposable fiancé’ was/is to establish the final romantic choice of the heroine as the right one.
By going past this point – where the main couple get together – Jane the Virgin establishes the weakness in the premise that new is automatically better. As because they are such a new relationship, Jane and Rafael don’t really know each other at this point. By no accounts a strange phenomenon; but because the circumstances around their connection are so unusual, with possible hints that they are destined to be – this causes both parties to rush into a deeper commitment than was strictly healthy for their fledgeling relationship. With Rafael even trying to by-pass the early stages and skip straight to marriage before either party is really ready for it.
While (Spoiler) Jane and Rafael do end up being endgame, because the narrative doesn’t take that shortcut of having all their relationship conflict be from an external source – i.e., a disposable fiancé – their relationship is allowed to grow and mature at a more natural rate. Thus it feels in some ways much more real.
So, in conclusion, Michael is great and if Jane and Rafael want to be together – that’s fine, he doesn’t need them.
If you’ve enjoyed this weird ramble of mine, don’t forget to follow the Wee Writing Blog if you haven’t already and check me out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr and Goodreads for all that good stuff. Also sign up for the Wee Mailing List before February the 28th to find out the five best looking men on Jane the Virgin and why. Until next time Wee Readers, stay safe and have a very bonny day.