Sean P Carlin

Writer of things that go bump in the night

Month: February 2015

Diversity on Television: Lessons in Characterization from “Jane the Virgin”

Considering the vastly improved representation of minorities on network TV this season—Empire, Black-ish, Cristela, Fresh Off the Boat, How to Get Away with Murder—it isn’t altogether surprising that the most delightful, dynamic, dimensional character to grace the small screen at present has emerged from the freshman pack.  What did catch me off guard, I’ll be big enough to admit, is that it was the least likely character on the last show I expected.

After nearly a decade of identity crisis, anemic ratings, and critical indifference, The CW, bastion of star-crossed supernatural romance and small-screen superheroics, scored its first Golden Globe win this season—for an adaptation of a Venezuelan telenovela, no less:  Jane the Virgin.

Jane offers something a little different than its Big Network counterparts—something harder to categorize:  deftly written dramedy that concurrently satirizes and honors its telenovela heritage, complete with idiosyncratic flourishes like a whimsical narrator and on-screen text commentary.  Some of its characters, like Jane’s father, telenovela superstar Rogelio de la Vega (portrayed by Mexican actor Jaime Camil), are as consciously absurd as the series’ plot twists.  Yet in spite of his ostensible function as straight-faced comic relief, an analysis of Rogelio’s five traits shows him to be a case study in psychological complexity and originality.

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Attack of the Clones: Why Hollywood’s Creative Approach Is in Need of a Reboot

I had no context to recognize this at the time, but I came of age in a golden era of fantasy cinema.  Some of my earliest theatrical experiences included Superman II (1981), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Return of the Jedi (1983), Ghostbusters (1984), and Back to the Future (1985).  Movies like those were made, by and large, by a generation of filmmakers—notably but not exclusively Steven Spielberg and George Lucas—that had been raised on the sci-fi and fantasy offerings of 1950s B-movies and comics, and later became the first students to major in cinema studies and filmmaking; when that formal training was fused with their pulp passions, the contemporary blockbuster was born:  first with Jaws (1975), then Star Wars (1977), and then Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Superman:  The Movie (1978) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and The Goonies (1985).  That cornucopia of imaginative fantasy—hardly an all-encompassing list, by the way—was my first exposure to the movies.  Is it any wonder I was hooked for life?

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