As the country sits on the brink of a potential Donald Trump presidency, the cultural ripples of his insensitive behavior — including bragging about groping women — can already be felt in unlikely places, namely in October’s season 3 premiere episode of The CW’s Jane the Virgin.
In a new essay for Pacific Standard, writer Sonia Weiser examines how television writing has shifted in the age of Trump’s candidacy. She cites the Republican nominee’s recently surfaced comments, recorded during a 2005 taping of Access Hollywood, in which he graphically describes touching women’s genitals without their consent, as a tipping point for television writers with regards to how they depict consensual acts of affection onscreen.
Speaking to the publication, Jane the Virgin showrunner Jennie Urman reveals the series’ Oct. 17 episode, “Chapter Forty-Five,” which features several flashbacks to the early days of courtship between Jane (Gina Rodriguez) and Michael (Brett Dier), was rewritten following an increase in awareness about issues of sexual assault and consent in the wake of Trump’s comments about women.
“Chapter Forty-Five” unfolds through a series of flashbacks revolving around the initial encounters between the couple, beginning with their first kiss at Jane’s alcohol-laden 21st birthday celebration. After the party, Michael shows up at Jane’s home, though she ultimately turns him away, pretending to be indifferent to his affections. Michael refuses to give up, however, asking if he can kiss her again when he’s sober, telling her he’s a “fighter.” Operating under her own convictions, Jane makes the decision to go in for the kiss herself.
Urman reveals the scene originally saw Michael kissing Jane without receiving the go-ahead, though she felt it was necessary to alter the pair’s interaction as the social conversation around her shifted to highlight the dangers of sexual assault.
“I felt so uncomfortable with any gray area in terms of consent,” she tells Weiser, seemingly referencing the impact of Trump’s words. “Those little symbols [of male aggression and lack of consent] are dangerous right now in terms of what we’re talking about and what we’re faced with.”
Urman also admits she’s committed to paying closer attention to how her writing, even on a fiction television series, can influence the overal social mindset when it comes to issues of sexuality.
“[I’m] understanding how all the small nuances and small moments [on the show] are either validating or adding to some problems that we as a society are currently grappling with,” she says. “My responsibility is to make sure that we’re not confusing things … or adding to the problem.”
Jane the Virgin airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW. Read Weiser’s full essay for Pacific Standard here.