Risk and healthy behavior in the American adaptation of a telenovela

The Spanish-language telenovela “Juana la Virgen” was remade into “Jane the Virgin” for American audiences in 2014, following a trail pioneered nearly a decade earlier with the television show “Ugly Betty.”

chart comparing the number of instances across episodes of alcohol, sex, violence content between Jane the Virgin and Juana la Virgen
(Graphic courtesy: Annenberg Public Policy Center)

Researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) wondered how the CW Network show “Jane the Virgin” differed from the original. Given the increasing depiction of sex, violence, and alcohol use in American media over recent decades—which the researchers dubbed a “culture of corruption”—did the U.S. remake differ from the Venezuelan telenovela in portraying risk and healthy behaviors?

A new pilot study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center analyzing 10 episodes each from the original and the remake finds that the adaptation “Jane the Virgin” depicts a greater amount of risk and less healthy behavior than the original.

The study, published in Media and Communication, compares the adaptation “Jane the Virgin” with the original “Juana la Virgen.” It finds that the American remake has three times as much sexual content, twice as many violent incidents, 1.5 times as many portrayals of alcohol, and three times as many instances of consuming unhealthy food such as fats, oils, sweets, and takeout food.

But the study also finds that the remake has more pro-health messaging than the original.

“There are higher levels of problematic content in ‘Jane the Virgin’ when compared with its original source program, ‘Juana la Virgen,’ ” says APPC research project manager Darien Perez Ryan, the lead author. “This increase in risk can be attributed in large part to deliberate character and narrative changes that happened during the process of adaptation.”

Read more at the Annenberg Public Policy Center.