A heartbroken woman quietly, tearfully sings Selena Quintanilla’s “Dreaming Of You” into a cheese stick. She looks beautiful, but probably smells like the last fumes of day drinking: Champagne, sadness, and a little bit of pot. She tells a bodega owner loudly to fuck off before storming outside and popping a dose of MDMA.
If you haven’t watched Netflix’s brand-new breakup rom-com and Gina Rodriguez vehicle Someone Great, out April 19, you’re probably imagining a white woman. After all, women characters were only recently allowed to behave as badly as their Hangover-y male counterparts. As with most grasps at true feminist freedom, the first fictional ladies to explore this new frontier of excess have been white women. Ask the broads populating Broad City, Girls, You’re The Worst, Bad Moms, A Bad Mom’s Christmas, upcoming Bad Moms' Moms, Rough Night, Bachelorette, and nearly everyone in Bridesmaids (star Maya Rudolph is biracial and also the least bad bad girl in the comedy).
But Someone Great isn’t led by a white woman letting her freak flag fly in druggy exuberance. Or even one of the few Black women who have joined in on the fun, like the cast of Girls Trip. Instead, it’s built around Jenny Young (Jane The Virgin breakout Rodriguez), a successful journalist, Latinx woman, and sometimes mess. In a world of fiery Latina stereotypes or perfect good girls — see: Rodriguez’s wildly upstanding Jane Gloriana Villanueva, TV’s most famous Catholic virgin — Jenny is a breath of fresh air.
The magic of Jenny, an NYU Grad, is that she is realistically chaotic while also remaining deeply aspirational. You never forget this is a person who has been tapped by music bible Rolling Stone to grow its West Coast coverage with her own staff in San Francisco. Jenny’s BFFs, Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (She’s Gotta Have It’s DeWanda Wise), mention her talent in the organic way people actually describe their friends. That's how we learn Jenny has a unique and special way of talking music. Towards the end of Someone, Jenny pens a heart wrenchingly poetic breakup letter to her ex Nate (Lakeith Stanfield) that makes her knack with words unimpeachable.
But, just like real New York writers in their late 20s, all of this success hasn’t made Jenny fully clean up her act just yet. That beautiful note she scribbles to Nate’s memory? It’s written while she’s high on molly after a day of chugging green juice-Champagne “mimosas” and tequila from the bottle between puffs of pilfered “Beyoncé weed” and, separately, the “holy grail of joints.” The massive joint is supplied by RuPaul’s drug dealing grande dame, Hype. “I forgot… you’re on drugs,” Jenny’s ex-crush Matt (Bold Type newbie Peter Vack) remembers towards the end of the movie when she says exactly the kind of deeply undeep bon mots perfected by inebriated people (“Tell Erin and Blair that I am going to finish it. And they’ll know what I mean”).
Later, Erin and Blair find Jenny passed out in Washington Square Park, butt slightly out.
While Jenny throws out Spanglish within the first minute of Someone Great and continues to do so throughout the film, neither her highs nor lows are connected directly to her heritage. It's the same treatment Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) enjoyed throughout Girls, when no one thought she did cocaine in the middle of the day or wore mesh shirts to raves because she’s a white woman from Michigan. These are all just personal choices. Jenny smokes because she wants to smoke and yells at irritating men because they’re irritating — not because of her own supposedly inherently “spicy” Latinidad.
A similarly respectful attitude is applied to Jenny’s sexuality. Yes, she is sexy — just see her Neon Classic ensemble for proof. But, she isn’t sexy because she’s a walking, talking Sexy Latina Trope, running around in bandage dresses, impossible heels, and the patina of the male gaze. Instead, Jenny repeatedly has sex with Nate because she really, really wants to have sex with Nate. She wears mini slip dresses because she loves them, and tosses on a denim jacket because it’s cool. Her party-time red lipstick is the kind of shade Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would approve of and maybe even sport herself.
All together, Jenny is a real, complicated Latinx woman who embraces her culture in the subtle ways real-life women like her do every day. That includes the time she claims she’s “cousins” with Latinx singer Jessie Reyez to get to the front a concert in much the same way I alleged DJ Nicky Romero was my cousin when he played my college’s annual music festival.
That’s what makes Someone Great’s central Selena moment so very delightful. Jenny is a woman who’s going to sing that iconic Latina’s bops at the top of her lungs, and absolutely no one can stop her.