Popular Depictions

In popular media, Jains are often depicted as peace loving do-gooders with strange customs. Since virtues of ahimsa (non-violence) and self-denial are central to Jainism, they are often over emphasized and dramatized in modern film and literature. Especially in the United States, where most people do not fully understand the religion, Jains are commonly portrayed as extremists, who uphold strict adherence to their tradition. In reality, Lay Jains do not take the Five Great Vows of monks and nuns that are much more strict. They take lesser vows: renouncing violence, vowing not to lie or to steal, embracing chaste sexual behavior, and avoiding attachment to material things. Also, all Jains are strictly vegetarian and must not do work that involves the destruction of life. These are not radical vows, but rather, common standards of living.

Does anyone watch the television series, “Jane the Virgin,” on the CW network? If not, I highly recommend it. “Jane the Virgin” is a satirical telenovela that follows Jane Villanueva, a hard-working Venezuelan woman, who also happens to be a virgin. However, Jane’s life gets turned upside down when she is accidentally artificially inseminated with Rafael Solano’s sperm. The show highlights the difficulties Jane encounters as she navigates these strange circumstances.

In Season 1 of “Jane the Virgin,” Roman Zazo, the cunning, deceiving friend of Rafael Solano is killed. A few episodes later, his twin brother, Aaron Zazo arrives to console Roman’s grieving friends and family. Aaron is introduced as a devout Jain. Throughout the show, he is depicted wearing light pastel colors and loosely-fit clothing. He has a relaxed and friendly demeanor and is extremely respectful to everyone he comes into contact with. In one scene, he protects a tiny spider crawling across the table. This “rescue” is over-dramatized with intense music, poking fun at the Jain ideal of non-violence. Eventually, Aaron turns out to have been Roman impersonating his own brother after having faked his own death by actually murdering his twin brother. But nevertheless, the show provides American television-watchers with a brief insight into the Jain tradition!


Aaron Zazo comforting Petra Solano in the CW’s “Jane the Virgin”

Below, I have attached recent articles of Jain coverage in the press.

“Jane the Virgin” is referenced the article directly below, as the author recounts her experience growing up as a Jain in the United States.


The article below highlights Rice University’s new post-doctoral fellowship in Jain studies.


Lastly, this article touches on Oprah’s new “Belief” series that highlights Jainism, Hinduism, and other lesser known religions. I have included Oprah’s video on Jainism in my home page. Click the menu bar above to access this clip.


Photo Citation:

Aaron Zazo. Photograph. http://lovelace-media.imgix.net/uploads/367/9347f050-a8a4-0132-44f1-0ebc4eccb42f.jpg?w=684&h=513&fit=crop&crop=faces&auto=format&q=70

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