If to believe all the reports, Connie Britton will exit Nashville in the middle of its upcoming season on CMT. As a viewer I have little to no interest in watching a Connie-free ‘Nashville’. I’d rather bid the show farewell, keep spending as much time as I can in the wonderful city that inspires it and follow the careers of my favorite cast members and Nashville songwriters individually.
But my personal viewing decisions are NOT what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the reasons why Connie Britton’s character, Rayna Jaymes is a great feminist icon and why her departure is significant beyond the scope of the show.
Rayna Jaymes is a fantastic character. On Nashville, she’s also that one character in a TV show that sets the norm and makes the rules for the world she inhabits. It’s a rare position for female characters and an even rarer combination.
And it matters. More than you think.
Rayna Jaymes Broke the Mold
From the beginning Rayna Jaymes broke the common mold of what does it mean to be a “good” or “bad” woman:
According to Rayna Jaymes (and Connie Britton) You CAN be over 30 and a mother but still be sexual. You can be ambitious without necessarily being bitchy. You can be career driven without compensating for something and do it just because there’s something you really want. You can fall in love and make tons of mistakes even after 40. You can get married and love your partner with all your heart but still feel restless. You can be successful, mature and level-headed but still feel the urge to push boundaries and try new things.
It’s not perfect and it’s messy as hell but it’s real. Rayna Jaymes may live a far more glamorous lives in a much more heightened reality than, let’s say Tami Taylor, but I believe she’s also far more inspiring and subversive. That’s because unlike Tami Taylor, Rayna Jaymes doesn’t buy into the “having it all myth.” Rayna knows there’s a difference between “having it all” by maintaining balance at all costs (usually by putting yourself last) and between DOING or BEING it all, which means living a full life and doing your best.
As women we need these type of female role models, which are powerful and complex but also not psychotic and completely unstable. They exist, but not enough and when it happens they tend to be the exceptional in their world instead of the rule.
They’re also not her royal redheadness Connie Britton that somehow in a subtle nuance way manages to make everything so humane. relatable and glamorous and sexy all at the same time.
In short, Rayna is not just a fabulous character – she’s also important.
Today, more than ever.
Nashville Without Rayna Jaymes Loses its Feminist Edge
Without Rayna Jaymes, the Nashville universe can still be fun and entertaining but, I fear, far less relevant and important. Rayna Jaymes and Connie Britton gave ‘Nashville’ its edge and it had an impact on every aspect of it.
When there’s a woman like that on top, that breaks the female archetype mold, her “rival” must break it as well, since Rayna (and Britton) won’t have it. That’s why on Nashville, Instead of reenacting ‘All About Eve’, Rayna and Juliette Barnes had to learn how to be colleagues and maybe friends (although that part wasn’t mandatory). Wonder where someone got that idea????
When there’s a woman like Rayna on top an unethical music producer gets fired and an artist, who wants out of her contract – gets out. Don’t believe me? Follow the story of Scarlett O’Connor there.
When there’s a woman like Rayna on top, the men are different too and indeed, on Nashville the men all got the “female roles”. They are the boyfriends and the” wives” of the stories that wave from the sidelines and stay home with the kids. They are also the ones spending their days pining over lost loves and get the cancer storylines.
If men don’t play by the rules in Rayna’s world, we witness the conflict many powerful women face in real-life when men encounter them: They are initially attracted to their “aura” but also struggle with it and try to clip their wings.
If men play by them, we get a glimpse at new refreshing models of flexible and equal partnerships. Nashville true love ideal is built entirely around it.
When there’s a woman like Rayna on top, whose power isn’t measured by control over others, but by how much she controls her own destiny, feel free and enables others that freedom …well, that’s something! It’s a completely different way of thinking about power and Nashville’s good music business model derives from this premise.
When there’s a woman like Rayna on top, that was born in Nashville (the only one out of the main characters) and changed with it, you have someone to connect between the old and new Nashville instead of forcing us to choose.
When there’s a woman like Rayna Jaymes on top, with all that she is, does and enables, Nashville is where I want to be.