Let's All Come to An Understanding About Something: Connie Britton Is Not Old.

What Women Really Think
Feb. 13 2013 4:55 PM

Connie Britton Is Not Old

Woman in her prime.

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

There is much to adore about Connie Britton, from her iconic turn as Mrs. Coach on Friday Night Lights, to her willingness to have sex with a ghost in a gimp suit on American Horror Story, to her highly covetable hair and swagger with a microphone on Nasvhille. And now a terrific profile in the New York Times Magazine gives us a whole new reason to admire Britton: At 45, she has triumphed over Hollywood's insane career timeline for women (the one that makes the magazine's headline of "Connie Britton is a Late Bloomer" true), and continues to fight to make sure Nashville doesn't treat women her age as over-the-hill.

As Susan Dominus writes:


Britton spent the first three episodes of “Nashville” worried she made a terrible, career-altering mistake. She was particularly concerned about the way her character was being positioned—Connie Britton, playing an “aging country-music star,” a phrase she started seeing in countless blog posts and articles about the show ... That Britton of all people would be asked to play a character whose life seemed to fall apart at 40 struck her as almost perverse. “That’s not even who I represent as an actor,” she said, sitting back in her seat. “My life started being awesome five years ago.”

It's objectively true, of course, that Hollywood treats aging men and women differently. Where opportunities open up for men like Leonardo DiCaprio as they approach their 40s and cast off their pretty-boy pasts in favor of substantive parts and sober reputations, options often narrow for women. Even tremendously well-respected actresses like Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet work less often these days, and frequently end up in supporting and ensemble roles. At 39, Winona Ryder said she'd reached "that age I've been warned my whole life about"—meaning, when work would dry up for her. Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren are definitely exceptions to the rule.

So, this is just the way it is in Hollywood, and we've long accepted it. But it's still worth noting how insane the entertainment industry is when compared to many other professions. In academia, according to the National Science Foundation, the median age at which Ph.D. candidates get their doctorates, and the point at which they can really begin their careers, is 33.3 years old. Numbers vary by firm size, but the average age at which lawyers tend to make partner is also mid-30s. The average age at which Fortune 500 CEOs become CEOs is 50. Since founding editor Harold Ross started The New Yorker at 32, that magazine has never appointed an editor younger than Tina Brown, who published her first issue shortly before her 39th birthday.

In other words, Connie Britton has found career success at around the same time she would have had if she gone into almost any other field. Britton's forties, rather than ushering in a terrifying era of terminal decline, turned out to be a time when the jobs available to her got more interesting. That she's the exception rather than the rule is a reminder of how skewed Hollywood is—and how much potential it is leaving on the table.

Alyssa Rosenberg writes about culture and television for Slate’s “XX Factor” blog. She also contributes to ThinkProgress and theatlantic.com.



The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

Naomi Klein Is Wrong

Multinational corporations are doing more than governments to halt climate change.

The Strange History of Wives Gazing at Their Husbands in Political Ads


See Me

Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
Sept. 30 2014 12:04 PM John Hodgman on Why He Wore a Blue Dress to Impersonate Ayn Rand
  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 1:38 PM Mad About Modi
 Why the controversial Indian prime minister drew 19,000 cheering fans to Madison Square Garden.

Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 30 2014 11:42 AM Listen to Our September Music Roundup Hot tracks from a cooler month, exclusively for Slate Plus members.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 12:42 PM How to Save Broken Mayonnaise
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 11:55 AM The Justice Department Is Cracking Down on Sales of Spyware Used in Stalking
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.