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

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

Connie Britton Is Not Old

161293328
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:

Advertisement

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.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 24 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Partial Solar Eclipse of October 2014
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.