Rayna Jaymes Deserved Better | Shira Gur
Grief, in every shape and form, including over fictional characters, is real. It touches something deep and profound within us. To me the death of ‘Rayna Jaymes‘ on ‘Nashville CMT’, the character Connie Britton portrayed perfectly over the last 4.5 years, feels very real.
I watched many TV shows over the years and subsequently witnessed many characters die. But this one feels different because Nashville, ‘Rayna Jaymes’ were different. There are many reasons for it but two of them are with crucial importance: The fact ‘Rayna Jaymes’ is a woman and that Nashville is a show about music.
- Rayna Jaymes was a queen
There aren’t enough good women tales (yet) so that a good female character won’t also be a symbol for all women. They just are and Rayna Jaymes sure was.
Her journey began with ‘Already Gone’, an anthem for the power that comes from freedom and the poetic beauty in a road well-traveled. From then on, she did it all. She made it OK to want more and gave courage to simply try. She made it OK to love deeply and be human.
‘Rayna Jaymes’, with the help of the writers and Connie Britton, made being a woman and getting older exciting and sexy and so damn beautiful. She inspired lives. I am changed forever thanks to her and know I’m not the only one.
Rayna wasn’t me and I didn’t see myself in her. She was something better — a possibility of a great woman. The kind who inspires you to become the best version of yourself.
I feel like she held a mirror in front of me, reminding me never to give up and do better, be better and most importantly, be more me, whatever that is.
2. This is no way to say goodbye (even if Connie Britton wanted out)
How should the story of such a powerful and inspiring character end? Should it reflect the character, the conditions created by Connie Britton’s departure or, maybe what it gave to others — the impact she had?
The way I see it, ‘Rayna Jaymes’ needed to live because an ending to a story frames it. The ending informs us what the story is about.
Was ‘Rayna Jaymes’ story about the journey of womanhood? another stone in the Pantheon of dead country stars? Or the story of yet another woman paying with her life for happiness and success?
3. Different endings create different stories and Rayna Jaymes deserved better.
I wanted the first option. I needed the first option. I gave so much of myself in the last few years for that first option to be real. For Rayna, by supporting the show and helping the story continue. For me, in my own life, by looking deep, making changes and doing some of the things that scared me the most.
What I got instead was eventually a story of a woman who couldn’t break the cycle of abuse and duplicated trauma to the next generation of women as well as to her survivor of abuse love of her life. What I got was a story where (another woman) dying young is karma, a twisted punishment.
4. Taking away the healing power of music
And there’s the other thing, the music. Whatever your favorite music genre is, no one listens to music to torture themselves (unless that torture is part of the strange healing process we sometimes go through).
Music opens our souls. It meets us in our most vulnerable place. It’s part of the intimate rhythm of our hearts and therefore needs to be a safe protected place.
In Nashville, where music is part of the story, that’s what music did — it opened the heart and soul. It created intimacy that made us vulnerable as if we were listening alone to our favorite song.
This season, even if they had the best intentions, the writers of ‘Nashville CMT’ abused this place.
Music wasn’t a safe comforting place anymore.
‘Already Gone’ was stripped from its original context and became a morbid prophet and the song of the stalker. From a song that celebrates the little joys in life, A life that’s good turned into a song of grief that painfully points out on the enormous hole left by losing those things. It’s the type of loss you never truly recover from, because the sad truth in life is, some things…you learn to live with them, but never forget or really get over.
The decision to kill Rayna and do it in that specific way, ruined the healing place music provides. Now it became a place I never want to revisit.
5. There’s nothing wrong with a Suspension of Disbelief
The choice made by everyone involved in this Connie Britton exit plot twist, is now repeatedly explained as “the only option”. I disagree. To me, all it did is ruin my desire to follow this story to the next chapter.
For the record, I would have been perfectly fine to exercise my suspense of disbelief with a less “realistic” option where Rayna, for the sake of her career or soul-searching, goes away for a while with the blessing of her family. Open a Highway 65 branch in LA, write her memoir somewhere or ANYTHING else. We would hear about her from time to time and whenever Deacon and the girls won’t appear — know it’s because they went to see her or she came for a visit. Bring her back for the series finale and we’ll call it a day. After all, bi-coastal marriages are also a reality, not just death and agony.
6. Who’s story is it anyway?
After all that, I wonder who a TV story belongs to? The writers? Actors? Producers? Fans?
Specifically on Nashville, fans were led to believe it belongs to all of us. We, the fans brought the show back to life, as they keep saying to us, and now the creators do their part.
But that isn’t true, because the story of ‘Rayna Jaymes’, the character that made me feel so powerful in my own life, ended in a way that made me feel powerless.
‘Rayna Jaymes’ is dead and Nashville turned in my head to an alternate universe whose reality I fight to reject.
Stories matter. Images matter. Endings matter. ‘Rayna Jaymes’ matters.
So ‘Nashville CMT’, Callie Kouri, Connie Britton and everyone involved, from the bottom of my broken heart I thank you for the journey and inspiration. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. But now, I need to go away.
You see, the way you all chose to end Rayna’s journey creates a story I can’t accept and choose to reject. I need to take my power back and write my own alternate ending to this glorious ride. One I can live with and more importantly, one that enables for the Raynas of the world to live happy lives for many more years to come.
I’m sorry, but the song isn’t finished. Not even close.
Originally published at nashvilleforever.com on February 24, 2017.