Jessica Chastain: Wynette’s ‘Stand By Your Man’ isn’t ‘about being a doormat’

Jessica Chastain covers the digital issue of Marie Claire to promote the George and Tammy miniseries. She produced the series as well as starring as Tammy Wynette to Michael Shannon’s George Jones. Honestly, these two actors have found themselves perfectly cast as Jones and Wynette. While the real Tammy was a fiery trainwreck, Jessica is very driven and straight-arrow. I feel like her celebrity branding is that of a Julliard-educated elitist from a good family, when really she grew up dirt-poor in a pretty hard-scrabble family. Jessica talks about how that background informs who she is today in this Marie Claire piece. Some highlights:

Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man”: “The song isn’t about being a doormat. And the reality is Tammy Wynette was married five times. She made decisions in her life. To be a producer, and to have a production company, means you get to police that in the writing. You get to say, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. We need to honor women as human beings. And they make their own choices—just like men do.'”

Her childhood: “My mom raised me. I was very close to my grandmother, who was single most of her life. I remember I was in sixth grade, my sister was in fourth grade, my brother was in first grade, and my mom was out working as a bartender. We were home all the time alone at night. It was just like, ‘We’re taking care of ourselves.’ There was no other option. My mom couldn’t afford childcare, and she was trying to just get us fed. Getting food was the big deal.”

Ukraine vs. Iran: “I’m going to say something controversial right now, and I’ve had a margarita, so no one’s stopping me. I’ve done a lot of press recently, and a lot of people want to talk about Ukraine. But when I bring up Iran, no one wants to talk about that. I think because it’s a women-led revolution, and I think because Ukraine is mostly white people.”

Protective of women: “I’m fiercely protective of women. To me it is my great fight. I use my job to try to celebrate women, but also celebrate women as human beings. Which means, yes, I can play characters that are flawed and do terrible things sometimes. It’s like my job is to constantly remind society that women are human beings. It feels like there’s a cost. It costs me something. But at the same time as it costs me something, I gain something.”

Making an appearance at the Country Music Awards
. “I was just terrified. I was like, ‘[Tammy] is the first lady of country music, and here I am trying to emulate her. Are they going to run me out of town?’ Honestly, they couldn’t have been more kind, more generous, more loving. It was such a lesson in…what is it? In judging people before you meet them, I guess.”

Her daughter, whom she rarely discusses publicly: “Normally I never talk about my personal life. But I had a conversation with my daughter not that long ago. And when you’re talking to kids it’s like, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ ‘I want to be a ballerina. And she was like, ‘I want to be a mama.’ And I was like, ‘That’s a great thing to be. But you know, you can be more than one thing.’ She’s like, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Well, look at me, honey. I’m a mama. I’m an actress. I’m a producer. I’m a business owner. I’m a friend. I’m a cook. I started listing all these things. Like, I am many things, so you can be whatever you want. You can be the president. You can be a ballerina. You can be a mama. And it was so shocking for her to hear all of this.”

Her freedom: “I just demand more than anyone else could demand of me. I feel incredibly lucky to have the life that I have right now, and to make the choices that I get to make, to have the freedom over my body that I get to have. And to just sit in the ease of all of that—in the financial ease, the freedom-of-my-body ease—without trying to create it for others? I feel like that’s selfish. I just wouldn’t like myself.”

[From Marie Claire]

It’s sad because the modern audience does believe that Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” is some kind of ode to being a doormat, to doing whatever it takes to make a dysfunctional relationship work, to sticking by your man no matter what he does. It’s about more than that, clearly, and it reflected the particulars of Wynette’s mindset. As for Jessica’s conversation with her daughter… it’s funny. I laughed, thinking about Jessica blowing her daughter’s mind by revealing that women can be more than one thing. And yes, people would prefer to talk about Ukraine because it’s about white people. White people versus a women-led movement in Iran. Of course, everyone should care about both, but Chastain’s point is apt.

Cover & IG courtesy of Marie Claire.

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6 Responses to “Jessica Chastain: Wynette’s ‘Stand By Your Man’ isn’t ‘about being a doormat’”

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  1. Yonati says:

    That green outfit is amazing

  2. Andrea says:

    I have one more episode left in the miniseries and I plan to listen to a podcast next regarding their lives. Such a deeply sad and emotional miniseries. They both had a lot of trauma in their lives they never healed from.

  3. Isabella says:

    I did not know she grew up poor and never would have guessed. I look forward to reading her memoirs someday. Does anybody know anything about her siblings, how they turned out? She definitely has big sister energy.

    • Lee13 says:

      I don’t know about her brother, but I believe she has spoken a little bit about her sister having taken her life as a young adult. As someone who experienced something similar, it definitely stuck in my mind.

  4. j.ferber says:

    I love that the song, “Stand By Your Man” is sung by a woman who went through five husbands. So the questions becomes, which one?