We boomers are engaged in a revolution. We are throwing off the stereotypes of aging. We now treat 60 as a chance to begin again.
The stereotypes may be ludicrous but they are well installed. Madison Avenue gives us a succession of ads that show aging as a time for pastel sweaters and witless cavorting on the beach. Hollywood turns the likes of Clint Eastwood, Liam Neeson, and Bruce Willis into gun-toting, revenge-thirsty hooligans.
Overcompensating vs. Phoning it In
I keep waiting for something in the middle ground, a glimpse of boomers who are formidable without actually having to shoot anyone, who can engage the world without having to be so apologetic about it.
And then I saw The ABC Murders (Amazon Prime). It features John Malkovich as Hercule Poirot. I have never been crazy about Malkovich. Too arch, too mannered, I thought, in his style of self-presentation. Nothing wrong with this necessarily. But we are Americans who prefer a certain naturalism, authenticity, sincerity in our personal style. We like to be candid and forthcoming. We like the idea that we conceal nothing and that you can see right into us. We are guileless. We are transparent. We are American.
But Malkovich is working on a new style. His Poirot is solemn, grave, thoughtful. And deliberately so. This Poirot, we are given to understand, now labors in obscurity. Once the toast of London society, he is ignored by his public and distrusted by the London police.
To return to crime-fighting form, Poirot must climb out of ignominy. And, in any case, there is good news (if this can be seen as good news): There’s a serial killer haunting London and he is obsessed with Poirot. Eventually, the police must come calling. Eventually, Poirot is back in action.
A Performance of Self-Possession
This reprieve might have taken Malkovich from glum and self–doubting back to his characteristic smirk. But no. Poirot rises from his ashes but not from his solemnity. It is a wonderful performance of self-possession. It says, in effect, “I do not care what you think of me. At all. I am not here for you.” This Poirot is a triumph of I-will-suffer-no-fools severity. His glance is a shot across the bow.
Actors serve our culture in many ways. We could even see them as a laboratory in which new styles and new selves are proposed, tested, reworked, and made ready for the rest of us. This makes it a valuable resource for boomers who are now embarking upon experimentation of their own. Is this the time to cultivate new styles of self-presentation? Is it time to work up a little frosty self-possession? Boomer, heal thyself.