fbpx
  • culture
More

    Being John Malkovich: Boomer Hero

    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 EastwoodLiam Neeson, and Bruce Willis into gun-toting, revenge-thirsty hooligans.

    Overcompensating vs. Phoning it In

    The alternative is gentle comedy filled with wry humor from the likes of Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. Over 60? You can choose: overcompensating or 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 selfdoubting 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.

    Grant McCracken
    Grant McCrackenhttps://about.me/grantmccracken
    Grant McCracken is a cultural anthropologist (PhD from the University of Chicago). He is the author of several books and has taught at Harvard and MIT. He consults for the likes of Netflix, Google, Nike and the White House. He is an excellent public speaker. He lives in Rowayton, Connecticut with his wife and three Siamese cats. He is almost 68 years old.
    -Advertisement-
    3,160FansLike
    9,353FollowersFollow
    2,722FollowersFollow

    More Stories

    Chip Conley’s Daily Wisdom Well

    As you know, Chip Conley's presentation at our conference in June was very popular and resonated deeply with many of you. We wanted you...

    Wellness Rethink, and The Global Wellness Summit, Singapore 2019

    What is wellness? I was wrong. I confess to having had a certain counter-trend attitude of superiority around the word wellness. Although I would like...

    Spilling the High Tea with Amanda Jones, 57

    Kikoko co-founders Amanda Jones and Jennifer Chapin are two of the unlikeliest candidates to be sitting atop a California cannabis empire.Jones was a globe-trotting,...

    Forever Homes. 5 Easy Remodel Updates

    Suppose one is not wanting to move, but rather to update their existing home to a place where they can age in place. Community...

    Iggy Pop, Bruce Springsteen, Anna Wintour: Is Cool Ageless?

    Seeing Iggy Pop (72) in the new Gucci Cruise 2020 video ad alongside Gucci Mane (39) and Sienna Miller (37)  gave us pause for...

    LATEST Profiles

    Spilling the High Tea with Amanda Jones, 57

    Kikoko co-founders Amanda Jones and Jennifer Chapin are two of the unlikeliest candidates to be sitting atop a California cannabis empire.Jones was a globe-trotting,...

    Paul Hynek 57, Radical Life Extension

    This is Paul Hynek. Among other notable achievements, and there are many, he is one of 9 people who successfully completed the recent Stanford...

    Debra Rapoport, 74

    As we are speaking, this native New Yorker is currently wearing a hat made of paper towels, and she looks magnificent. An artist, a...
    X