What’s in a role model? Last week we explored the possibility that older people could benefit their communities by sharing their wisdom and experience. Dianne, my wife, suggested a column about Miss Marple, a fictional character from British mystery fiction, as a role model of the elderly “wise woman.”

Jennifer Garner as Miss Marple?

“A good example from popular crime fiction is Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple who is, of course, an idealized image of the genteel spinster living quietly in a stereotypical English village. … On the level of the imaginary, Miss Marple reveals the possibility of a superior role for the wisdom of the older woman in modern society” (Hepworth, Mike. Stories of Ageing. Open University Press, Buckingham, England, 2000).

However, this endeavor was disrupted by the discovery that Walt Disney Studios “has closed a deal for a big screen reboot of Agatha Christie’s ‘Miss Marple’ mystery novel series, and the House of Mouse is making substantial changes to the story. Deadline reports that, instead of the British grandma Jane Marple portrayed in the books and in previous big screen incarnations, the film series will instead feature a young, far more svelte amateur sleuth, to be played by Jennifer Garner. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/29/miss-marple-jennifer-garner_n_841819.html)

OK, well that just shot down my intentions about “wise women” and instead raised the question of “How do we view people who are clever and wise?” It would seem that youth trumps all and since culture shapes our beliefs, there goes another brick in the wall to ignore the potentials of older people.Joan Hickson (born 1906) as Miss Marple

A last comment from Agatha Christie herself. “MGM cast Margaret Rutherford [who was 70 at the time] as Marple after it bought the rights in the late 50s. But Christie even disliked Rutherford’s interpretation of Marple. She complained in one letter: ‘Why don’t they just invent a new character? Then they can have their cheap fun and leave me and my creations alone.'” (http://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2011/03/miss-marple-disney-update.html)