‘Nihilo sanctum estne?' Miss Cross asked, famously and semi-accurately, in Rushmore. And contemplating the conundrum that is this Miss Marple remake, we're left wondering the same thing.
Marple devotees are akin to Dr. Who fanatics in their love of debate. Who was the best Marple to grace St. Mary Mead? The caustic Geraldine McEwan? The grandmotherly Julia McKenzie? The venerable Joan Hickson? Here's an actress whom I'm guessing no one inadvertently left out of the conversation: Jennifer Garner.
I have no problem with Jennifer Garner; I speak as a woman who owns 13 Going on 30 and is an active follower of Violet Affleck's lifestyle choices. She's a personable actress, a beautiful woman, and seems to be a nice person. Know what she isn't? Miss Marple.
Actually, she is. The initial reports were alarming enough:
Disney has made a deal to revive the Agatha Christie mystery series staple character Miss Marple, but with one big difference: instead of the elderly spinster who lives in the English village of St. Mary Mead and solves mysteries as a hobby, the new configuration is for Mark Frost to script a version where Marple is in her 30s or 40s.
And then came the horrifying confirmation.
Jennifer Garner will be the actress who puts a young spin on Miss Marple in Disney's reboot of the Agatha Christie mystery series sleuth. The character had been portrayed by a long line of actresses who played Marple as an elderly spinster who cracked crimes in her spare time. Garner and her Vandalia Films partner Juliana Janes will produce a film that will be shaped as a star vehicle for Garner, the former Alias star who will next be seen in Arthur.
One word: why? Why take one of the few characters in literature who represents a woman of a certain age, who doesn't make sexuality any part of her power, and who gives credit to a generally-overlooked segment of the population, and give it a sexy, youthful, utterly generic "spin?" Here's the thing about Jane Marple: she's a character who's consistently underestimated. That's her power, as an older woman in society, and the key to her ability to observe unobtrusively. She's about confounding expectation.
Now, I hope I'm wrong. The Sherlock reboot, after all, was fun TV. Maybe Marple is younger, yes, but still a spinster in the classic sense who has decided to build a life without men in it. Maybe she's consistently overlooked by those around her, and slyly undermines conventional ideals. Maybe. But I'm not holding my breath.