Everyone loves Keanu Reeves. Over the past couple of years, the actor’s reputation has grown exponentially thanks to a combination of top role choices and the internet’s embracing of him as a meme-slash-figure of wholesome positivity. Reeves has been through his fair share of career changes, from teen heartthrob to oft-mocked serious actor to action leading man to his current status where he is simply Keanu. All that and he’s the internet’s new boyfriend, one of a hallowed number of famous men who seemingly everyone can agree on as being both personally delightful and highly attractive. It’s oh-so-easy to root for Reeves, especially after internet in-jokes like Sad Keanu. After decades in the business, it’s no wonder that people want the best for him, which goes a long way to explaining why social media exploded with excitement when he stepped out at his first public event with his girlfriend, the artist Alexandra Grant.
While Reeves and Grant have been friends and collaborators for many years now, their debut as a couple still sent everyone into a whirlwind of enthusiasm. How could one not root for them? She was a gorgeous and deeply accomplished artist who published books, taught classes, and had her work exhibited worldwide, and he was Keanu f**king Reeves. They looked good together, and happy too. There was a palpable sense of relief that Reeves’s partner was an age-appropriate figure with her own interests and ambitions, a feeling that became somewhat overinflated in part because it’s become so painfully inevitable to see 50-something men date women half their age. There was much to celebrate and nothing to grumble over, right?
It’s the internet. You know what’s coming next.
This week, it was reported that Grant had applied for a temporary restraining order against a fan of Reeves who she had accused of stalking and harassment. According to court documents obtained by The Blast, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge granted a temporary restraining order against a 67-year-old woman named Cathryn, who Price’s lawyers said was responsible for ‘an ongoing course of harassment/threatening conduct for months.’ Grant’s case includes allegations of ‘an unrelenting and extreme course of conduct,’ such as ‘stalking, cyberstalking, threats, harassment, and other annoying and alarming misconduct.’ A woman named Catherina immediately took to the comments section of The Blast, along with various other sites reporting on the case, to attack Grant.
I mean… pic.twitter.com/TXfbttWnW5— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) July 21, 2020
She is not alone in her obsessive hatred. Look up ‘Alexandra Grant’ on Twitter and it will take you a depressingly short amount of time to uncover vicious screeds of misogyny and conspiratorial spirals of nonsense directed at her. It comes from a relatively small number of accounts but their anger is plentiful. If you’re in any way familiar with fandom tinhatting or shipper conspiracies, none of the accusations leveled at Grant will surprise you: She’s not really his girlfriend; she’s a fame-hungry b*tch; she’s making Keanu miserable; she’s old and talentless; how can nobody else see what a blatantly evil person she is? The cycle continues.
Keanu inspires a particular kind of devotion that is both hyper-specific to him and commonly found whenever any hot guy gets a modicum of fame. Reeves has suffered through some major tragedies in his life, and he’s also been a constant presence in film since he was 21. While we haven’t exactly seen him ‘grow up’ in the way we typically associate with child actors, there has been a similar sense of evolution that is intriguing to fans and celebrity culture alike. Reeves has been a tabloid staple but he’s not an active player in the game or as omnipresent as some of his industry contemporaries. His dating history is well-known but not picked over like, say, Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s just enough of a mystery for a particular strain of fandom to project anything they want onto him, and we all know how dark that path can get. Alexandra Grant certainly does.
Grant is not alone in facing the unreasonable ire of such fanatics. Talk to basically any woman, famous or otherwise, who has had the temerity to date or marry a famous hot dude and I’m sure their experiences would all line up with unnerving precision. The wives of Supernatural stars Jenson Ackles and Jared Padalecki have faced years of threats and abuse, as has Amelia Warner, the wife of Jamie Dornan. Charlie Hunnam had to tell his fans to leave his girlfriend alone after she was bombarded with hate. The mother of 1 Direction singer Louis Tomlinson’s son had to fend off stalkers and people threatening to hurt her child. Benedict Cumberbatch talked candidly about the difficulties faced by him and his wife Sophie Hunter at the hands of some of his fans, including the insidious conspiracy that his children were fake or not really his. The list, depressingly, goes on.
So much of this rhetoric is eerily reminiscent of the abuse leveled at both Yoko Ono and Linda McCartney. Oh, they’re greedy gold-diggers. They love the limelight too much. They turned their men into different, weaker people. It’s their fault the band broke up. Look at how miserable they are with those women. It’s been 50 years since the Beatles split and my grandmother still blames Yoko. The dichotomy is clear: Men create while women destroy. They spoil everything. Even other women say so. Hell, it’s mostly other women parroting that lie. Whether they’re holding his hand on the red carpet or stridently avoiding all publicity, the mere knowledge of the female spouse’s presence is considered a stain on a pristine and deeply falsified fantasy. It’s a deeply infantilizing mentality, one that reduces the male subject into little more than a toddler incapable of understanding his own feelings or actions. You have to do a lot of hoop-jumping to assert the opinion that a man in his mid-50s doesn’t know his own mind.
Conspiratorial nonsense is nothing new, but, alas, it does seem to be more prevalent in ways that have become to actively poison mainstream discourse across the board. The mentality this paranoia breeds is one of endless abuse and defensiveness. See, they’re the real victims here, not the people they’re trying to destroy. Being in the public eye or, at the very least, adjacent to someone who is will always open up a level of unwanted scrutiny but that doesn’t mean we can or should accept the continued degradation of women’s lives to satisfy an already questionable fan or gossip narrative. The thing is that no woman will ever be good enough for these fans. They’d even tear themselves apart of that fantasy came true. That’s the problem with fantasies: Reality is not compatible.
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