Fame is a weird, fu**ed up thing. It seems to me that no one should really be famous. At least not in the way that is so often the case in our very specific, hyper-individualist society in which we elevate people to the state of demi-gods for often questionable reasons. I mean, yeah, sure, in any human grouping there should probably be a feedback mechanism of some sorts that rewards selfless, heroic individuals for acts that benefit the group as a whole, but while we do find a few examples of that in the world we’ve built, we also see many people being elevated to global acclaim on the backs of achievements that seem…undeserving of that acclaim, to say the very least. I’m not gonna name any names because it’s not really about the individuals who’ve ascended to that state, it’s more about the system that allows it as a whole. Our celebrity culture carries with it such aberrant wealth and power imbalances that it not only unhealthily distorts the social fabric itself, but it warps the minds of those who wield that power too. Attendant riches and the peace of mind they provide aside it’s not exactly a new revelation to say that fame as we understand it might not be the healthiest thing for the human mind. The deleterious effects do go in both directions. It ain’t good for us and it ain’t good for them.
We’re in a particularly volatile time for celebrity too. The instant feedback loop that is social media has facilitated a roiling tidal sea of elevation and backlash. Someone can be our darling and favourite meme one day, a pariah the next. And hey, often that’s for very good reason. Truly heinous skeletons can be discovered in someone’s past, and those people deserve to be mercilessly reassessed. But sometimes the backlash can be caused by something relatively innocuous, something that only really seems negative because of the disproportionate hero worship that preceded it, and collective emotional whiplash can be the result. The lesson would seem to be: Don’t put anyone on a ridiculous pedestal. We’re all human. Don’t treat anyone as a saint. Assess them and their achievements fairly, and in context, but be aware that they will have shortcomings too.
It’s at this point we should consider the nature of one Keanu Reeves. Keanu Reeves is one of the highest grossing actors of all time—a profession which brings with it already disproportionate levels of celebrity. He’s built up a deceptively versatile acting portfolio over three-and-change decades, anchoring some of the most successful and beloved franchises ever, while also branching out into versatile, lower budget fare (we didn’t mention it in our roundup of his best roles, but Reeves’ performance in Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly is amongst his very best). His most recent turns in delightful rom-com Always Be My Maybe and neon bullet ballet John Wick Chapter 3 prove a great one-two punch example of his range.
But Keanu’s acting resume doesn’t get anywhere close to explaining why he is is having the celebrity moment he is right now. The fact that we all refer to him as ‘Keanu,’ and the palpable affection with which we do so, hints at something deeper. Like the polar opposite of someone like Harvey Weinstein, the stories around Keanu’s sweet nature have been circulating in and around Hollywood for decades, and it seems that in truly depressing times in which we are finally reckoning a little bit with the abuses of powerful men, we are just hungry for goodness. Pure, simple decency. And, like some leisurely strolling example of karma, it would appear that the years of unassumingly pumping that goodness out into the world are now just starting to come back to Keanu. We seem to be venerating him for a mixture of hard work, dedication, and—in the original, non-‘nice guy‘-poisoned sense of the word—niceness. I really want to find some cautionary side to this, but aside from thinking ‘I hope it doesn’t get too much for Keanu, and people use this in non-intrusive ways’, all I can think is, ‘That’s great! Good for him! And good for us!’
King of respectful touching. https://t.co/8Dla9JsDRW— The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Courtney Enlow (@courtenlow) June 9, 2019
2019: The Year of KEANU pic.twitter.com/Pv1mb1noD6— Walt (@UberKryptonian) June 10, 2019
An ode to Keanu Reeves, who has captured the heart of the Internet, even though we still know little about him. https://t.co/xycg0AG4M6— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) June 8, 2019
Fame is a fickle, terrible thing. Internet fame is a capricious, bucking beast. As much as I adore the man myself, I am a bit worried that this Keanu mania will all reach an unhealthy fever pitch. But, well, I’ll be dammed if the sight of Keanu getting ‘heckled’ at video game expo E3 with a shout of ‘you’re breathtaking!’—and him responding in kind—doesn’t bring a massive grin to my face.
Keanu was at E3 promoting Cyberpunk 2077, the trailer for which has also been released:
Note: Cyberpunk 2077, is a game from developers CD Projekt Red. CD Projekt Red have in the past been accused of making transphobic jokes on Twitter.
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