Sunday, November 8, 2020

Our Love For Keanu Reeves Highlights Double-Standards For Men and Women

Keanu Reeves has been described by the media as one of the most introverted people in Hollywood, but in recent years his status has been updated to “America’s boyfriend.” For many people, it’s not very hard to see why.

He’s the sort of actor who’s really grown into himself throughout the years, and he carries a sort of cool and calm charisma that so many of us are drawn to or would like to emulate ourselves.

Some of our love for the actor comes from the roles he plays. If he’s not out saving the world, he’s often got the weight of it on his shoulders. And in real life, it seems like he’s dealt with so much too. At just three years old, his father abandoned him and his mother. As he grew up, his mother married and divorced three more men. Reeves famously lost his only child on Christmas Eve in 1999 when his girlfriend Jennifer Syme delivered a stillborn baby. The couple quickly broke up after the loss of their daughter and then Jennifer died little more than a year later.

His sister went through a decade-long battle with leukemia, which led Keanu to create his own cancer foundation. There have been claims of him cheerfully giving away millions of dollars, sitting down to chat with the homeless, and nonchalantly giving up his subway seat.

It’s easy to like Keanu. We admire how he appears to be a good guy despite his fame and fortune. The other reasons why we love him, however, are a bit more absurd.

In recent years, one thing seems obvious. The problem with Keanu Reeves isn’t Keanu Reeves. By all accounts, he is a pretty great guy. No, the problem with Keanu Reeves is the way we attribute supernatural goodness to the actor for doing very ordinary things.

For instance, much has been said about Keanu’s history of dating age-appropriate women. Folks are ready to give the dude a medal for typically dating women 10-12 years younger than him. As opposed to, I dunno… ladies half his age. These days, people are extra swoony about his love life just because his current girlfriend, Alexandra Grant is a bit closer to his age and dares to wear her long hair gray.

To hear folks gush about how amazing Keanu Reeves is to be dating a younger (but not too much younger) woman with gray hair is really quite strange. Most people wind up talking about the pairing as if she’s an old lady, or as if she looks so much older than him.

She recently turned 47 and he’s nearly 56. So, there’s almost a 10 year age gap between them. I don’t think most folks get what’s happening here. We are lavishing praise upon a man for dating a younger woman who’s chosen to age more naturally, and we’re simultaneously judging her appearance in a negative light with the insinuation that she looks so much older than he does.

It doesn’t make any good sense. Unless, of course, we are watching double-standards for men and women at play.

Sure, compared to many other men in Hollywood, Keanu doesn’t seem to be too shallow about appearances in relationships. He’s not galavanting around with women half his age or younger. And he doesn’t surround himself with “trophy” partners or models.

And?

Does the man deserve a medal? I can’t help but be reminded of the way folks respond to Pierce Brosnan having a “fat” wife. Again, it seems strange to pile on the praise for a man who simply isn’t an asshole about his partner’s appearance. Do they actually need praise for that? Because when we make such a big deal about famous men loving women who exist outside of society’s “standard of beauty,” we’re also upholding those standards as the norm.

Piling on the praise for these men also sends out the gross message that women who don’t fit into a certain beauty mold are difficult to love. That it takes a superhuman man to “put up with them.”

And must we even applaud a dude for selecting supposedly age-appropriate partners? Personally, I like an age gap of about 12 years, and I don’t think that age gaps are anyone’s business when all parties have fully consented. But when we praise Keanu Reeves for his history of dating women who are, on average, a decade younger than him as the not shallow choice, what does that say about the women who are actually his age or older?

After all, we are talking about a nearly 56-year-old man, and we think it’s amazing that he’s dating a 47-year-old woman. And why are we so hung up on her gray hair or wrinkles? Keanu is graying and getting wrinkles too.

It seems awfully disingenuous on our parts to act like he’s “taking one for the team.” Besides, such a response only solidifies the ridiculous notion that older women have lost their sex appeal and that older men only want younger models.

Of course, girlfriends aren’t the only area where we shower Keanu Reeves with praise. We also love him because as far as any of us know, he’s pretty squeaky clean in terms of the #MeToo movement. He’s actually made headlines for… not touching women in photos.

It says a lot about our culture when it’s newsworthy to point out that a man doesn’t touch women when they pose for pictures, doesn’t it? And who knows, maybe he does it to respect women, or maybe he does it because he’s a germaphobe. The irony is that it doesn’t matter.

Any man alive should be able to not touch women. Without help or prodding. But no, we’ve decided that not touching women is exemplary behavior. As if an “ordinary” dude can’t respect a woman’s personal space. Who do we think they are, Keanu Reeves?

That’s how ridiculous we sound when we gush over the fact that he poses without getting handsy. It completely misses the point. Instead of being amazed by his behavior, we ought to be inspired to expect more from men.

Swooning over a man with boundaries, as if it’s so fucking impossible, is weird. There, I said it. It sends out the completely wrong message to men, who I wholeheartedly believe can do better.

But we can’t seem to stop looking at pictures of Keanu Reeves in disbelief as if he has some unearthly ability to keep his hands to himself. It’s too bad we don’t just hold him up as evidence that men don’t need to behave like shit just because they can.

Believe me, I agree that there’s a lot to like admire about Keanu Reeves — but that’s without going gaga over such simple and basic things that other men should be capable of managing anyway.

Anytime the media starts swooning over Keanu, I try to imagine the same thing happening with a woman in Hollywood. Frankly, it’s tough to picture. Emma Watson might be the closest example we have of an introverted female celebrity who’s benefited from her own temperament. When praised for not being a party girl like so many other actresses her age, she’s quick to point out that it’s more about her personality as an introvert than any conscious decision. But it’s also her conscious decisions that lead to harsh criticism.

When Watson referred to herself as “self-partnered” back in 2019, the media lined up to rake her over the coals. The Daily Mail called her “one of the most annoying people around,” New Statesman heralded her “the death of female liberation,” and the Times dubbed her “woke and wanky.”

Like Keanu, Emma seems to be convinced that she can use her fame as a force for good, but unlike Keanu, society has a tendency to roll their eyes at her like she’s an out-of-touch child.

Indeed, Emma Watson is about 25 years younger than Keanu Reeves, but you’d be hard-pressed to find another introverted actress to even compare to “America’s boyfriend.” American society isn’t too interested in the sex appeal of quiet and brainy 55-year-old women.

Actresses who are currently in their 50s include Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Salma Hayek, Julia Roberts, Julianne Moore, Viola Davis, and Helena Bonham Carter. Can you imagine if we praised these women for pursuing “age-appropriate” romances? Or if we gushed because they didn’t make men feel uncomfortable?

The truth, of course, is that we judge women in their 50s for not looking like women in their 30s. While the men of this world can keep saving the day, women in Hollywood report that their good role opportunities dry up fast once they hit middle-age. And then we harp on those women who aren’t all smiles and sweetness too.

Perhaps that’s where some of the criticism comes from for Carrie-Anne Moss. At 52, she’s reprising her role as Trinity in The Matrix 4, and fans (ahem, mostly men) have had a lot to say about how her appearance is supposedly not up to par. It reminds me of the ridicule Carrie Fisher received when she returned to the big screen as Princess Leia. One New York Post writer quipped, “If Carrie Fisher doesn’t like being judged for her looks, she should quit acting.”

Look, everybody knows that men are allowed to grow old, go gray, take on great roles, and get the 22-year-old model. But women? An aging actress is often treated as an affront to the audience’s senses.

But it’s cool, people. Keanu Reeves is so incredible that he’ll date a woman approaching 50 without gagging. There’s hope for us yet.

So, while we’re on the subject of Keanu Reeves, who happens to be a very nice man in Hollywood, why not talk about his girlfriend, Alexandra Grant? People seem to forget (or not even care) that she’s a successful visual artist. In fact, she and Keanu first collaborated on a book back in 2011, called Ode to Happiness. In 2016, they wrote a book together named Shadows.

The following year, Alexandra, Keanu, and designer JessicaFleischmann started a small publishing company called X Artists Books (XAB).

Established in 2017, XAB is a small publisher of thoughtful, high-quality, artist-centered books that fit within and between genres. Our books are works of art; portals to imagined worlds; treasured companions; the fabric of a community. We love the same things about our books as we do about our friends: generosity, open-heartedness, intelligence, mystery, style. They bring sustenance and shift realities. They may occasionally break your heart.

— XAB, website

But Grant’s work with Keanu is not her greatest accomplishment. The same thing goes for her romantic relationship with the famous actor. She graduated from Swarthmore College with a BA in history and studio art in 1994. In 2000, she earned her MFA in drawing and painting from San Francisco’s California College of the Arts.

Alexandra Grant’s first solo exhibition was in 2007, and she’s built a successful career of thought-provoking and collaborative art while also working as an active philanthropist. Inspired by Paul Newman’s food label to generate funds for charity, her grantLOVE Project is “an artist-owned and operated project that produces and sells original artworks and editions to benefit artists and arts non-profits.”

This is a woman who has no need to reside in the shadow of a male celebrity, and her social media channels show it. While the rest of the world can’t stop talking about her in relation to Keanu Reeves, her social media feeds are Keanu-free.

Instead of gushing over how incredibly brave, woke,or good the actor is to date a gray-haired 47-year-old woman, maybe we could respect her for her own accomplishments and acknowledge that Keanu has entered a relationship with a dynamic woman who is clearly his equal.

Should we be so enamored with a guy like Keanu Reeves? Sure, I don’t see why not. But let’s admire him for the truly spectacular things and quit behaving as if his down-to-earth life choices somehow make him supernatural.

Progress for women demands that we quit making men out to be heroes whenever they behave with decency and happen to not degrade women. It’s time to expect more from our men. If anything, Keanu Reeves is proof that they can rise to the occasion — not evidence that they just can’t help being image-obsessed horn dogs.

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