You may have heard that 2019 is the Year of the Keanu Renaissance. This took me by surprise almost as much as it must have taken Keanu himself, who while probably as ambitious and ego-driven as any celebrity, is also probably self-aware enough to know that an abrupt transformation into the World’s Most Beloved Star was always a long shot.
And yet it has happened. The man we all loved in Bill and Ted, Speed and The Matrix, while also mercilessly mocking him for his acting style, which tended to bring to mind some of the sturdier varieties of north American redwood, is not just back: he’s a megastar. For a decade or so we sort of forgot he existed, and now suddenly we are infatuated all over again.
There are a few reasons for this. First of all, he’s undoubtedly aged well. Neither withering before our eyes, nor attempting to stay forever young, he’s a sexy bearded middle-aged fox in fantastic shape. Secondly, he’s built a cult following via the John Wick film franchise, which I have not seen but I understand to be about a man who responds to the loss of a cherished pet by finding ever-more creative ways to inflict grievous bodily harm on everyone he meets. This ticks both the animal-loving and the violence-loving boxes that the general public yearn for in their idols.
Besides these facts, there’s also the GSOH factor: punters always clasp to their bosom anyone who seems to have a good sense of humour about themselves, and Mr Reeves has demonstrated such a quality in his interviews, in random photoshoots that have suddenly popped up of him cuddling puppies, and in a much-lauded scene-stealing appearance in the hot new romcom Always Be My Maybe. So: handsome, good sense of humour, able to effectively convey the impression that he is a homicidal maniac. He’s got it all.
And look, good luck to him. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve his turn of fortune after years of being the butt of jokes and object of disrespect. But I can’t help thinking…wasn’t it kind of, like, more fun when he was the butt of jokes and the object of disrespect?
Think about it. Keanu Reeves has been part of our lives for thirty years now. While it’s cool that we’re all swooning over him now, didn’t he make a more meaningful contribution to the world as a walking punchline: as the guy you’d go to as shorthand for “the least talented person you could ever imagine”? Didn’t you prefer the “woodpeckers nest in Keanu’s skull” jokes to today’s only semi-ironic “we don’t deserve Keanu” tweets?
The point is that hero-worshipping celebrities is all very well, but we all enjoy ourselves more when we’re taking the piss out of them. The reason is simple: these people are richer and more successful than we’ll ever be, so unless we can also find them in some way pathetic or laughable, their very existence feels oppressive. For many years Keanu Reeves was a famous handsome millionaire, but he was also a wooden actor whose attempts to convincingly portray a human being on film were hilarious. We all took comfort and joy in that. Now, Keanu Reeves is a famous handsome millionaire who is also loved and respected by everyone on earth. And frankly, there is just no fun in that.
Please, let us just get back to pointing and laughing at Keanu. It’s better that way. And pray to god Gwyneth Paltrow never becomes cool.