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Asked by Todd L Ross in
Keanu Reeves
Actors & Actresses

Why is the internet obsessed with Keanu Reeves?


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Todd L Ross
June 26, 2019 7:28PM

Actor Keanu Reeves has experienced something of a resurgence in recent years, thanks in part to the success of the John Wick film franchise (Reeves plays the titular character). The latest installment, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, had a positive critical reception and has grossed over $156 million as of June 23, 2019.

However, lots of Hollywood actors make successful movies, and that doesn’t account for all of Reeves' internet fame.

Reeves has become an online phenomenon partly because of his extraordinarily tragic personal life and apparently charitable nature. The internet loves a good guy, and by all accounts, Reeves has overcome incredible challenges to get where he is today—and he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

In 2016, a video about Reeves' past went viral. Some of the claims in that video: Reeves' father left when he was 3, he struggled with dyslexia, he lost his best friend to an overdose, he lost the love of his life in a car accident, and he still rides the subway every day.

Most of those claims are at least somewhat true. Reeves' father did leave his family, but he stayed in his son’s life until Reeves was about 13.

“I spent my last vacation with him when I was 13 years old,” Reeves said of his father in a 2002 interview. “On our last day, we sat on the veranda and stared at the dark sky. He hardly said anything that evening. The next day he brought us to the airport. Then we didn't hear anything from him for 10 years. No calls, no letters, nothing.”

Reeves did struggle with dyslexia, but he did fairly well in school. His friend, actor River Phoenix, did die of an overdose at the age of 23. And Reeves did lose his then-girlfriend Jennifer Syme in a car accident shortly after the couple had lost their child during birth.

Other claims are exaggerated. These days, Reeves doesn’t ride the subway everywhere, although he does ride it occasionally when he’s not getting around town on one of his classic motorcycles. However, he’s certainly a charitable celebrity; he quietly operates a philanthropic organization, per Snopes.

“I have a private foundation that’s been running for five or six years, and it helps aid a couple of children’s hospitals and cancer research,” Reeves told Ladies Home Journal. “I don’t like to attach my name to it, I just let the foundation do what it does.”

On the internet, Reeves' reputation is a mixture of fact and fiction, but the actor’s real-life story is both tragic and inspiring. He’s an easy guy to admire, and the internet seems to adore him.

One more reason for the fame: Reeves recently made a surprise appearance at video game conference E3, revealing himself as the face of the highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 game. As he tried to explain elements of the game’s plot, a person in the crowd (YouTuber Peter Sark) yelled, "You’re breathtaking!”

The Matrix star immediately responded by pointing to the audience: “You’re breathtaking. You’re all breathtaking.”

The moment quickly became a meme, spreading on sites like Twitter and Reddit. It’s a perfect five-second explanation of why Keanu Reeves is so popular in 2019: He’s humble, successful, and generous. Apparently, that’s what it takes to become one of the internet’s favorite people.