ETC (Singapore), September 22 - October 6, 1995
What is it with women and Keanu Reeves?
Wong Kim Hoh and Theresa Tan battle is out over whether Keanu is totally excellent or totally bogus
"If Keanu Reeves is so perfect because he is so vacuous that his worshippers can project their darkest desires upon him... how different is he from a rubber doll?" asks Wong Kim Hoh.
Let me tell you a story. A true one. I have this friend. She is smart, she is articulate and you would think she's generally well-balanced until you see her Keanu shrine. Yup, an altar with pictures of his dorky face around which she would put fresh flowers. Every week.
Let me tell you another story. A true one. I have this friend. You'd think she's smart and discerning and aggressive too. Until you see her in front of her TV watching "Speed". She's watched this laser disc like 3,000 times and each time, she'd blubber and drool and wax lyrical over how "heroic", "dishy", "gorgeous" and "cute" he is and how "tight" his buns are.
Let me tell you one final story. A true one. I have this friend. She has this teenage daughter. I've always thought she was smart and feisty and had loads of common sense until I saw her whine and cry when my friend refused to let her spend precious money on a "picture of Keanu showing his pubic hair".
Don't get me wrong; I'm not frothing at the mouth from jealousy. I do not want any altars set up in my honour while I'm alive. I'm not so vain to think that women would ever want to coo over my posterior (though that would be nice). And I'm really not sure I would ever pose for a picture to prove how hirsute I am down, you know, there.
No. I just, as the Hokkiens would say, "catch no ball". What is it about Keanu that sends people, women in particular, into delirium? Why do even filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppolla and Alfonso Arau take him on? Why do universities conduct courses on him when there're others more deserving. Why, why, tell me why?
Let's not kid ourselves. It's definitely not his talents. To use an analogy I picked up from Logic 101: if Reeves can win an Oscar, then pigs can fly. So he quotes Shakespeare and knows Hamlet; bloody hell, just go to a Literature Honours class in NUS on the eve of a Shakespeare paper -- the guys there could recite that "To be or not to be" speech too.
That he's good looking and has oodles of sex appeal? Admittedly he is a good specimen of Chinese/*ang moh* crossbreeding but hey, there are other specimens who are equally if not more pleasing on the eyes. Specimens who, unlike him, shower at least once a day.
Is it the meaning of his name? Cool Breeze From The Mountains? My colleague here Chris Toh Yong Choon's name is equally beguiling; it means Forever Spring but he'll be the first to tell you that his name is not a babe magnet. Sure, Forever Spring is about one pair of legs shorter than Mr Cool Mountain Breeze, doesn't ride around on a Norton and can't, even if he wanted to, ever grow hair on his face but that is really beside the point.
Women say Keanu is a sensitive soul who can unlock the box of their deepest darkest emotions. Come on, how would they know? Just by watching his movies? Is this sensitivity really so apparent in "Speed" where he just runs and frowns, in "Dracula" where he just frowns and sports a pathetic English accent, in "Much Ado About Nothing" where he sports a pathetic English accent and bares his chest? Or could they tell by reading his interviews where he has a propensity to grab tufts of his hair, puts his hand melodramatically to his forehead or yowl in pain?
Is it true that Keanu Reeves is so perfect because he is so vacuous and so vapid that his worshippers can project their deepest darkest desires upon him? If so, how different is he from a rubber doll?
Come on, tell me.
(For those readers who still haven't figured it out by now, Wong Kim Hoh, "etc"'s editor, is a man.)
"Keanu Reeves is the Perfect Guy because he is a canvas on which any girl can project her innermost wants and desires," says Theresa Tan.
A totally excellent dude! Keanu has the power to reduce heterosexual men to red-eyed, stale-breathed, rabid seething pillars of jealousy.
That's because Keanu has an innate ability to unlock that little box inside women, the one that keeps all that soft, sweet vulnerability and furry-bunny love.
Like a six-week-old kitten, Keanu makes you want to stroke him all over, cuddle with him and feed him milk.
All straight men reading this now probably need to go off and vomit. The one line of argument that straight men always use against Keanu is: "BUT HE CAN'T ACT!!!" (usually uttered with the same despair as Keanu sputtering: "I want my room service!" in "Johnny Mnemonic").
What they don't realise is, it doesn't matter! Keanu's innate Keanu-ness is what drives women to tongue-dropping, sweat-forming lust. If you want fair, here's a female Keanu for you: Winona Ryder. Why do guys' eyes glaze over at the mention of the waif's name? If she isn't playing herself, she can't play it. In fact, the burning epitome of bad acting was when Winona paired off with Keanu in "Bram Stoker's Dracula". But you still forgave her and went to see "Reality Bites", right? Men.
Not that Keanu is entirely a lost cause. There have been moments when he has convinced on screen. As Martha Plimpton's let's-screw-and-take-pix boyfriend in "Parenthood". As Uma Thurman's gorgeous young suitor in "Dangerous Liaisons". As a soft-hearted FBI officer in "Point Break". As a terrifically buff bomb squad officer in the triumphant "Speed". Most of all, as a mayor's son-turned-hustler in "My Own Private Idaho".
This fortnight he takes on a strictly romantic role in "A Walk In The Clouds" as a chocolate salesman who comes to the rescue of a pregnant woman by pretending to be her husband. (He can sell me any chocolate anytime. Screw that diet.) It's the dream role that fans are waiting for, not to see him act, but to immerse themselves in Keanu-ity, like soaking in a warm tub of bubblebath. Alfonso Arau's golden imagery can only add to the mood, with luscious grapes and beauteous nymphs enhancing the delectable flavour of Keanu Reeves.
(Men might at this point need to take a second vomit break.)
He hates interviews -- once in front of a roomful of journalists he spat on the floor. Countless magazine writers have attempted to tie the man down. All report that any attempt by Keanu to talk about himself is prefaced by him tugging his hair, slapping his forehead with his palm, swinging his arms in a windmill, and giggling "Hee hee!". Then he earnestly launches into a visual, surrealistic explanation that defies human comprehension. Or he uses two words: "Whatever" and "Cool".
Because of this, he remains such a mystery to the public. And mystery is the wickedest aphrodisiac.
Keanu's inexplicable magic has been working itself since he entered the arena of showbiz. His first break was a homoerotic play called "Wolfboy", where the director was smart enough to put him in white shorts and made him do pushups. He moved to LA in 1986 with $3,000 and an old Volvo, and he got himself an agent in 20 minutes. Hildy Gottlieb Hill said to a colleague after signing on Keanu: "I've just signed a new client, and I don't even know if he can act."
That answer is still fuzzy. One would have to judge by his films: "Youngblood" (1986), "River's Edge" (1987), "Dangerous Liaisons", "Permanent Record", "The Prince Of Pennsylvania", "The Night Before" (1988), "Parenthood", "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989), "Tune In Tomorrow", "I Love You To Death" (1990), "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" (1991), "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992), "Much Ado About Nothing" (1993), "Little Buddha", "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues", "Speed" (1994), "Johnny Mnemonic" and "A Walk In The Clouds" (1995). Of these, even movie critic Leonard Maltin admitted that he was good in "Dangerous Liaisons" and "Tune In Tomorrow". Come on, Keanu was ever only really, terribly, irreparably bad in "Dracula", "Little Buddha" and "Much Ado About Nothing".
His fans know everything about him -- when he played Hamlet in Winnipeg, there was an ongoing Keanu-watch, and one Australian fan flew all the way to Canada to watch him perform every night -- and yet nothing. "I'm Mickey Mouse," he once said. "They don't know who's inside the suit." They know that his father was busted for drug-dealing, his sister had cancer, and his band Dogstar is currently touring across the USA. (Is it any wonder the band has attracted sellout crowds?) But even after last December's fracas caused by a rumour that he and mogul David Geffen were "married", nobody knows for sure if he is gay or not. Even with the current spate of magazines (like the gay mag "OUT") claiming that he is straight, he has never answered the question directly.
Which is terrific, because gay men will still continue to dream, and so will straight women.
Keanu Reeves is the embodiment of the collective desire of women (and gay men). He is the Perfect Guy because he is a canvas on which any girl can project her innermost wants and desires -- his beautiful face is like a key that unlocks the strongest desires, his unreadable eyes are temptingly open to interpretation, his glorious smile is as public as the bus yet as intimate as sex. And because no-one will ever know who he really is, he can be anybody that your mind wants to imagine. He can be a psycho sexy dude riding his Norton motorbike with you perched behind him. He can be a thoughtful admirer who brings you flowers. He can be that skydiving instructor who insists on taking you on a tandem jump.
If we had him all to ourselves, in the flesh, we wouldn't know what to do with him. But Keanu, being totally unattainable, can be each and every one of our fantasies. And that, dear guys, is why we love him so.
(For those readers who still haven't figured it out by now, Theresa Tan, "etc"'s features editor, is a woman.)