On November 4, the world awoke to the news that the internet’s sad boyfriend, Keanu Reeves, has a new girlfriend. Walking the carpet at the LACMA Art + Film Gala on November 2, Reeves was spotted hand-in-hand with his longtime friend, Alexandra Grant, looking absolutely ecstatic. And the internet was equally thrilled. Because honestly, Reeves is a precious angel and deserves legit everything.
The actor has been the shit since he was our baby-faced boo starring in Speed but the past few years have seen a resurgence in appreciation for the hunky, salt-and-pepper fox. Reeves, who has always been low-key when it comes to his private life, has become a tragic figure of sorts, dating all the way back to 1999 when his long-term girlfriend Jennifer Syme gave birth to the couple’s daughter, who was tragically stillborn. Two years after her birth, Syme died in a car accident. Since Syme’s death, Reeves hasn’t spoken out about either loss or publicly dated anyone, which makes his recent debut with Grant a big deal. And while the web loves to collectively weep for their unproblematic prince, a lot of fans were super stoked that he’s seemingly happy.
But, amongst the well wishes and excitement over Reeves’s new relationship status were some problematic reactions to the news—specifically, the news that at 46 years of age to Reeves’s 55, Grant is a woman within the actor’s age demo (and, for that matter, nine years younger). Some on social media were blown away by this fact, with the comments spanning from not-so-nice freak-outs over Grant’s age, to praise for Reeves for *daring* to go where few actors of a certain age have gone before: dating a woman over 35.
of course Keanu has an age-appropriate girlfriend. he is a Good Man https://t.co/Rnr3IdPzfG
— britt hates (@MissBrittHayes) November 5, 2019
Some on social media, like user @brianwitdatool, even went so far as to call the actor “brave” for dating a woman with wrinkles. PARDON ME, BRIAN?
very brave of him
— brian (@brianwitdattool) November 5, 2019
And honestly, WTF?
While it’s disappointing that much of the reaction to Reeves’s appropriately aged lady love is one of patting the actor on the back for living so courageously (*eye roll*), we shouldn’t be all that surprised—because the way we view aging is pretty problematic.
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We’ve been conditioned to expect older men to date much younger women
The fact remains that as a society, we’re conditioned to expect that a successful older man will be with a shockingly younger woman. Because we’ve seen in practice so many times, both on the big screen (James Bond and his increasingly baby-faced Bond girls, anyone?) and IRL. Off screen, one needs to look no further than one-time ’90s dreamboat Leonardo DiCaprio. While many of us hardcore rooted for our teenage crush to have his heart go on and on with Titanic co-star and BFF Kate Winslet, the truth is that that would never actually happen, because she’s waaay out of his dating age bracket (a.k.a. ladies under 25 years of age). To be clear: he is 44 years old. Along with dating almost exclusively supermodels, DiCaprio has gained a rep for dating women who are far younger than him. Who else looked at that photo of DiCaprio and climate activist Greta Thunberg and got a *little* nervous?
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There are few times in human history where voices are amplified at such pivotal moments and in such transformational ways – but @GretaThunberg has become a leader of our time. History will judge us for what we do today to help guarantee that future generations can enjoy the same livable planet that we have so clearly taken for granted. I hope that Greta’s message is a wake-up call to world leaders everywhere that the time for inaction is over. It is because of Greta, and young activists everywhere that I am optimistic about what the future holds. It was an honor to spend time with Greta. She and I have made a commitment to support one another, in hopes of securing a brighter future for our planet. #FridaysforFuture #ClimateStrike @fridaysforfuture
But Leo’s not alone. Other male celebs like George Clooney, 58, and 65-year-old Dennis Quaid (who recently announced his engagement to 26-year-old PhD student Laura Savoie) are members of the Younger Wives Club alongside men like 42-year-old Chris Martin (dating 30-year-old Dakota Johnson), Jay-Z (who’s 14 years Beyoncé’s senior) and Idris Elba (whose wife is 17 years his junior).
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For the record, there’s nothing wrong with dating people who are significantly younger than you as long as it’s consensual and everyone involved is on equal footing. Go wild! Do you! What’s at issue is the idea that wide age gaps are the norm, and that a man dating a woman who is close in age to him (or older) is some sort of charitable or applause-worthy act. You’re canoodling with a (probably) lovely and mature woman, not curing world hunger.
Mostly because we view aging men and women differently
Embedded in this analysis of Reeves and Grant’s relationship—and the validity of it—is the long-held bias some people seem to have when it comes to aging. That is mainly: As they get older, men become silver foxes and women become old hags. I just call it like I see it.
No, women don’t actually become hags (that’s very rude), but if you take a look at how we talk about aging and gender—especially when it comes to celebrities—it becomes *very* apparent that there’s a discrepancy. While men like Clooney are heralded for going grey and looking sexy as a silver fox, actresses are applauded for “gracefully” aging, a.k.a. defying the natural aging process and not really looking like they’re aging at all. In a September interview with InStyle, Jennifer Aniston talked about turning 50 and the weirdness around aging. “I feel physically incredible,” the actress said of her birthday. “So it’s weird that it’s all of a sudden getting telegraphed in a way that’s like, ‘You look amazing for your age.’ I think we need to establish some etiquette around that dialogue and verbiage.”
But it’s some serious BS
Because all it really does is reinforce ageism, specifically against women. Not to mention the fact that men continuously making dating much-younger women their “thing” ( *ahem* Clooney, DiCaprio and Quaid *ahem*) and our shock when their peers step outside this norm, only further reinforces the very lame idea that women have an expiry date while men get better with age. Or that women’s desirability, intelligence and sexual desire doesn’t matter past a certain age. Which is extremely untrue. First of all, women are amazing and rule the world. And second of all, think of all the badass women you know who are continually thriving and getting better as they grow wiser, in both your personal life and in your fave films.
Heck, women like Iris Apfel and Olivia Colman are inarguably in their prime, and they’re 98 and 45 years old respectively. In the last year alone, Colman has broken out into the public conscious with an Oscar win for her role in The Favourite and another career-defining role in Netflix’s The Crown, the latter of which finds her playing a little someone called the Queen of England, you might know of her?
We shouldn’t be celebrating Reeves or any male celeb for dating someone their age, because it’s not a character trait or indicative of a “good person,” it’s legitimately the bare minimum.
The bar is clearly beyond low when adults freak out over a grown man dating someone only 10 years his junior. What, the fuck
— amil (@amil) November 5, 2019
Another reason not to celebrate it? Because we don’t celebrate women who do the same in the same way *at all.* In contrast to Reeves and other famous men, it’s expected that women of a certain age date someone in their age bracket, because god forbid a woman in her forties date a 25-year-old! She’d be considered a cougar—and just look at all the chatter around actress Demi Moore and her former husband Ashton Kutcher. The couple, who have a 16-year age gap, were together for seven years. Moore was repeatedly referred to as a cougar throughout their relationship and her penchant for dating younger men than her since has gained her the title of a “celebrity cougar.”
So please, let’s stop calling men brave for dating women their age. And let’s remember:
Keanu Reeves’ happiness is the only thing everyone can agree upon
— ali segel (@OnlineAlison) November 5, 2019