I was unaware of this until recently, but in May of 2010, a paparazzi captured a series of photos of Keanu Reeves eating a sandwich on a bench. After Keanu finished his sandwich, he sat for a moment appearing contemplative and sad. This particular image captured a lot of traction as a meme with numerous photoshop interpretations appearing on the web; Keanu looking sad among a group of kittens, Keanu looking sad with Iron Man, etc. I stumbled upon this “Sad Keanu” phenomena accidentally when browsing the Shapeways website, the marketplace for 3D printed objects. One of their most popular products is “Sad Keanu,” offered in two sizes, itty bitty and little, “both equally sad” (according to the website). Like the rest of the public at large, this image resonated deeply with me. Keanu looked so vulnerable in that moment. Even celebrities, it seems, with all of their wealth and popularity suffer from the same range of emotions as the rest of us. Sadness is a great equalizer. It somehow made me feel that if I were there at that moment with Keanu, I could have put my arm around him and comforted him uttering something profound like, “there, there . . .”
Articles and posts proliferated summarizing Keanu’s tragic life. His father was a drug dealer who was sent to prison when Keanu was twelve. His mother was a stripper who married several times. Keanu’s girlfriend was pregnant with Keanu’s child, which was later delivered stillborn. Months later, his girlfriend died in an automobile accident. Keanu’s sister suffers from leukemia and his brother has been in and out of prison a number of times. Undoubtedly all of these factors have contributed to the overall sadness of Keanu all of the posts have speculated.
In truth, Keanu has stated that he was not all that sad when the photo was taken. He did mention that it was a downer being photographed while eating a sandwich however, and he has declared quite often since (with an insincere look) that he finds the whole phenomenon amusing. Even after his protestations, he was once again captured looking sad as he was smoking a cigarette, fueling the “Sad Keanu” fire. His spokesman felt it necessary to issue a statement at that point to the effect, “Keanu Reeves would like to thank all of his fans for their concerns regarding his happiness and wants to assure everyone that all is well.” So there you have it. Keanu is really not as sad as we all think. He just naturally looks sad. Our outpouring of love and sympathy is grossly misplaced. We should probably divert our attention and emotions to other more pressing concerns. Even if Keanu is truly sad and only putting on a brave front, what could we really do to make him happier? Keanu’s happiness is ultimately Keanu’s responsibility. It is time for all of us to move on.
However, I will confess that I did order an itty bitty Sad Keanu while on the Shapeways website. It doesn’t hurt to have a small (no pun intended) reminder of one’s own humanity; the initial twinge of sympathy and empathy I felt when I stumbled upon this image, the fact that we are all sad at times and in need of comfort or that our emotions are often misinterpreted and we are grossly misunderstood. We are all Keanu and Keanu is us.