Today, June 15th, marks the first of what may well become an annual tradition of Cheer Up Keanu Days. What began as a thread on 4chan’s /tv/ board defending Keanu Reeves from all the easy “Whoa” jokes and an epic thread on Reddit anchored around a picture of a forlorn-looking Keanu Reeves sitting on a bench have become that rarest and specialest of things that can happen on the Internet: A genuine celebration of human kindness and decency.
Sure, the Keanu Bench picture has become a meme unto itself, with people Photoshopping other sad-looking figures onto the bench or using this transparency (via Fun with PNGs) to place Keanu in zany situations, often to great effect, but if that was all there was to this, ‘Sad Keanu’ would be no different from pop culture-savvy topicalities like the Balloon Boy meme or Interrupting Kanye. Memes qua memes can actually be pretty irritating things after a while, but what distinguishes the Keanu meme from the run of the mill is that the revival of interest in Keanu comes not from his celebrity, but from the fact that he seems like a really good guy.
The most upvoted comments on the previously-mentioned Reddit thread weren’t the typical puns and novelty account postings; I would argue that the heart of the Keanu revival isn’t the picture of Sad Keanu on a bench that you’ll no doubt see elsewhere on the Internet today, but the list of ‘Keanu Facts’ that originally appeared on 4chan: (pic)
>His first name means “cool breeze over the mountains”
>Dad abandoned the family when he was 3, never reconnected with him
> Mom was a showgirl
>Long string of 5>6 stepfathers, constantly moving
>Different high schools
>Had a keen interest in hockey but the Olympic dream ended after an injury
>Dropped out of high school to become an actor
>Daughter died stillborn
>Girlfriend died in car crash
>Close friend died of … drugs?
>Avoids most relationships
>Turns down big roles if he believes the character’s too violent
>Took a 90% pay cut on his salary on The Replacements (2000) so Gene Hackman could be cast. Previously, he had deferred $2 million of his salary so that Al Pacino could be cast on The Devil’s Advocate (1997)
>Gives most of his earnings to charity and the backstage people who help on the set
>His best friend is his sister
>Sister dying of Leukemia
>His remaining money probably pays for her medical bills
>”I’m a meathead, man. You’ve got smart people, and you’ve got dumb people. I just happen to be dumb.”
>>>>”I’m sorry my existence is not very noble or sublime.”
For full effect, you’ve really got to see the original 4chan post; there’s something about words like these in the same box and font that you’re used to seeing contain trollery. Either way, you can see at a glance that this is a universe apart from the likes of Chuck Norris facts: Though ‘haha, Keanu on a bench’ may well be how this happening is remembered a few years down the road, it is pretty cool that people could be serious for a little bit and reflect that the celebrity that they’re Shooping into incongruous historical events is a real person too.
If you’re interested in participating in Cheer Up Keanu day, there’s a Facebook group with over 12,000 members, which has information on mailing Keanu kind words or gifts; you can also write a nice message and read what other people have written at the fan-created Thankyoukeanu.com. Finally, Cell Science has a useful directory of cancer charities you can donate to or volunteer for.
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