Alexandra Grant and Keanu Reeves attend the 2019 LACMA 2019 Art + Film Gala Presented By Gucci at LACMA on November 02, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: VCG

Last week, suddenly, it seemed the US was flooded with overwhelming praise for actor Keanu Reeves. It is not unusual for a Hollywood star to take the spotlight, but the public’s interest usually stems from curiosity, contempt, secret admiration, or unconscious jealousy. This time, it was out of respect. Judging by the compliments showered upon Reeves, one could have easily thought the actor had lifted Africa’s entire population out of poverty, but they would be wrong.

The 55-year-old “Matrix” star’s noble deed was dating a woman who wasn’t a model half his age, but a visual artist nine years younger than him. Neither Reeves nor Alexandra Grant, the woman in question, have confirmed the relationship. A picture of the couple holding hands, as they appeared on the red carpet for a gala at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, was enough to trigger thundering applause in the media, especially as Grant looked her age with visible wrinkles and gray hair. 

“Keanu Reeves Has an Age-Appropriate Girlfriend,” Paper Magazine claimed in a headline. 

“People are calling 55-year-old movie star Keanu Reeves, a hero. Why? Because he showed up on the red carpet with a woman he’s dating, who happens to be around his age,” said Joy Behar, co-host of “The View.” 

“Does it make Keanu Reeves hotter that he has an age-appropriate, artist girlfriend? Yes, yes, it does,” said one Twitter user. “Keanu Reeves has a girlfriend, and she’s not an actress, a model or young! I love him so much,” read a separate tweet.  

I get it. Reeves is a nice guy, and lonely soul, and everyone wants to see him happy. A female in her mid-40s with wrinkles and gray hair may be as common as Christmas trees entangled with lights, but seeing such a person holding hands with a male movie star is a scene as rare as Santa Claus stuck in a chimney. 

Yet I can’t help but be confused by the amount of praise Reeves has received. If anyone in this supposed relationship deserves appreciation, shouldn’t it be Grant? 

Hollywood isn’t short of middle-aged women who make ordinary middle-aged women resent Mother Nature for distributing physical beauty unevenly. But as a woman who didn’t bother to dye her hair or wear a thick layer of facial powder while she stood next to a movie star and in front of a camera, isn’t Grant the one who might be under greater pressure and have shown more courage, resolve, and confidence? It would be like working throughout the night to complete a project and then watch your boss receive the credit. 

Some may say this analogy is inappropriate as it designates Reeves as the boss in the relationship. While the actor may not have the right to oversee her, it is a fact that in the power structure of our world, men are higher in the ranks than women, just like Caucasians with minorities and developed countries to ones that are developing. Those on the top of the food chain, by default, are not only entitled to choose the best, but also get to define what is the best. Or so they believe. 

But they are not the only ones to blame for this flawed system. During this “Reeves’s girlfriend is gray-haired” saga, many female commentators, including a few feminists, sighed in relief, declaring they are justified to look the way they are.  

The party peaked in a commentary published in the New York Times with the headline “If Keanu Reeves’s Date Can Embrace Looking Her Age, I Can Too.” 

The author, Ali Drucker, a 30-something writer said, “For a time-tested public figure like Mr. Reeves to proudly stand there, beaming, with a woman who appears not to be in a battle against time sends a message to the rest of us that perhaps we can put down the snail mucin salves and jade rollers ourselves. It says you can be both desirable and look exactly your age.”

To say that Reeves dating a gray-haired woman serves as an indication that men’s desire for younger women has been shattered is like saying an abnormally cool summer day has reversed global warming. Of course, what I don’t understand is how any of this matters.

If women need approval from men before they can feel proud of their “age-appropriate” appearance, then women will never be liberated.    

The author is a New York-based journalist and Alicia Patterson fellow. rong_xiaoqing@hotmail.com