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Keanu Reeves is dating a woman close to his own age. Why is that so shocking?

Keanu Reeves’s new relationship with artist Alexandra Grant has sparked a debate over ageism.

Keanu Reeves and Alexandra Grant hold hands and walk away from the camera; Alexandra looks back over her shoulder.
Alexandra Grant is dating Keanu Reeves. You got a problem with that?
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for LACMA

Keanu Reeves has a girlfriend, and our hearts are exploding with affection. And, because this is 2019, so too is online debate about who his girlfriend is, how old she is, and what those details all mean.

Keanu’s public persona is a bit unusual for Hollywood: He’s seen as a friendly, kind, but essentially private and isolated actor so well-known for his solitude that it’s become a meme. But the era of “sad Keanu” and “lonely Keanu” is apparently no more: Over the weekend, following a few weeks of burgeoning rumors about his love life, Reeves showed up at an art gala in Los Angeles holding hands with his longtime artistic collaborator, Alexandra Grant.

The move prompted a flurry of conversation, most of it centering on the mystery woman’s identity (no, she’s not Helen Mirren, though many people noted a resemblance), and especially her age. As surprising as it was to see the famously single Reeves appearing in public with a date for the first time in many years, Grant’s flowing silver hair and natural appearance grabbed even more attention. Unlike many other Hollywood men his age, Reeves is dating an older woman — someone who seems to be roughly within his age range. Not only did this shocker perpetuate the public’s view of Reeves as a man who has rejected the libertine ways of the typical A-list celeb, but it has stoked debate about why it’s so rare to see older male movie stars acting in age-appropriate ways when it comes to women.

So, who is Alexandra Grant? Based on what I gleaned from her CV, she seems kind of awesome. She’s an award-winning artist known for creating gorgeous word art installations and illustrating Reeves’ 2011 book Ode to Happiness, about escaping sadness and depression. She and Reeves co-founded an art-focused publishing press in 2017, and she also used her art to start a charity.

In interviews, Grant says things like, “I want to live like a ghost. I want to be light in touch, but really here for a specific purpose. In a way, the ghost is me,” which is exactly the kind of thing you’d say if you were the kind of person who winds up dating John Wick.

The pair has known each other for years and their friendship hasn’t been hidden. But it seems that they just started dating this spring, based on Grant’s social media posts — only the public didn’t catch on until recently. As delightful as it is to see the internet’s boyfriend Reeves holding hands with someone at a public event who clearly cares for him, it might be tempting to wonder: Why are we so invested? Reeves’s popularity aside, this is just another celebrity relationship, right?

Yes and no. This one in particular is notable for a few reasons.

Age-appropriate Hollywood relationships are so rare that they’ve become subjects of fascination and intrigue

Vox has written before of Keanu’s unique relationship to pop culture and to the public, one based on his air of “kind smile masking centuries of loneliness” that makes many of us feel an outsized investment in his happiness. He’s notoriously suffered through tragedies over the years; his personal life has been inextricably tied to what he calls “grief and loss,” so many of his fans are just happy to see him happy.

But Grant is getting just as much attention, if not more, for being the age she is as for being in a relationship with Reeves. It seems that many people assumed at a glance that the artist was older than Reeves, because of her silver-haired appearance in the viral photos from the Los Angeles event. In fact, she’s 46 — nearly a decade younger than Reeves, who is 55. Their relationship going viral is a good moment for us all to unpack a bunch of built-in cultural assumptions at once.

Let’s start with Grant’s gray hair. In reality, people of all genders start going gray in their 30s and are at least half-gray by the time they reach age 50. Yet stricter beauty standards for women mean that we generally assume a woman with gray hair must be older — otherwise, wouldn’t she dye those lone gray strands? Cue people registering confusion about Grant’s hair relative to her age — and subsequent backlash to that confusion.

The critiques of Grant’s hair are tied up in expectations of women “aging gracefully” and the many double standards for men and women — which brings us to the debate over Grant’s age. In a world where women are often portrayed as being deceitful if they make themselves look younger than they are, some onlookers seem to feel deceived by Grant’s silver hair. (It doesn’t help in this case that Keanu himself is well-known for appearing not to age.)

It’s interesting, frustrating, and perhaps inevitable that, while Grant is being criticized and scrutinized over her age and her choice to be silver-haired — rather than the fact that she’s apparently a fascinating creator in her own right — Reeves is conversely receiving universal praise for dating a woman “his own age,” even though that woman is still nearly a decade younger than he is.

This praise makes sense superficially. Keanu has emerged as America’s sweet, super-respectful, perfect boyfriend in recent years, especially throughout 2019. For him to date an “age-appropriate” woman is entirely in keeping with his persona and reputation as a gentle soul who’s unlike many other Hollywood A-list men of his stature. Compare him with someone like Leonardo DiCaprio, who has been widely mocked for only dating women half his age. (The tabloids tell us that the 44-year-old DiCaprio and his current girlfriend, 22-year-old Camila Morrone, are “pretty serious.”) And then there are men like Dennis Quaid, 65, who made headlines this week for announcing his engagement to a 26-year-old PhD student.

Given this environment, it’s no wonder many people are relieved that Reeves is dating someone only nine years younger than he is. Regardless of the stigma and scrutiny that attach themselves to Grant, Keanu gets to retain his status as a non-problematic fave. And there’s been plenty of side-conversation about how warped that is, too.

There’s no denying that the bar of romantic age-appropriateness is firmly on the floor. And Keanu’s love life passes muster and mainly garnered public approval. Even better, it’s warming hearts, just like Keanu himself.

And he isn’t making much out of the relationship or his partner’s apparent age. Not that we would expect otherwise. Reeves continues to live his life out of the public eye, albeit with the curtain pulled back just a bit more than usual.

In the end, anything that makes Keanu happy makes most of his fans happy, which seems like a win for everyone. So cheers to the new couple — may they be excellent to one another.