The “keanaissance” of social media may have influenced the box-office triumph

Reeves didn’t really walk away in the years between The Matrix Revolutions and the first John Wick, but he didn’t exactly smash the box office with big action films like he had earlier in his career. Unlike many living memes, such as Gary Busey or Steven Seagal, Keanu didn’t become a meme because of over-the-top antics or bad behavior. Instead, pretty much all social media saw him as a nice guy, and his easy-going manner in interviews reinforced that public identity. When John Wick hit theaters and he exacted revenge in the name of a dead puppy, the world was primed to accept the actor as an action god with a heart of gold.

Geraets refers to an article by media professors Renee Middlemost and Sarah Thomas in the magazine “celebrity studies‘ which explains that the first ‘John Wick’ came out just as social media and movie marketing were really starting to merge into one giant meme machine. Middlemost and Thomas argue that the “John Wick” films propelled Reeves from fame to mythological status:

“The character of John Wick mythicizes the always ‘extraordinary’ Reeves as a modern folkloric entity, while his ‘ordinaryness’ has been embraced by transmedia digital cultures has never been fully resolved, and viral fan encounters of ‘Keanu doing things’ transcend reported on Twitter underscore the authenticity of his carefree demeanor.”

They go on to explain that Keanu is loved because he’s considered relatable, in large part because he’s a “reluctant celebrity.” Fans feel left out and want to know more about him, and this mystery only makes him all the more enticing.

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