Call for Papers
Special Edition of Celebrity Studies, edited by Renee Middlemost and Sarah Thomas
Since his emergence as a teen actor in the 1980s, Keanu Reeves has been an enduring, yet elusive celebrity who continues to fascinate and frustrate in equal measure. Despite his unwavering popularity, in recent years his lower public profile has seen Reeves assume the status of cult or folk icon; yet slowly the world appears to have fallen for Reeves all over again. USA Today declared June 2019 ‘The Summer of Keanu Reeves’ with the release of John Wick 3, Toy Story 4, the announcement of his role in X Box game Cyberpunk 2077, memorable cameo in Always Be My Maybe, memes, magazine features, the first ‘KeanuCon’ film festival, and high profile fashion brand ambassador spreads (Saint Laurent). With the latest instalment of Bill and Ted (Bill and Ted Face the Music) due for release in 2020, this special issue of Celebrity Studies will be a timely exploration of the resurgent Reeves in the transmedia age.
Often discussed as an emblematic star of 1990s postmodernist cinema and queer sensibilities with a liminal, endless screen presence that stood between the margins and the mainstream of contemporary filmic texts (c.f. Giarrantana, 2002 and Rutsky, 2001), even now twenty years on from The Matrix (1999), Reeves remains an enigmatic icon straddling boundaries of fixed identity and meaning. His 21st century stardom has extended beyond the Wachowski’s ground-breaking series and his other key roles of the 1990s, and Reeves’ performances and star persona continues to reflect the wider ages and identities he lives through, endlessly being rewritten, rebooted and reinterpreted.
His success in the John Wick series, from cult hit to global franchise phenomenon, has partly reinvigorated interest in his screen work, conceptualising the change from the physically beautiful youth (Rutsky, 2001) to the ageing, effortful labour of action role and star. The character of John Wick further mythicises the always ‘extraordinary’ Reeves, whilst his ‘ordinariness’ has been embraced by transmedia digital cultures, such as ‘sad Keanu’ meme which draws on the perception that Reeves’ tragic personal life has never been fully resolved, or viral fan encounters that emphasise an authenticity to his unstarry behaviour. His cameo in the recent Netflix production Always Be My Maybe brought questions of race and transnational identity back to the forefront of his star image, with his appearance reflecting an overt desire by the filmmakers to claim Reeves as an Asian-American icon (Yamato 2019) – as aspect also explored by Nishime (2013). Beyond this, the ongoing commercial appeal of the Bill & Ted series and his partnership with Winona Ryder in Destination Wedding (2018) reveals the significance of Reeves as a point of reference for exploring 80s and 90s ‘cool’ nostalgia.
We seek original, truly ‘Excellent!!” essays of 7-8000 words that address the celebrity of Keanu Reeves, particularly reflecting on and exploring his career and image post-2000. Revisiting Keanu Reeves offers a timely discussion around key contemporary media landscapes, from franchise, reboot and remake cultures; multi-media, transmedia and technology; nostalgia and memory; participatory fandom and online cultures; racial identity and transnationalism; changes across the mainstream, the independent and the marginal; ageing; narratives of contemporary celebrity authenticities; and the continuing persistence of mythic and elusive stardom.
Topics that the articles may address include, but are not limited to:
*Keanu, the 1980s and nostalgia
*Keanu as Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan – rebooting Bill and Ted
*Keanu and his relationship to other iconic 80s performers (Winona Ryder)
*The figure of ‘tragic Keanu’
*Keanu online – Keanu as meme
*Keanu and masculinity
*Asian-American identity and transnational cinemas
*Keanu and ageing stardom
*Stuntwork, physicality and labour
*Keanu and genre (action, romance and science fiction)
*Keanu and cinematic innovation
*Keanu and cinematic franchises
*Fan responses to Keanu
*Queer identity and star image, especially post-2000
*Keanu as ‘reluctant celebrity’
*Keanu as producer, or from a production studies perspective
*Acting and screen performance
*Authenticity and ordinariness
*Keanu and video game cultures
*Presence, affect and ‘being’
Carmel Giarratana (2002) ‘The Keanu Effect – Stardom and the Landscape of the Acting Body: Los Angeles/ Hollywood as Sight/Site’, in Ndalianis and Henry (eds.), Stars in Our Eyes: The Star Phenomenon in the Contemporary Era, Westport, Conn. : Praeger: 61-83
Leilani Nishime (2013) Undercover Asian: Multiracial Asian Americans in Visual Culture, Chicago: University of Illinois Press
R. L. Rutsky (2001) ‘Being Keanu’, in Jon Lewis (ed.) The End of Cinema as We Know It, New York: NYU Press: 185-194.
Jen Yamoto (2019) ‘Keanu Reeves’ ‘Always Be My Maybe’ role has everyone obsessing: Here’s why’, Los Angeles Times, 2nd June 2019: https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-keanu-reeves-always-be-my-maybe-20190602-story.html