May 22, 2013 at 9:24 AM ET
Keanu Reeves escaped the Matrix, only to land in an even harsher place: the internet. First there was "Sad Keanu," a meme that centered on a mopey-looking paparazzi picture of the actor. Now the bloggers have a new obsession: "Fat Keanu." On Monday, Jezebel posted excerpts from several different media outlets, all mocking Reeves for showing some weight gain at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Daily Mail, for example, ran a picture of Keanu boarding a yacht, saying he was "boating with bloat." New York's Daily News joked, "Cannes I have some more?" Us Weekly bemoaned that he was "looking quite different from the slim-hipped looker he was a decade ago."
By Tuesday, the pile-on had grown. Celebrific joked that he wouldn't be able to do any more Matrix sequels, quipping, "there's no ice cream on this spoon." The New Zealand news site Stuff.com critiqued Keanu's "paunch and double chin." And Metro ran the headline "Keanu Reeves' Most Excellent Food Binge."
We won't deny feeling that twinge of disappointment when our teen idols start showing their age. Here's the thing, though: The state of Keanu's waistline has been greatly exaggerated. Per Jezebel's suggestion, we looked at a bunch of Cannes photos of Reeves. Only in that one set does he look sloppy and disheveled. During the photo call for the film he directed, Man of Tai Chi, Reeves is clean-shaven, wearing a suit, and looks more or less exactly like the guy from Speed. You know, just 20 years older.
Put simply, those yacht photos were unflattering paparazzi shots, taken when Keanu was clearly not expecting a camera in his face. If those pictures were on Facebook, Keanu would have immediately untagged himself. (Come on, we've all done it.) Unfortunately, he's stuck with them.
Though we feel for the guy—especially since he's promoting his work as a director, not trying to launch a leading-man comeback—we also find the Keanu backlash kind of fascinating. Since when did male heartthrobs get subjected to the same kind of fat-shaming as female stars? When someone like Lady Gaga or Kim Kardashian gains weight, the media is quick to conclude that they've ruined themselves for good. But actors like Russell Crowe, Gerard Butler, John Travolta, and Alec Baldwin have still played romantic leads after putting on a paunch.
Is it possible that the tide is turning, and that male celebrity bodies will soon be scrutinized as closely as female ones? That would be a little bit satisfying, and a lot depressing. Why can't we just let our stars have a variety of body types, or live with the normal weight gain that comes with age? It makes us sad. Even sadder than you-know-who.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.