How Consulting a PR Professional Could Have Prevented Matthew Perry’s Controversy With Keanu Reeves

Late last month, Matthew Perry, the actor most known for playing Chandler Bing on the sitcom “Friends,” released his memoir. Titled “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir,” the book tells the tale of Perry’s rise to fame and battle with drugs. In the memoir, Perry discusses his late friend and fellow actor, River Phoenix. While doing so, he makes a bizarre jab at actor Keanu Reeves, saying, “Why is it that the original thinkers like River Phoenix and Heath Ledger die, but Keanu Reeves still walks among us?” 

Reactions were swift on social media, with many questioning the reason for the attack on Reeves. Others pointed out how disrespectful it was for Perry to complain that Reeves had not died in the place of other actors. Perry responded to the criticism with a short statement, saying, “I just chose a random name, my mistake. I apologize. I should have used my own name instead.” 

All was not forgiven, though. A representative for Reeves said he was confused by the comments, reporting, “Keanu thought the comments came out of left field.” The public was also not convinced. One Twitter user wrote, “What’s the difference between Matthew Perry and God? God doesn’t think he’s Matthew Perry.” Another said, “Shame on Matthew Perry for asking why Keanu is still alive and River Phoenix is dead!”

Looking at the situation from a PR point of view gives some insight into how it could have been handled differently. First, a PR professional would have told Perry not to make a jab at a fellow actor, especially one as popular as Reeves. The comment was unnecessary and added nothing to the book. PR is all about preparing for and preventing crises before they happen, and this situation could have easily been stopped. Additionally, a PR professional could have created a longer, more sincere-sounding apology than Perry’s. This may have satisfied the public more and caused the outcry to die down sooner.

Right now, it is unclear what consequences this controversy will have on Perry’s career. Based on the public outcry and the loyal fanbase Reeves has, this situation will likely cause long-term damage to Perry’s reputation. A consultation with a PR expert could have changed that. 

Paris Murrow, Account Associate


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