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Let's check in: does The Rock still sound like Donald Trump?

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Ralph Jones
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52 weeks of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: week 47

Like all good things, The Rock Report will soon come to an end. You are reading the penultimate column about the life and times of Dwayne The Rock Johnson. My friends, we have come so far. But our time together is drawing to a close.

In this, our almost-final meeting, I am going to reassess an observation I made in the very first Rock Report (and again in subsequent Rock Reports): that The Rock is beginning to talk like Donald Trump.

As I said as we embarked on this mammoth project, his phrasing can be troublingly Trumpian. If Donald Trump were a film star, he would talk like The Rock talks. Imagine Donald Trump’s voice and then hear the following words in your head: “The most amazing thing about our box office there in France is that we opened up last weekend, great numbers, this weekend, we doubled those numbers… Our box office is phenomenal for Jumanji in the UK…”

Johnson has demonstrated lapses into this sort of rhetoric at times over the past 12 months, but I think he might just have been reading this column and consciously trying to avoid aping the sandy baboon in his Instagram videos. Let’s take a look at a few videos from recent weeks…

In his latest video, we can confidently say he doesn’t sound like Donald Trump: there is none of the self-aggrandising, hyperbolic ‘awesome’s or ‘phenomenal’s. What is there instead? Well, the video is about him using a Tupac track as his entrance music when he was starting out as a wrestler. It’s funny – something Donald Trump is incapable of being intentionally – and involves The Rock casting himself as the butt of the joke without coming across as desperate for people to like him. The video contains the advice to “Always play chess when other people are playing chequers”, which might not necessarily be good advice if you’re a professional chequers player, but it isn’t something you’d ever hear Trump say. Full marks.

The video before that, in which Johnson talks about his upcoming ninja show The Titan Games, is so insubstantial it can’t really be examined for Trumpian undertones. Let’s ignore that, skip past the vids of The Rock lifting things up in the air, and land on this one about his Under Armour headphones. When he says, “the number 1 highest-rated over the ear headphones in the fitness game” there’s a whiff of Trump in the air, but it’s actually too smooth, too polished, to be Trumpism. Furthermore, he demonstrates enough gratitude to subsume the boast and pretty soon we’re in the clear, the president totally forgotten.

In truth, the videos The Rock has posted recently have taken on a different tone to those at the beginning of 2018. We have seen our hero post even more workout videos and an almost off-putting number of videos about his range of Under Armour merchandise. Even The Rock struggles to convey much of a personality in these videos, so he isn’t likely to sound much like Trump at all because he simply sounds like someone articulately shilling a product.

The closest he has come to sounding Trumpian recently was in this video, when he is sitting in a restaurant and singing happy birthday to his 70-year-old mother. As she takes her time over blowing out her candles, savouring the beautiful moment, he says, “Mom, we only got 60 seconds on the ‘gram. The ‘gram only has 60 seconds, let’s go.” If ever there was any doubt about whether or not Johnson worries about the image he conveys to the world, it was dispelled in an instant here: much like one would imagine Trump might be, he is concerned more with ensuring the video is uploadable to social media than with giving his fragile old mother enough time to make her wish, appreciate her beautiful cake, and blow out her candles.

There might be work to done, therefore, before Johnson cleanses himself of all Trumpy vibes. But he’s on the right track. And I wish him all the best.

Stay hungry, stay humble.

(Illustration: Dan Evans)

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