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This is what Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson can teach us about dealing with criticism online

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Ralph Jones
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52 weeks of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: week 29 1

52 weeks of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: week 29

I learned something interesting about The Rock this week. “Oh, you learn something interesting about The Rock every week.” Ha ha. You’re too kind. Stop it. STOP IT.

This time it’s about his relationship with people on social media.

One of the many reasons Dwayne Johnson is so successful is the way in which – and the extent to which – he takes the time, both in person and online, to speak to his fans. I noticed this week, however, that he also takes the time to speak to his detractors.

Not everyone likes Dwayne Johnson movies. A lot of people do – billions of people will have seen a Dwayne Johnson film by this point in his career – but to some people, they are A Bit Much. I can see this. I get it. And, just as people know that if they tell him they love his films he might respond, they also know that if they tell him they’re sick of his films he might respond.

Exhibit 1:

That’s a Fox News business anchor reacting to news that The Rock is the highest-paid actor in history by telling him that his films are repetitive. The Rock’s response?

He’s gone for sarcasm there, and he seems to have a point: The Rock’s films (which range from Tooth Fairy through The Scorpion King to Baywatch) probably span a wider area than a great many film stars, a lot of whom don’t have the ability to, for example, do both action and comedy without looking absurd. 

It’s worth pointing out, however, that the president of production at Seven Bucks, Johnson’s production company, very recently said of Johnson’s films, “There very much is always a thread. … It’s always about a guy who’s somehow getting better, even just a little bit. … There’s always a little bit of getting better, coupled with some kind of a family tie, something of heart.”

Anyway. When people successfully lure The Rock into a Twitter back-and-forth, it tends to become incredibly predictable incredibly quickly. The tweeter – surprised that Johnson took the bait – decides to shower him in compliments:

And then, if the tweeter is a journalist, they always invite him on their shows – as Li does here – in a desperate attempt to boost their numbers:

The Rock never accepts the invitation – obviously – because his initial response was akin to a man trying to swat away a fly. He doesn’t want to sit down and have dinner with the fly. 

He clearly checks the comments on his social media all the time and, when people have a pop at him, especially if they have 15,000 followers like Susan Li, he likes to stand up for himself. Speaking of which…

Exhibit 2:

Here we see another journalist – this time poor old Graham Flanagan of Business Insider – having a go at Johnson and tagging the man himself in the hope that he will respond.

And The Rock does respond:

And then I’m afraid it gets a bit silly. Sometimes the temporary, transitory fame of being Someone Who Once Got Tweeted At By The Rock goes to people’s heads:

The Rock refuses the interview invitation again:

And then Flanagan, realising he’s only making enemies at this point, tells The Rock he actually loved his film:

The Rock doesn’t respond to this tweet – or any of the other back-pedalling tweets about how great The Rock is – because The Rock has won this argument hands down and he knows it. Can you imagine there being an argument that The Rock did not win?

What interests me, though, is the fact that he responds to provocations like this at all. There are few celebrities approaching his stature that would bother. You’d think that he had just too much money and too little free time. But, if we are to believe that The Rock does everything he does not for the money but because he wants to inspire certain reactions in his audience, he must be affected when he sees that the same audience are questioning him or his output in any way.

I imagine that, much as he makes light of it, he was probably affected by the mauling that Baywatch received at the hands of both fans and critics. I imagine that, when he scrolls through his Mentions (which, as I say, must be a great deal of the time), The Rock does feel sad at any negativity he catches sight of. Otherwise why would the following exchange have happened?

Exhibit 3:

It’s refreshing to see someone of The Rock’s immense warmth and humility call someone “a fucking idiot” on Twitter. It just feels good. And it is fascinating to picture him scrolling through Twitter to weed out a mean comment about himself, press ‘Reply’, and call the guy a fucking idiot.

But I think the most interesting thing about the three-pronged saga is that it underlines that celebrities, no matter how massive and how busy they seem, see the negative comments just as easily as they see the positive. So…you know…be nice.

52 weeks of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: week 29

Stay hungry, stay humble.

(Image: Getty)

Peruse The Rock Report archive right here

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Ralph Jones

Ralph Jones is a staff writer for ShortList magazine. In April 2015 he won a seven-foot throne of dildos but he’d rather you didn’t mention it. He performs sketch comedy and is on Twitter at @OhHiRalphJones

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