Sit down while I regale you, reader, with more tales of the big man we call The Rock.
Two weeks ago, when The Rock became aware of this column and I was deluged with Twitter notifications from fans of the big man, many of whom slavishly retweet his every word, I noticed that more than one of them was using The Rock’s name as their own. Weird, I thought. “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’ retweeted a tweet you were mentioned in.” Who are these people, I wondered, if they’re not The Rock himself?
One of them, @MasterOnTheMic, is a young man who goes by the name ‘Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’ on Twitter and tweets as though he is The Rock, but speaks about himself, The Rock, in the third person.
Observe: on 17 November last year he wrote “The Rock knows it’s Christmas season and all you Rock’s [sic] and Rockette’s [sic] need a present for a loved one. Get Ballers on DVD for a low price of $12.99. Your boy The Rock has got you hooked up.” On January 31 this year: “John Cena sucks. Oh. The Rock wasn’t aware that everybody could hear him.”
The man’s name is Daniel Gilbert. He’s 17 and lives in the UK. I got in touch with him.
I asked him what The Rock means to him – a question that prompted a passionate ode to his favourite wrestler.
“The Rock is a warrior,” he said, comparing him to Eminem in that the men both have dual personas.
“Dwayne Johnson is a professional actor and his charisma is something which cannot be missed. It’s truly amazing to watch both ‘The Rock’ in a WWE ring and Dwayne Johnson on a screen. When people saw him as just a WWE superstar he went above and beyond to prove that he isn’t just that. He proved to the world that he is his own person and that he knows what he’s doing.”
This transformation – Dwayne Johnson’s ability to achieve international recognition first as a wrestler and then as a film star – is key to his popularity. It strikes at the heart of why he is able to draw on such a vast well of love and admiration. People can’t help but be awestruck at someone who seems able to surmount all obstacles through sheer belief in his own ability.
But why would someone like Daniel feel the need to actually impersonate him on social media? Why is liking the man not enough?
“The Rock is one of my favourite wrestlers of all time,” Daniel said. “He always has been and always will be. I love everything about him. Thanks to roleplay I’m able to show off that passion with fellow roleplayers.”
But what’s the difference between ‘roleplay’ and simple impersonation? Isn’t he just pretending to be someone he is not?
“There may not be a difference when you first look at it,” Daniel admitted. “Believe me, I used to think the same. That it was just people attempting to impersonate other wrestlers, actors etc. However, impersonation would be someone claiming to be the real Dwayne Johnson. Roleplay is about creating your own storylines. I wish The Rock would return for another title run. So I chose to play the role of The Rock and created a story in which he has joined a company in order to do what he does best, secure gold and have fun in the ring.”
He isn’t the only person immersing themselves in this kind of fantasy. “I’ve seen somebody choose to play John Cena’s old ‘thuganomics’ persona and rap about things during a wrestling match. I love writing wrestling matches and watching them unfold. Roleplay gives me the chance to put all this passion to use.”
Elsewhere, on The Rock’s Instagram this week, he displayed more of the slightly worrying trend I have mentioned on these pages before. He. Is. Sounding. Like. Donald. Trump.
When he announced in video form that Emily Blunt would be joining him in his next Disney project – something called Jungle Cruise, by the sounds of it – he said, “Very first time I read the Jungle Cruise script, Emily was always my number one choice – it’s a very true story. Emily knows this. Disney certainly knows this.”
You can try and tell me those words – “very true story” in particular – don’t remind you of the sitting President of the United States. But you’ll be lying to yourself. And you’ll be lying to your family.
Stay hungry, stay humble.
(Illustration: Dan Evans)