Another week, another brazen attempt by The Rock to get my attention on social media. I’ll just leave this here and then I think it’s best if we all move on:
This week is a bit of a hangover week for The Rock, after the tumultuous events of the previous. What do you do immediately after having a baby? Of course, if you’re The Rock, it’s a no-brainer: you get up and go; you lift some weights; you continue to promote your gorilla film, constantly telling people that it’s the biggest film in the world.
But everything can’t help but look a little lacklustre by comparison. Side by side with the image of Dwayne Mr Johnson The Rock with a newborn baby, any Instagram post is going to pale into insignificance.
So this week I thought I’d ignore The Rock’s social media and drive off the beaten track into the undergrowth of the unknown. I thought I’d talk about one specific Rock phenomenon with you. That phenomenon? How people react when you talk about The Rock.
I’ve been talking about The Rock in public for 17 weeks now – whether or not people have wanted me to. “I’m writing a weekly thing about The Rock,” I would have begun by saying, four long months ago. The response was always the same: “Aw, I love The Rock.” Just let that little bit of information sink in. The response was never negative, never hostile. Not once did anyone say, “Don’t like that guy. Don’t trust him.” Not once did anyone say “Why?”, as though they couldn’t fathom why a man would elect to spend his time in the manner I had chosen. They knew. They understood instantly: yes, that is a man worthy of chronicling. I can understand why you would do that.
This phenomenon is in itself fascinating, and I have experienced it first-hand again and again: the need to profess a love for The Rock is so all-consuming, so visceral, that it bubbles through the body and out of the mouth before one realises it has escaped. There are other famous people in the world to whom this applies (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Julie Walters) but they are few and far between. They are precious. They are the exception.
As those 17 weeks have galloped on like dogs being let out after a long car journey, I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting Dwayne Johnson in the flesh, not once but twice.
Hit with this information, the many people I have told have reacted in extremely similar ways: they ask, of course, “What was he like?”, but more than this they want to know something else, something more profound: was he everything I would hope him to be? “Please don’t shatter my dreams,” those eyes tell me. “Please tell me The Rock is as heavenly as my daydreams have led me to believe.”
I am willing to accept that I may be biased – The Rock is, after all, now one of my closest friends – but I don’t detect any of the relish that is present when people ask the same question about other celebrities. Humans love scandal. And when asking about celebrity encounters, people often want the celebrity in question to have been a nightmare; they want them to have insisted on eating a plate of raw mince before the interview could even begin; to have been utterly two-faced: an expert in presenting one face to the camera, and quite another behind closed doors.
None of this with The Rock. With The Rock they want the precise opposite. The overriding emotion my ears detect when people ask me about The Rock is hope. They hope, they desperately hope, that he was not a let-down. When I confirm that he is as charismatic and as engaged as you would want an interviewee to be, they let out an audible expression of relief. “Oh that’s good,” they say. “He seems like he would be.”
I have never read about a negative encounter The Rock has had with another human being (apart from with Vin Diesel, an incident which, as we all know, was probably Diesel’s fault); but I pity the person who has to ruin the evening of some close friends by dropping onto the dinner table, like a bag of human excrement, the news that they hated Dwayne Johnson when they met him.
Like so many things, this entire dynamic will not be lost on Mr Johnson. He appreciates, more than any other celebrity I have witnessed, the power of positive PR. He wants to be the person you are excited to tell your family about. He wants to be the guy you made laugh with your stupid jokes. From his vertiginous vantage point, he wants to be the guy who lifts you up next to him.
When you’re next with a friend, try shuffling up next to them and uttering two simple words: “The” followed by “Rock”. Watch as their eyes light up. Watch as a smile ripples across their face. Watch as they fail to contain their glee. Before long, you’ll both be hugging each other, tears streaming down your cheeks, and rolling around on the floor.
Don’t believe me? Try it.
Stay hungry, stay humble.
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