In praise of The Rock: why Dwayne Johnson is the hero we all need

What a man, what a mighty good man

Can you smell what The Rock is cookin’? It might be a bonafide case of rigor mortis, because The Rock is dead, baby. Hulking human positivity beacon Dwayne Johnson was the world’s highest-earning actor in 2016, with an annual income $64.5 (he came second to Mark Wahlberg in 2017), so now no longer needs to wedge his former wrestling alias between his names. Show me a person that doesn’t love Dwayne Johnson and I’ll show you a person that doesn’t love it when dogs wear fancy dress, doesn’t love ham and pineapple pizza, doesn’t love it when elderly couples hold hands in public.

Reader, that person doesn’t love life. And they certainly wouldn’t love Rampage, his latest ludicrously fun movie, which is about giant mutated gorillas. It might the most Dwayne Johnson thing ever.

Anyway, you know who does love life? That’s right – Dwayne Johnson. He has reason for this: back in his wrestling days, he became one of the youngest WWE (then WWF) champs in history at the age of 26; when he made the move into cinema with The Scorpion King he was the highest ever paid lead actor (with a fee of $5.5m, now chicken feed to a man of Johnson’s megafame) and his appearance in Furious 7 saw it become the fastest film ever to rake in $1bn. All of this could turn lesser mortals into entitled monsters, but Johnson never comes across anything less than chill, kind, even happy-go-lucky.

He’s reportedly the most charming company you could wish for – asking his interviewers as many questions about their lives as they ask about his, high-fiving kids on the street – to the point that they has been speculation that he could become President. Yet even a man of Johnson’s sunny disposition has known hardship. Earlier this week, he talked with commendable openness about the mental health struggles he experienced in his younger years. He told the Express that he had witnessed his mother attempt suicide, which caused his depression.

“Struggle and pain is real,” he said. “I was devastated and depressed. I reached a point where I didn’t want to do a thing or go anywhere. I was crying constantly.” He went onto describe this as “the absolute worst time”. In addition to this, Johnson discussed his pre-wrestling career, when he was dropped from the Canadian Football League due to an injury, an event that coincided with the end of a long-term relationship. “We both healed, but we’ve always got to do our best to pay attention when other people are in pain,” the world’s chillest paid actor explained. “We have to help them through it and remind them they are not alone.”

The message is clear and beautiful: Dwayne Johnson – a man who appears to embody physical and emotional strength, whose masculinity is perhaps his defining trait – has had to fight fought for his positive outlook. When suicide remains the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years old in England and Wales, this is a powerful and important statement.

In addition to this, despite being a bloody bloke, he’s emphasised the importance of knowing that you’re not always right, which has resulted in him being surrounded by a formidable team. He told Esquire back in 2015: “I never quite understood why if you’re successful in something, and then you want to make the transition to Hollywood, why wouldn’t you apply the same discipline and processes that you did with wrestling and football? Which meant: surround myself with great acting coaches; definitely get a good director; I need great actors around me to help me raise my game; I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.”      

Dwayne Johnson: cool, talented, friendly, able to admit weakness, the latter point making him the absolute antithesis of toxic masculinity. He has laid the smackdown on outdated gender stereotypes.

When so many celebrities are afraid to broadcast political views, he’s also came out to oppose to Donald Trump’s loathed attempt to ban Muslim people from entering America. “I believe in inclusion,” he told GQ. “Our country was built on that, and it continues to be made strong by that… “[the proposed ban] grew to heartache, it grew to a great deal of pain, it grew to a great deal of confusion.” There’s room for everybody in Dwayne Johnson’s world – weak or strong – and we are, undeniably, better for having him. What a man. What a mighty good man.