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The Rock Is Returning to Wrestlemania. He Never Blinks.



The Rock Is Returning to Wrestlemania. He Never Blinks.

The opening months of 2024 have posed a query: What number of completely different individuals can the Rock be without delay? There he goes, taking the stage on the Oscars, grinning and gleaming on The Tonight Present: Film-Star Rock. Right here he’s, becoming a member of the board of the WWE’s company proprietor, showing on CNBC: Mogul Rock. (That one wears glasses!) Right here he comes, this weekend, making his much-hyped return to Wrestlemania. He’ll climb again into the ring, stomping and slapping: Nicely, that’s simply the Rock. He’s not an individual however a parade, and it really works, all of it without delay, as a result of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson by no means blinks.

On the identical time, he stays Pitchman Rock, introducing a line of males’s skin-care merchandise. The brand new model, known as Papatui, joins the Rock’s portfolio alongside Teremana tequila and Zoa, an vitality drink.

Papatui’s branding is restrained and delicate, with the tagline “Take Higher Care.” On the web site’s entrance web page, Dwayne Johnson wears a plain Henley in a luxe, light-filled toilet. He smiles warmly whereas making use of numerous merchandise.

This comfortable, inviting advertising materials was presumably produced months in the past. We are able to think about the Papatui staff gritting their enamel as, weeks earlier than their launch, the Rock’s WWE position took a darkish flip.

Late March; Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Instagram profile. He surprises Goal customers, glad-handing on behalf of rejuvenating facial toner. A number of posts up, he grips a wrestling opponent’s bloody face and holds it up for the digital camera to see.

The Papatui staff needn’t have anxious. It really works as a result of the Rock by no means blinks.

He’s not the primary performer to conjure completely different personas in numerous venues; it’s simply that, historically, the venues stayed completely different. However by way of the previous decade, Dwayne Johnson and Instagram each grew big. Every thing is there in his feed, each tone and register, the Rock gleefully profane and the Rock (actually) squeaky clear. Context collapse brings all of it swirling collectively.

And possibly that’s the important thing. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s profession, the entire logic of him as a worldwide famous person, is context collapse, not solely within the sense of the partitions coming down, but additionally of a star imploding. The legal guidelines of physics bent to breaking. You are able to do something, so long as you don’t blink.

The Rock’s return to WWE matches, beginning in January after a decade away from wrestling in earnest, wasn’t universally effectively obtained. His presence disrupted a long-anticipated storyline; followers smelled entitlement. For a second—only a second—it appeared that this may be a misfire, a bookend to the hype and disappointment of his superhero outing as Black Adam.

However the unusual and protean craft of pro-wrestling storytelling takes surprises in stride. Like sailors steering into the wind, the Rock and his writers retuned the position: As an alternative of the returning champion, he can be the company overlord, a darkish and domineering Closing Boss.

“Calm down, you Crackhead Karens,” he shouted into an area final month. “You Methhead Marys!” Later, he cackled: “They cherished it; they hated it; they cheered; they booed.”

Earlier than he formed and directed the eye of a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, he formed and directed the vitality of followers like these. The social-media platforms are creaking, one thing feels askew, and I ponder if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson doesn’t really feel it, a tingle in his prolonged nervous system, a premonition. I ponder if he realized it was time to mud off a unique set of expertise.

Seeing him so responsive, so fluid, makes a Rock watcher understand how a lot he provides up on the planet of Hollywood, the place roles, as soon as set, are fastened. The place a dud, as soon as produced, have to be defended. The Rock does higher when he can hear and modify. (Sounds so much like politics.)

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has not solely grown comfy with context collapse; he’s discovered to wield it to his profit, weaponizing the overlap between domains and audiences. On Instagram, he doesn’t solely promote new tasks; he frames them in very particular and strategic methods—a brand new position turns into the realignment of a whole film franchise. You get the sensation that many of those pronouncements come as a shock to his collaborators. Oh effectively, the Rock simply mentioned it to 100 million individuals. What are you gonna do?

If there’s one factor that unites all of the variations of the Rock, it’s that they—he—will at all times spin issues his manner, at all times with a smile and a tough mild in his eyes. It issues that his private megaphone has the attain of any newspaper, any TV community. It issues extra that he’s had a lot follow utilizing it.

How is it doable to be so many individuals without delay? To insist, in every area, in your sincerity—even when the personas are mainly contradictory, almost incompatible? A traditional human-size sense of disgrace, and a cussed attachment to a unitary persona, retains most of us from even trying the trick. Public figures all do it, to a point—however none so variously, or so efficiently, as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

He simply by no means blinks!

On the web—on this very web site, in actual fact—every part is blended up, the essential alongside the absurd, the tragic alongside the trivial. Like many individuals, I typically discover this disorienting, even distressing. However the partitions are down, they usually gained’t go up once more.

Here’s a determine who doesn’t cease one factor to begin one other, who doesn’t attempt to clarify or combine his wildly completely different personas and tasks however merely presents all of them in a tumble. Possibly there’s a mannequin there, even for these of us working far beneath the Rock’s altitude. Simply collapse, already. Steer into the wind.

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