SOBOWALE: When The Rock’s in a Hard Place
Pop Politics

Some may say he’s a musclebound meathead. Others may say he’s a terrible actor and that “Fast and Furious” is objectively not a good movie franchise – which, while we’re all entitled to our own opinions, is just not true. Whatever you may think, there are a few things that make Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson great.

First: his truly impressive follower-to-following ratio on Instagram. Second: his dog. Third: the ways in which he helps deconstruct the typical idea of masculinity.

But wait, you say. Isn’t he a 10-time World Wrestling Entertainment world champion? Doesn’t he almost always play the hero role in action movies? Doesn’t he spend half his day lifting weights heavier than me? Yes, yes and yes — and I’m frankly impressed by your Dwayne Johnson trivia knowledge. But those very attributes are exactly what makes Johnson’s deconstruction of masculinity so interesting.

You only need go as far as his Instagram page to start to get what I mean. The first thing you’ll see is a truly impressive number of selfies, although that’s to be expected from the man who set the Guinness World Record for themost selfies taken in three minutes at a whopping 105. While the selfie is a phenomenon of younger generations, it’s mostly used by women and girls and has been diagnosed as a symptom of vanity that will ruin life as we know it and probably jumpstart the robot apocalypse — although the last one is only according to your grandpa. Johnson’s selfies have many elements in common with the selfies most girls take: pre-, mid- and post-workout bod, friends and his dog, an adorable little French bulldog named Hobbs who accompanies Johnson to most of his workouts and has absolutely no fear of being suplexed. Johnson’s enthusiasm for participating in the selfie trend takes a bit of wind out of masculinity’s sails.

If you scroll a little further, you’ll see more dimensions of Johnson’s personality. He makes fun of himself in a lighthearted way — especially during October of last year, when his mentions were flooded with people posting pictures of themselves dressed as him for Halloween — and he isn’t afraid to show how much he loves his parents.

Dog selfies and regrettable Halloween costumes make rejection of preconceptions of masculinity seem kind of fun and easy, don’t they?

Now it’s time for the tough stuff.

In November of 2015, Johnson spoke candidly on the Oprah Winfrey Network about his struggles with depression, which began in his early 20s when his career as a football star was burning out. Although falling out of stardom is not something that many of us here at Georgetown have experienced, Johnson’s experience as he tells it is incredibly relatable: He had always been successful at his chosen activity, football, and to him, being cut meant that he wasn’t enough. The feeling of falling short, of having given your all and still not making the cut, is a feeling that can resonate with people of all ages, especially students at Georgetown. I know I’ve been between that rock and hard place many times before.

It’s hard to imagine The Rock — now a talented actor, director and professional wrestler — as anything other than the healthy, successful, smiling person he is today. What’s really impressive about his transformation, though, is that he isn’t afraid to acknowledge it. Johnson speaks openly about being in a depression so powerful that he wanted to do nothing but stay home and clean the walls. In a society where depression is something to be kept under wraps, especially by men, that baldness, pun fully intended, is important. The idea that men must be emotional brick walls beyond the acceptable emotions of anger, excitement and football is not a new one, but the stigmas against both mental health and men talking about emotion combine to make conversations about depression very difficult, especially with an audience listening. Johnson gives both of those stigmas the people’s elbow and delivers a poignant and important message that “on the other side of your pain is something good.”

Now, the struggle to deconstruct and detoxify the concept of typical masculinity can’t be smacked down WWE-style with just a few selfies. But the fact that Johnson makes progress in fighting against it while squatting the equivalent of my tuition in weight is the reason why you can catch me on campus wearing my “You’re my Rock, My Dwayne, My Johnson” T-shirt any day — when the weather warms up, that is.

 

Femi Sobowale is a senior in the College. Pop Politics appears every other Friday.

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