Why The Rock Is Beyoncé for Boys
I love you, The Rock, with every fibre of my body.
Illustration by Dan Evans
How hard do you think The Rock could punch me? Obviously: to death. I feel The Rock could punch me on most of the parts of my body and I would immediately die. Would I die if The Rock punched me in the head? Yes, I would die. Would I die if The Rock punched me somewhere less vital, the back of a thigh, maybe, a lower rib? Yes, I would also die off being punched by The Rock. The force of The Rock punching me would work its way up my body and explode my heart. Agony would hum up my body like a tuning stick until my brain just up and stops. I feel, sometimes, like The Rock could punch me so hard (to death) that he wouldn't necessarily need to make bodily contact with me for the punch to kill, The Rock just punching the air I was about to inhale and it somehow killing me, the oxygen imbued suddenly with a force too powerful for my weak human lungs, my weak human lungs breathing punched Rock air and just exploding. But my favourite, when I think about The Rock punching me a single time to death, my favourite is imagining him punching me directly above the heart: a single solid thwump, and my chest blooms purple and I die instantly, my heart cleaving neatly into four like a fresh coconut dropped from a height, and The Rock delivers a line – leans over my newly wilted corpse and murmurs, "It doesn't matter," something like that – but, look closer now, look at my face: my eyes are glassy and my skin is cold but my mouth is formed into a perfect, long rictus grin—
The only way I will die happy is if The Rock punches me horribly to death.
Girls have Beyoncé, and they love her, and they pray at her altar, and that is fine. And yes, I know: Beyoncé is for everyone. Everyone is inspired by her slogan tee-wearing and her high luxe Instagram life. She is married to Jay Z and that is a nice thing, that Beyoncé – a literal angel from heaven – is married to a man who has the sincere vibe of being a puppy who woke up in a human body bewildered and confused to find himself holding a cigar. I have seen Beyoncé in real life and from a distance and I can tell you it is almost too much for a human brain to handle: looking at Beyoncé is like watching some elven queen bathe in a naturally occurring fountain while an actual rainbow illuminates her hair; supernatural, more than beautiful, six or seven amplifications more breathtaking than any other human you've ever seen. It's honestly a bit too much. I think we can all agree that sometimes Beyoncé is just a bit Too Much.
But it's hard for me, as a dude, to fully appreciate Beyoncé for what she is, because there isn't that deep-in-the-blood pull towards her, that "I want to be that person" urge, because Beyoncé wears a lot of kind of high crotched leotard things and is good at dancing, and that's not me. I've seen girls draw power from an especially sassy Beyoncé .gif like an iPhone charges from a USB plug, but there's not really been a deified equivalent for dudes. Essentially: where is my Beyoncé? Where is Boyoncé, Beyoncé for boys?
It doesn't matter who Beyoncé for boys is.
(Beyoncé for boys is The Rock.)
Theory: there is no man on Earth who doesn't respect The Rock so much that it busts through being simple adoration and goes right on into being full love. Everyone loves The Rock, the primary reason being: he is strong. I am extremely serious about this: The Rock is hugely, visibly strong. He is so strong. I polled a number of my friends about why they love The Rock in preparation for this – there was no point asking, "Do you love The Rock?" because everyone loves The Rock; the only question left to ask then is, "Why do you love The Rock?" – and, to a man, they all started with the same four words: because he is strong.
Look at this photo of The Rock. It's like someone looked at a tank and decided it didn't look aggressive enough so bolted two arms on the side of it. And I'm not talking about human arms, like those weak little pipes you've got going on, those little typing sticks: no. When I was a kid I remember opening a copy of Match! magazine and seeing a photo of John Barnes in full flight, and being just absolutely amazed at the size of his thighs – one John Barnes thigh being the equivalent of about four or five regular human thighs, squeezed into the space of two thighs, dense and powerful and huge – similar to this. The Rock's arms are essentially two John Barnes thighs, each.
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When you look at The Rock, you are fundamentally looking at a man who is mad that the boundaries of the human physique do not allow him to be more gigantic. Consider, for a moment, space: thousands of years of evolution, millions of dollars' worth of technical exploration, and we can land a probe on Mars and send HD telescopes flying deep into the abyss, peer deep into galaxies we couldn't possibly – within a single lifespan – travel to. Do you think any of that matters to The Rock? It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters to The Rock is muscles, and muscle fatigue, and the vague chance that there might be a muscle he has not discovered yet that he needs to work out. If you live your life thinking The Rock hasn't at least once ordered an explicit medical textbook in from Amazon and combed it for diagrammatic evidence of a hidden, unworked delt: you are a human idiot. He does that at least once a week. Do you think The Rock could lift up a barbell with his dick? He could totally lift up a barbell with his dick.
Let's look at The Rock again: here he is being so strong the sunglasses can't stay on his face, and he's still not as strong here as he currently is:
Here's The Rock doing that selfie face he does, which is of a good-looking thumb that learned how to scream, and just look at those teeth: thousands of teeth, millions of teeth, perfect white teeth as far as the eye can see, teeth that go down his throat and through his body. Even The Rock's teeth are strong:
And here's a still from San Andreas where The Rock is showing fear, and yet he's still never won an Oscar. Consider that for a second: The Rock, a man who looks like he can tear a truck tyre in half with his hands, demonstrating fear. That man has never been afraid in his life. Eddie Redmayne got an Oscar last year for going out of his comfort zone and playing someone with a severe, crippling disability, and when The Rock does the same thing – using his acting powers to channel something he is not, i.e. a human being capable of experiencing fear – he barely wins an MTV award. The world is unjust.
Big thing about The Rock is how he evolved from "wrestler Rock" to "movie star Rock" and transitioned between the two just by eating a monstrous amount of cod, shouting a mantric "FOCUS!" a lot in the gym and somehow getting huger. It's actually quite hard to reconcile The Rock now, in his current iteration as a family-sized car rolled in ham, with The Rock before, where he was a wrestler.
For ease, we're going to have to introduce notation here. Because The Rock is technically "The Rock", the People's Elbow-dropping, People's Eyebrow-popping, larger-than-life sass-talking wrestler; and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is his current evolutionary form as an exceptionally strong large actor, and the overlap between the two is oiled and blurry. But basically when you say "The Rock" now, you mean Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. But what you're actually saying is "The Rock". Do you understand? I... actually, I might need to do a diagram:
Right: The Rock is Squirtle, and he evolved into Blastoise. He did not pause to stop at Wartortle. The Rock was not Wartortle for even one second. He just straight up skipped over to Blastoise – without passing Go, without collecting his £200 – and now he is just Blastoise's body with a man's handsome head on top. The Rock got it done. But now we're in this curious stage of denial where we are still calling The Rock "The Rock" because we loved "The Rock" so much, but he's not "The Rock" any more – he's a large actor called Dwayne.
Because wrestler Rock was a phenomenon: a sleekly muscular smack-talking catchphrase machine who knew how to sell the living crap out of a Stone Cold Stunner, The Rock the most bonafide of bonafide WWF Superstars, at his peak when WWF was just him and Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Undertaker rubbing their big oiled chests together while everyone played WWF Smackdown on PS1, when The Rock was the centre of every story coming out of that muscle foundry, a charisma machine, an eyebrow with a really large dude attached, an icon. And during that time he deigned to yell over a Wyclef Jean song about how his name was The Rock, and that it doesn't matter how much cheese you have in your pocket, and &c. Seriously, look:
Anyway: "It Doesn't Matter" by Wyclef Jean feat. The Rock is the most Year 2000 thing to ever happen. A thousand songs at once. The Rock beats a gigantic man so Wyclef Jean can have sex with his wife. There is a slow-motion shot where The Rock takes a pair of sunglasses off, and then ducks into shot so you can see he's doing the People's Eyebrow, and then really theatrically just murders this dude. Wyclef Jean wears a fur coat and a matching fur hat. I mean, it's insane, but also – possibly – the greatest thing that came out of that year.
Because, for me, that's sort of when The Rock truly became something bigger, broke through the fourth wall, became something greater than the sum of his parts. "It Doesn't Matter" by Wyclef Jean feat. The Rock is The Rock's "Crazy in Love". Because this is when The Rock broke out of the confines of wrestling – on an alternate timeline, The Rock stayed in WWE throughout, slowly being head dropped until his entire face went sort of pink and gristly, like a bad batch of jerky, The Rock walking around WWE a little dazed and always wearing sunglasses and pointing to the wrong camera and saying "brother" a lot – and instead became a sort of quiet cultural phenomenon.
There's a thing in wrestling called the face-turn, or heel-turn – I mean, there's a lot of turns, in wrestling – where you flip suddenly from baddy to goody, or goody to baddy, and those weird feverish wrestling crowds go just crazy, waffling their big cardboard signs, turning the baseball caps on their head somehow further back-to-front than they already were, tearing their hockey jerseys off and throwing them weakly towards the ring, great swathes of pinky psoriasis dotting their torsos. And after doing a few heel-face turns in the ring, The Rock has sort of quietly done a real life one: gone from a nice guy who was very strong and didn't button up the front of his shirt for about an eight-year period (1997–2005), to just an incredibly huge box office leviathan who stars in can't-miss movies that make bank (2005 – present). When, exactly, did that happen? When did he go Squirtle to Blastoise? He did it without us even seeing.
Essentially: just recognise that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson burst out of "The Rock" like an exceptionally huge snake shedding its skin, and is a separate entity now, a butterfly to the caterpillar, and he sort of did it without us ever noticing. In 2002, when The Rock (wrestler) was preparing to star in The Scorpion King, everyone was all like, "What's he going to do: People's Elbow an ancient dead mummy into submission? Ha ha ha: right." And now, when he lines up in a helicopter in San Andreas, you kind of go: yeah, actually, maybe The Rock (actor) could sort of mend an earthquake through force of personality and his big strong muscles alone. I'm sorry I ever doubted him.
The Rock's latest project, Ballers, is HBO's most watched comedy in six years. The Rock gets a lot of props – with Forbes quoting him as earning $31.5 million (£20 million) last year, he's the 11th highest-earning actor on Earth, and I suppose 31-and-a-half million props are probably, by most accepted scales, enough props – but I'm still not sure he gets enough props. On paper, none of his projects make any sense, but with him on screen they do: San Andreas turns from yet-another-disaster-movie into an extremely passable blockbuster; nobody really knew they wanted three more Fast & Furious sequels until there was a trailer where The Rock breaks a plaster cast off his arm while saying "Daddy's gotta go to work", and then everyone was like "oh HELL YES! GIVE ME ONE HUNDRED MORE OF THOSE FILMS!"; Ballers is just Entourage with American football instead of doomed movies. But if you follow his Instagram, you get the impression that The Rock loves the heck out of every single project he's involved in. I mean, look at this announcement that The Rock is the new "spokesman of service" for Ford. Have you ever seen anybody that psyched to sell anything? What even is a spokesman of service? It doesn't matter: The Rock loves fucking being it, and he loves the heck out of Fords, and he loves the heck out of you, too.
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And I think this is the deep truth of The Rock, because fundamentally he is this: one huge, enormous, strong, good vibe made crystalline and flesh and forced into the large body of a semi-retired wrestler. This year, The Rock has made headlines for three big things: for this lip sync battle, for officiating a dude's wedding in a heartwarming viral video and for saving two drowning dogs from his pool. But The Rock deserves headlines every single day of the year. "Enormous Man Still Alive, Is Great:; "Gigantic Man Continues to Be Amazing"; "There Is No Way the Base Laws of Physics Allow This Dude to Open a Can of Coke Let Alone Contort His Arms Into the Necessary Angles and Shapes to Put On a T-Shirt But Huh, Here He Is, Somehow Wearing a T-Shirt". Every second of Rock we are as a species indulged with should be celebrated.
There's the bumbag photo, the workout videos. The times he meets young fans and just is The Rock at them. The baffling and unknown truth about where he finds clothes that fit him. His iconic cheat days. Focus. The fact that The Rock could – quite easily, using only his hands – kill you, and me, and everyone else on Earth. For being the second man in history after Bruce Willis to look actively better since shaving his head. Focus. A man bred in a lab to fold his arms while inhaling deeply. A smile that is essentially a sunbeam. Hold on, do I actually love The Rock? Focus. There's a chance I actually deeply am in love with The Rock. Focus. The fact that he woke up one day and decided to become even larger than the already large wrestler he was, and then did that, and then went on to earn $3 billion (nearly £2 billion) across 16 movies at the box office. Focus. I mean imagine being The Rock – The Rock! – and then thinking, 'You know what would be cool? If I got twice as huge as I currently am.' There's Wake Up Call, the self-help series which is essentially Pimp My Ride but for people with troubled lives, where The Rock would just turn up and tell them to work out more and be less crappy, and then they just would? Focus. Focus. Focus. The Rock is the greatest. The Rock is the greatest dude alive. We should all be thankful to just exist on the same planet as him. I want him to punch me to death with his enormous strong arms.
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