By Andrea Plaid
See, I think writing about this particular crush should be as easy as posting Johnson’s photo like this:
and saying the we love him ’cause of reasons.
But “reasons” isn’t reason enough. So, here are some more “whys” about our latest loved-up:
He rolls in the world with his own self-identification with his mixed-race identity, as it should be with anyone doing so. He claims both his Samoan (mom, who’s comes from Samoan royalty) and Black (dad, whose kin are Black Nova Scotians) roots, which also covers dual citizenship in Canada and the US due to shifts in Canadian laws. Johnson wears his Samoan heritage on his skin and was given the honorific of Seiuli by King Malietoa Tanumafili II of Samoa for “his service to the Samoan people.”
Johnson is pro wrestling royalty: both his father and maternal grandfather were wrestlers, and his maternal grandmother was a manager, a rarity in the sport. As well, in the epically over-the-top professional wrestling world where playing up racial stereotypes is uncomfortably common, says the R’s Managing Editor (and big pro-wrestling fan) Arturo García, Johnson didn’t do that. However, that didn’t mean that Johnson was cast as some post-racial character. His identity was acknowledged and not exaggerated, and the “storyline” moved on.
He’s a Republican (some outlets suggest that he may be a social liberal/fiscal conservative, though he keeps most of his views on political issues to himself) who may trash-talk POTUS Obama’s hoop skills but maintains a healthy respect for the man himself. Johnson uses the moments he speaks before Republicans to speak about voter registration.
Johnson is a community man: the University of Miami alum donated about $3 million to renovate parts of the athletic center and the alumni center as well as supports Samoa’s national rugby team and set up a foundation for at-risk and terminally ill children.
That chest and the heart in it.
As deeply problematic as the movie Be Cool is–and Johnson’s character is in it–that film is when I “got” why fans adore him. In it, Johnson plays a bodyguard/hit man for rapper-impresario wannabe Vince Vaughn and aspires to be an actor. The running “joke” about Johnson’s character is that he’s a gay man who would beat up anyone who calls him a homophobic slur. So, the flick attempts to show the audience why his self-defense is unwarranted by all of these cheap visual and other gags, from his pausing a video to show him as “limp-wristed” to his doing a audition monologue from Bring It On and hipster White Savior John Travolta advising him to do a “man monologue” for said audition to Johnson thoroughly enjoying trying on some news clothes, spanking his own butt, and turning to the disgusted store owner and saying (complete with that disarming smile of his), “You like that, huhn?” But Johnson, in his own way, undercuts this ongoing joke because he gives his character this self-loving and life-loving dignity to where I really have to ask myself why–beyond the homophobia–is his character even a joke.
And that’s what Arturo said about Johnson’s popularity when he was a pro wrestler: whether he plays a “good” or “bad” character–or, in above case, in a rather effed up movie where gay men are (once again) set up as the butt of the joke (and I won’t even touch the weird-ass Orientalist dance number in the film)–it’s hard to hate on him. He’s just cool like that.
So, like I said at the beginning, reasons is why we crush on him.