"Professional wrestling is a form of entertainment that invites viewers to understand its fictive properties but nevertheless still buy into its dramas; in fact, the knowledge that it’s all constructed quickly gives way to a form of meta-appreciation," says Jeremy Gordon. "And unlike actors in a conventional TV drama, wrestlers are their characters, even in real life. This informal contract between performer and audience to never break character means that no matter where Rocky Johnson goes, he’s still recognizable as himself and must behave accordingly. With Young Rock, Johnson may very well be trying to find out if this alchemy can be performed for real: if a fiction can be created in front of an audience and then imposed on reality. The framing device for the show, the reason we’re learning about Young Rock’s life, is that Johnson is on the campaign trail for the 2032 presidential race, where he has a real shot to win. Like all coming-of-age stories — and most instantly remaindered political memoirs — Young Rock purports to trace how Johnson’s upbringing turned him into the man he is today: wrestling champion, the highest-paid actor on the planet, maybe a future president. Roll your eyes, but accept the possibility. Ever since Donald Trump was elected, plenty of charismatic celebrities have been floated as potential candidates. More than the other contenders — Oprah, Mark Cuban — Johnson has gained real traction, even going so far as to publicly state that he wouldn’t run in 2020 but that it was something he 'seriously considered.' Johnson passes every cosmetic test: handsome, tall, voice like a strong handshake. He’s the star of several film franchises that future voters will have grown up watching. And while a different show might play all this for laughs, Young Rock frequently lapses into what messaging for Johnson’s actual campaign might sound like. It’s never specified whether he’s running as a Democrat or a Republican; he presents as a third-way politician who just wants America to push past its divisions. Candidate Rock is a little like Michael Bloomberg, but with more convincing platitudes and even better delts."
TOPICS: Young Rock, NBC, Donald Trump, Dwayne Johnson