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The Rock’s wax figure is part of a much bigger problem

The actor reached out to a Parisian museum after his wax figure was revealed to have a much paler complexion than his own. 

Last week, the unveiling of a Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson statue raised eyebrows not for its impeccable likeness, but for a glaring issue that’s sparked a broader conversation about whitewashing in major cultural institutions: the colour of its skin.

Musée Grévin is modelled on London’s Madame Tussauds, where wax versions of significant figures draw thousands of visitors each year. But Johnson’s model has drawn attention for all the wrong reasons.

Johnson, who is known for his acting and producing work, as well as his former wrestling career, was born to a Black Nova Scotian father and a Samoan mother.

Following its reveal, the wax figure swiftly attracted widespread criticism on social media. The controversy gained momentum when Johnson himself publicly addressed the discrepancy between his actual skin tone and that of his wax counterpart.

The museum claims the artist Stéphane Barret had to rely on photos and videos to create the sculpture, but many are pointing out that this doesn’t explain its drastically Caucasian appearance.

The actor has since reached out to the museum and asked that its appearance be altered. And on Monday, Musée Grévin said on Instagram that its artists were ‘working on improving’ the waxwork. ‘Your feedback is always valuable to us,’ they wrote.

Instagram users dubbed the figurine ‘melanin deficient’, while others took the opportunity to poke fun at the situation. ‘That’s not the rock that’s the pebble wth’ said one comment.

Though many are addressing the situation with lighthearted commentary, the actions of Musée Grévin point to a much more insidious issue.

That’s because – crucially – this isn’t an isolated incident. The problem of whitewashing influential Black figures is pervasive in major cultural institutions, whether it’s the media or a museum.

Even in major movies, non-white characters are often portrayed by white actors. And this isn’t just minor roles either. Angelina Jolie earned some of the best reviews of her career playing a mixed-race woman.

This misrepresentation of people of colour is a subtle but damaging form of erasure. And while memes and online banter may serve as a temporary distraction, these systemic issues continue to shape popular culture.

By leveraging his platform, Johnson has not only advocated for his own accurate portrayal but has sparked a larger conversation about the responsibility that cultural institutions bear in representing diversity authentically.

But it shouldn’t be the responsibility of those impacted to demand a resolution.

Johnson’s wax figure controversy serves as a reminder that even seemingly trivial incidents can be gateways to more significant discussions.

As we celebrate Black History Month, it is essential to confront the uncomfortable truths about representation, acknowledge the insidious nature of whitewashing, and work collectively towards a more inclusive and accurate portrayal of influential Black figures in our cultural institutions.