The Fast and the Furious is one of the most pointless movies that I love with my whole heart. On paper it’s completely not my type of thing — a big action movie, with fast cars, and explosions, and man angst. I ignored this franchise for years before watching the first movie, quite content to let the blockbuster phenomena pass me by. Then someone recommended it to me, based on the fact that you can read the two main characters as really gay. That’s basically all I want — big budget action movies with fast cars and explosions and gay romance.
I went in knowing to look for romance, between Vin Diesel, and the other guy. I watched it with the girl who would become my current girlfriend, about four months before we started dating. We were prepared to look for something that the filmmakers absolutely hadn’t intended, but was obvious if you tried to look for it. It was very easy to read their interactions as romantic, or at least very invested in each other.
I’m not going to do much to explain the plot of the movie, because I don’t think it’s very interesting, or makes a ton of sense. Basically Vin Diesel races cars and does crime, and Paul Walker is an undercover cop who is supposed to turn him in, but then they had adventures and complicated feelings instead.
Here’s the original trailer if you’re curious. I think it’s a pretty good example of why I initially had zero interest in this movie.
There are a lot of things I really don’t like about this movie. There are a couple of great women characters, but more often womens bodies are sexualized and objectified. It uses some lazy racial stereotypes. It doesn’t really have a ton to say.
But without trying very hard you can read it pretty darn queer. Someone cut the movie to make a vid about Brian and Dom’s relationship. Using only stuff that is there in the film it’s very possible to slant it into a queer relationship.
Jacqueline Bobo writes that “when a person comes to view a film, he or she does not leave his or her histories, whether social, cultural, economic, racial, or sexual, at the door. An audience member from a marginalized group…has an oppositional stance as he or she participate in mainstream media” (212). As a queer woman watching this film, I want there to see queer relations on the screen. There are so many straight stories, and they get boring.
Bobo goes on to say that, “From this wary viewing standpoint, a subversive reading of a text can occur. This alternative reading comes from something in the work that strikes the viewer as amiss, that appears ‘strange.’ Behind the idea of subversion lies a reader-oriented notion of ‘making strange.’ …She may bring other viewpoints to bear on the watching of the film and may see things other than what the filmmakers intended” (212). The people behind The Fast and the Furious definitely didn’t mean for their film to be read like this. We are so not it’s target audience. That we managed to find a way into this movie is a testament at how good queer kids get at finding scraps to cling to.
I don’t know how strange Brian and Dom’s relationship actually is. There’s a chance that it could just be a totally normal heteromasculine friendship, and that my years of looking for more has warped my perceptions. I’ve gotten very good at making things strange, at making things read as queer.
What we’re doing by overlaying the film with a gay relationship could be called queering the text. We’re tilting it, coming at it from a different angle, and finding something odd.
Alexander Doty writes that, “What queer reception often does, however, is stand outside the relatively clear-cut and essentializing categories of sexual identity under which most people function” (15). This is definitely something you have to navigate if you’re projecting a same-sex relationship onto a text that includes straight romance as a storyline. How do you reconcile how incredibly weird these two male characters are about each other without erasing the women who are important to them in the straight reading? I love Dom and Lettie’s relationship in this movie, and I wouldn’t want it to disappear to have a gay reading. The best way I’ve found is to look for queerness, not gay monosexuality. People are complicated, sexuality is complicated, love is complicated — it’s definitely possible to let the story on the screen coexist with the one that’s mostly in your head.
It’s really interesting, that even though I’ve been linked to Brian/Dom slash fic, I haven’t felt a need to read it. The source material is so satisfying. I was able to project everything I wanted onto the movie, I don’t need extra scenes to flesh out the romance, enough emotional beats were there. I never went looking for transformative works based on these movies until I started watching vids tonight. These vids are interesting because the only thing they’re adding is a different score. All of the material they’re using is there in the films, it’s all a matter of how you edit it together.
When you’re queering a movie, you’re re-editing as you watch. You’re holding onto some scenes, leaving others out, shuffling them a little. In a way you’re rescoring it too, changing where the big emotional swoops happen.
I thought this vid was very sweet and romantic.
If you start watching enough vids in a row you start recognizing the shots they’re using. There’s a limited amount of source material that people are utilizing in different manners. This one tells a nice story that works with the lyrics of the song.
This one is pretty funny, poking at the latent homoerotism of the movies.
This vid is about the whole franchise, and moves past a single ship to celebrate how much the whole crew loves each other, which might be my favorite thing about the series. I came for the gay, I stayed for the found family feelings.
The rest of the franchise builds off this to create something really lovely. The second film is sadly lacking Vin Diesel, instead pairing Paul Walker with a childhood friend. It’s very shippy, but he’s no Vin Diesel. (No one else can ever come close. Vin Diesel is incredible.) Except for the mostly enjoyable detour of Tokyo Drift, the franchise builds a story about found family. Dom and Mia are siblings, Dom and Letty are romantically involved, and Brian and Letty are a couple at some points, but more important than that is the idea that they are all a team. They look after each other. It isn’t blood tying them together, it’s love. This idea of kinship can be very queer, and is something I really enjoy.
I just watched the trailer for the seventh movie, and it’s amazing how much the way the franchise is advertized has changed since the first add.
The intro exactly keys in on the kind of kinship that I love so much. Halfway through, when Vin Diesel says, “I don’t have friends, I got family,” my heart nearly burst from joy. I’m so excited to see this movie. There are going to be fast cars, and explosions, and sexualized women, and family, in a complicated messy queer way that means so much to me.
I don’t go see a lot of movies right when they come out, because I hate the ticket prices, but I think I might have to go see this one right away. I would bet good money that my girlfriend is going to cry when we see this movie.
Somehow, two queer girls who generally don’t like movies with fast cars and explosions have been incredibly over invested in this franchise. All it took was the possibility of queerness.