Critical and Curious: Season 1 Fast and Furious

Season 1 Episode 1: The Fast and The Furious (2001): We explore what makes the Fast and Furious franchise endearing, the automotive ballet, bromances, and the lack of a “damsel in distress.” We also talk about Racer X, the inspirational 1998 article from VIBE Magazine and our first car.

One thing from episode 1 of the podcast that stood out to me was the discussion about how cars get men to open up and act like “human beings,” with emotions. Bob Thompson compared the movie to a “chick-flick” by explaining how the men in the movie get emotional and real with each other in the way that characters in buddy movies don’t usually do. Bob Thompson states, “Fast and Furious in many ways makes the car the robotic wingman between the two male characters that help them be able to express some kind of sincere, human, heartfelt, kind of thing” (7:13-7:37). This analysis made me view the movie in a different way. My initial take was that the movie was purely about street racing and cars. The movie is advertised to be just a crazy, wild movie about men in a gang racing. This analysis from the podcast explains that cars were used to maneuver real human connections in the movie. It explores the male bonding in the movie that is spoken out loud and shown to the viewers. It normalizes real emotional human interactions between men that are typically only depicted in movies with female stars.

Season 1 Episode 2: 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003): We discuss what #JohnSingleton brings to the family, diverse representations of Black masculinity in Rome & Tej, and Brian’s trip from LA to Miami in the 2 Fast 2 Furious Turbo Charged Prelude (2003). We also answer the question: Who is your Roman Pierce?

Tommy mentioned the quote by Professor Thompson, “Tej owns this and owns that, he runs the city. He is the puppet master of all of the plot and he is directing the film, and Ludacris is actually playing John Singleton in the form of Tej” Tommy explained, “I completely agree that Tej is the puppet master in ‘2Fast 2Furious’. There is not a doubt in my mind that this is true. During that one scene where he is collecting money off of the Jet ski races, is when I realized that he controls literally everything that goes on in that city. He also owns a really cool body shop so that’s lit.”

Season 1 Episode 3: The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006): We discuss the visualization of Tokyo, the inescapable status of a gaijin, and how class privilege manifests in the series. As the first of 4 films in the franchise directed by Justin Lin,we talk about the film as a symbol of stories to come. We also answer the question: When have you felt like a gaijin?

After listening to the third podcast, Domenic saw the movie as a representation of class struggle: Sean vs. DK, the nephew of a wealthy gangster in Japan. Domenic explains that “The final race has each of the two driving cars reflective of their classes. Sean drives an old, beat up Challenger that is made up of a conglomeration of various parts from various cars. On the other hand, DK drives his very own new, top of the line car with the best and newest gadgets. In the end, Sean wins despite the obvious setbacks in both experience and resources.”

Season 1 Episode 4: Fast & Furious (2009): We discuss the embrace of the revenge film genre, Letty’s resurrection as a car, and Dom’s embodiment of the #LoneRanger as his #DodgeCharger rears for battle. We also talk about Los Bandoleros (2009), and suggest cities for future movies.

Fast and Furious is the forth movie in the series but I was very surprised to learn from the podcast that it is the first real sequel to the first movie.  I was also surprised to learn from the analysis in the podcast, that this is indicated by the similarity in titles between the two movies.  However, the absence of the ‘the’ in the title of changes the themes from one of groups of people, the nouns – ‘the fast’ and ‘the furious’ to the adjectives – fast and furious – that describe the way Dom and Brian act in this movie.  They drive very, very fast and they act extremely mad, hence furious. 

Season 1 Episode 5: Fast Five (2011): We talk about the franchise’s self-awareness, the representation of Brazil, fatherhood, and the introduction of Hobbs as Dom’s even twin as the family gathers in Rio. We also suggest actors we would like to see join the franchise.

Before understanding the pure evil that Reyes represents, I had a difficult time rooting for characters that caused so much potentially harmful destruction, not to mention the fact that it was all illegal. In contrast, after listening to the podcast I understood more about the complexity of their actions and the “Robin Hood” style they displayed in past movies as well.

Season 1 Episode 6: Fast & Furious 6 (2013): We discuss the embrace of absurd, over-the-top, 1980s TV, from the opening credits to the oldest soap opera trick in the book: amnesia. We describe the evolution of franchise villains and our own codes, because every man needs a code.

The part of the podcast that made me think about the movie differently was when Professor L’Pree and Professor Thompson were having the conversation about the scene where Dom is explaining the scars on Letty’s body to her. I remember watching this scene as a 13-year-old girl, almost wanting to cover my eyes as at that time I felt like it was too steamy and sexual for me to be looking at. Until hearing the conversation between Professor L’Pree and Professor Thompson, I never explicitly thought about this scene is a moment where Letty’s autobiography is being revealed to her through the story of her scars that Dom is telling her. In addition to that, I like how L’Pree pointed out that this moment for Dom and Letty was a moment of intimacy, it wasn’t erotic but actually very touching.

Season 1 Episode 7: Furious 7 (2015): We discuss the first film post Justin Lin, the last to feature Paul Walker, and the theme of shadows and ghosts. Directed by James Wan and on the other side of Tokyo Drift, Furious 7 ups the emotional stakes, but for whom?

He loved how this podcast opened his eyes to Dwayne Johnson’s character. He said that there was a scene in the movie where Johnson was lying in a hospital bed complaining about his injuries and being stuck there. Mitch said Johnson complained that there was only “bad jello and crappy television” available, and motioned to the Hulk on the television screen. The podcast discussed how ironic this was, as Dwayne Johnson is essentially the Hulk in the Fast and Furious movies. This is demonstrated when he employs a giant machine gun, or breaks out of one of his casts. Mitch really enjoyed this irony and the connections between the Hulk and Dwayne Johnson’s character, and such connections make him excited to rewatch the movie to try to find even more connections to the Hulk.

Season 1 Episode 8: F8 of the Furious (2017): We discuss the franchise from racing to revenge. We also unpack the Shaws’ redemption, Cipher, the first female villain in the series, and the comedy stylings of Rome & Hobbs. We also suggest possible spinoffs to keep the family going.

A quote that stuck out to him was, “the concept of family and the concept of parenthood is simultaneously secure and absurd”. This is the scene where Dom sneaks onto Cipher’s plane, fighting his way with a baby in headphones. Walker said that, throughout the series, there was never really the concept of the beginning of a family. The movies never really talk about the family aspect of settling down; the characters are primarily focused on protecting what they have rather than their future. While the podcast helped him recognize how absurd this situation was, he also realized that the movies tend to involve untraditional ways of saving people. In this case, it was using a baby as a shield.