Fandom: the Fast and the Furious
Spoilers: the film
Author’s note: Many thanks to kittygoslingp and my lovely blackmeow for making perfect blunt sense.
Show me a friendship that’s pure and chaste
And I’ll show you an engine that’s dying to race
Released in 2001, the Fast and the Furious was meant to be pure popcorn summertime fare, homage to the drag-racing B-movies of the ‘50s. The movie was slick and stylish, racing along with abandon…specifically abandoning hidebound notions of ‘plot contrivance’ and ‘believable dialogue’. Critics were left in the dust, scratching their heads and wondering how a barely-promoted movie about drag racing could gross nearly $150 million in the U.S. alone.
The reasons were manifold: Car aficionados drooled over the candy-colored machines and effects-heavy race sequences. The film was beautiful in lots of unexpected ways; even the grittier corners of East Los Angeles looked lovely, shot all sun-soaked or drenched in neon. The leading characters were all either jaw-droppingly gorgeous or deliciously charismatic and often both: even the villain was one handsome bastard. The film depicted the street racing subculture as an exciting and cool outlaw existence. But the true appeal of the film was cemented by the emotion resonating between the two leads, Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner.
“Dom’s like…he’s, he’s like gravity, you know? Everything just gets pulled to him…even you.”
-Mia Toretto, to Brian O’Conner
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is very aptly named. King of the underground L.A. street-racing scene, Dom dominates every corner of his life. When he’s not racing and winning, Dom runs a garage, a store, and leads the pack that has assembled itself around him. Vince, Dom’s oldest friend, is bull-headed, handsome and suspicious. Leon, his lieutenant, is crafty, handsome and loyal. Young Jesse, ‘the Mad Scientist’, can’t concentrate on anything but an engine. And Letty, Dom’s girlfriend, is tougher and cooler than the rest of them put together. Mia, Dom’s younger sister, rounds out the team…her quiet and gentle nature is often drowned out by the brasher personalities around her. They call themselves a team, but they are, for all intents and purposes, a family.
Sexy bitches all.
On the surface, Dom looks like he has it all. Gorgeous car, nice house, thriving business, unshakeable racing prowess. Loyal friends, a sister and a girlfriend who love him. But taking a closer look: Dom is a big fish who is getting crowded in his small pond. His team takes him for granted, his relationship with Letty is supremely dysfunctional and he’s constantly seeking bigger and better thrills to break him out of the humdrum of his everyday existence. He’s also an ex-con who’s not averse to crimes a little more serious than street racing.
We get to know Dom and his team through the eyes of an outsider, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker). In the beginning, we’re meant to think that Brian’s just a young punk trying to take on the old gunslinger…and if Brian can’t beat him, he’d love to join him. Brian hangs out on the fringe of Dom’s world until he fights and races his way into center stage. Brian loses his first race to Dom, but his bravery and grace under pressure put him firmly into Dom’s good graces.
As soon Dom accepts Brian completely, we learn that Brian’s reality is a little more complicated. Brian’s an undercover cop, infiltrating the Toretto team to uncover the truth about a series of big-rig hijackings. Brian’s supposed to be building a case against Dom, but he finds his loyalty almost instantly divided. Dom makes him part of the family, despite Vince’s unrelenting hostility and everyone else’s bemusement.
The first word Brian uses to describe Dom is ‘complicated’, the second one is ‘controlled’. The word that Dom uses to describe Brian is ‘cool’. Dom lost control once, with disastrous consequences, and he seems to keep himself on a pretty tight leash (with notable exceptions). Ironically, the film makes the ex-con the controlled and responsible one…and the cop is the dyed-in-the-wool daredevil who plays like he’s got little to lose. Brian’s daring and cool appear infinite and Dom seems fascinated by this blond-haired, blue-eyed stranger who drifts into his life like a sunlit breeze.
Brian O’Conner remains something of a cipher throughout the story. Brian’s undercover up into the last five scenes of the film so we never learn much about him…at least, not much that we can trust. We know only that he’s cool, he’s daring, he likes tuna, he drove a car for the first time with his mother on Highway 40, he’s tough, brave, beautiful and his last name is O’Conner. And, oh yeah, he loves Dom.
You doubt me? You shouldn't.
Dom and Brian appear to be two poles with magnetic attraction, freedom and responsibility, dark night and sunny day. You just can’t have one without the other. Devilchild describes their relationship thus:The dynamic between them is of an alliance, two complementary equals; hello yin, meet yang.
(For terrific insight into Brian’s dynamic, go read Devilchild’s essay): http://www.geocities.com/cerarayne/observations.htm
There’s something distinctly sexual about cars, particularly the kinds of cars showcased in this film. The ultimate symbols of freedom and individuality, the cars stand in for the characters on more than one occasion. The street race is an almost orgasmic experience, an adrenaline rush that leaves the participants trembling and panting.
“…In an expensive big-studio movie, Walker’s character can’t want to jump Diesel’s bones…so Diesel gets a beauteous sister to blur the issue…”
-David Edelstein reviewing for Slate
Several mainstream reviewers noted the ‘undercurrent of homoeroticism’ at the heart of the film. From the first moment that Brian gets an eyeful of Dom’s rear view on-screen, the movie tumbles readily into lots of longing looks and unspoken emotions. The overweening machismo of the racing world dictates that most of the emotion remains unspoken…but that doesn’t preclude dramatic romantic gestures which come fast and furious. Brian and Dom look at each other constantly and smile at each other nearly as often. Ironically, most of the most damning verbal evidence comes from the beauteous sister herself, Mia Toretto.
Mia Toretto: “You know, my brother likes you, usually he doesn’t like anybody.”
Brian O’Conner: “Yeah, he’s a complicated guy.”
Mia: “Yeah, what about you?”
Brian: “I’m simpler.”
Mia: “You’re a shitty liar.”
A little later, when Dom is asking (or rather, insisting) that Brian come work in his garage, Mia tells Brian, “He owns you now.” Wow. We’ve gone from liking to owning in two scenes. Sometimes it seems that Mia’s only role is to say slashy things about Dom and Brian. Her ostensible role as love interest is a rather sad one. She’s accustomed to playing second fiddle to her charismatic older brother…she’s led to believe that Brian will change that pattern. But by the end of the story, Brian’s nearly gotten himself killed, killed someone himself and thrown his entire career out the window. But it’s not Mia commanding that kind of devotion; it’s Dom.
The chemistry flowing between Dom and Brian is particularly marked when it’s refracted through the prism of other characters. Vince doesn’t react to Brian like a jealous best friend supplanted by a rival…he acts like a spurned lover (or an enraged pit bull). One of the most telling exchanges is one that Brian has with his fatherly sergeant, Tanner.
Sgt. Tanner: “Well, I know you’ve been lying to me. My question is this: have you been lying to yourself because you can’t see past Mia?”
Brian O’Conner: “He won’t go back to prison.” [note how suddenly and inexplicably Dom crops up]
Sgt. Tanner: “Well, that’s a choice he’s going to have to make. There’s all kinds of family, Brian. And that’s a choice you’re going to have to make.”
And when Brian’s called upon to make that choice, he doesn’t hesitate.
Brian saves Dom’s ass on three separate occasions. In return, Dom appears to open up to Brian more than he does to anyone else. In the film, Dom only expresses emotions like fear and vulnerability to Brian. He tells Brian intimate stuff, he trusts Brian beyond all instinct, ignoring the suspicion and jealousy of his best friend, blindly believing in Brian past all logic. He’s on the cusp of cutting Brian in completely. After Brian’s undercover perfidy has been exposed, Dom is furiously hurt and outraged for almost two scenes…then he reverts to explaining and justifying his actions to Brian. When the team is threatened, Brian and Dom pull together to defend it…to the death, if necessary.
Cop and con, cat and mouse, Brian and Dom start out antagonists and competitors…but by the end of the film, we witness a relationship that will defy all conventional morality to preserve itself. In Brian’s last scene, he gives an injured Dom the keys to his car. In other words, Brian gives Dom his freedom while jeopardizing his own and sacrificing his entire career without blinking or faltering for an instant. Brian administers his own brand of justice, tempered not just with mercy, but with love. In the last moments of the film after Dom has driven off to safety, Brian strides away and takes a long, defiant look at the camera…as if daring us to scorn his choice.
Yeah, no, not gay at all, right?
The fandom, fiction and resources:
Fast and Furious fiction is often just that, fast and furious. But just as often, it’s long, plotty and supremely porntastic. There’s something for everyone here (even mpreg!) but in my opinion, the fandom is at its best when it reflects the macho sweetness, subtlety and sense of adventure of the film…thus my recs will showcase fiction that fits the bill.
LJ Community: quarter_mile
kadymae’s site : http://members.cox.net/devilc/index2.html
maygra’s site: http://assignations.org/maygra/speed/
thisisbone’s site: http://www.bone.mrks.org/fastfurious/index.html
dirty_diana's site (technically 2F2F Brian/Rome…but you’ve just gotta go there): http://shockingpink.compromisingpositions.net/
gwyn_r’s fiction site:
(and OMG, vids!): http://www.gwynethr.net
(Email firstname.lastname@example.org for vidsite password, vids also available free on DVD)
C. Roxane’s ‘Caged’(and other works on AFF.net)
Visit mlyn’s journal for fiction, art updates and insight. (friend her)
Oh yeah….I wrote a few things myself. ;)
lierdumoa’s vid should be bowing soon in her LJ
mlyn has done some cool stuff
Rachelle (heart_cries), the artist who made covers for my site and many of my stories, has more lovely collages here: http://fantasy-fuel.greatnow.com/
(to be added)
There are two mailing lists on YahooGroups:
Of particular note in the archive:
Dawn’s (ixchel55) ‘Gravity’ and the Connections series vignettes.
Joe Lawson’s ‘Judas Kiss’
Keenoled’s ‘Baja, Mexico’
Of particular note in the archive:
‘What would you do?’ By CimoreneD
Kit H.’s ‘Tropical Heat’ and ‘Winter Chill’
Paula K’s ‘Autofocus’
FatJoey’s ‘Shifting Gears’
Thanks for reading!