The ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise lags in LGBTQ representation


Frank Masi/Universal Pictures

Dwayne Johnson (left) and Jason Statham (right) combine forces in the newest “Fast and Furious” installment.

Lance Nelson, Social Media Editor

Diversity is a word often used by Hollywood to celebrate its stance on inclusion in film. Across genres, filmmakers are making a greater effort to showcase all walks of life and cast roles that speak to different perspectives. One franchise that has no shortage of strong, diverse characters is the “Fast and Furious” films. For those who haven’t been sucked into this world, the wildly entertaining phenomenon follows a group of close, racially and ethnically diverse friends as they face comic book-worthy villains who are trying to destroy the world. (Yes, just like “Avengers,” but with cool cars and no super powers.) At the same time, even as shifts in LGBTQ representation have made their way into other film genres, the “Fast & Furious” movies have not introduced a single LGBTQ character in their eight movies spanning eighteen years. This includes the most recent installment in the series, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.”

“We’ve seen gay and lesbian and trans characters appear in horror movies, and take on key roles in teen comedies,” says writer Brett Berk, who has written about LGBTQ inclusiveness in media for Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, Billboard, and other publications. “But the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies have resisted this kind of inclusiveness as if they’ve been vaccinated against it.”   

According to the Studio Responsibility Index, which was supplied by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), LGBTQ representation in film and television is on the rise. While this is true, the organization has also said it’s been an uphill battle. “With anti-LGBTQ policies being debated here and abroad, the stories and characters on television are more critical than ever before to build understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ people,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO, in the organization’s October 2018 report “Where We Are On TV.”

Hollywood has slowly taken steps to provide more accurate and diverse on-screen representation of queer characters. Most recently, Marvel announced actress Tessa Thompson’s character, Valkyrie, of the “Thor” series, would soon become that film multiverse’s first openly LGBTQ superhero. Yet, the “Fast & Furious” writers don’t seem too interested in moving away from their proven crowd-pleasing formula of fast cars, heterosexual relationships, and explosions. 

Perhaps the argument will be made that sexuality doesn’t need to play a role in these movies, yet it’s obvious that the “Fast & Furious” films are very comfortable exploring sexuality in their characters and relationships. It is just solely from a heterosexual perspective. And as much as it sometimes seems that the bromance between the male leads are hinting at something more, the writers aren’t pulling at that plot thread.

“If you take ‘Hobbs & Shaw,’ and reduce it to its plot beats,” says Berk. “It is essentially a gay romantic comedy revolving around the relationship between the Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham characters. But neither one of them is actually gay.” 

That isn’t to say the franchise doesn’t draw in queer audiences on an emotional level. It most certainly does. This is a community whose members have to fight for acceptance from not just society, but sometimes from their family. The concept of a chosen family, or a group of friends who form a close bond, is a foundational one to this community. The “Fast & Furious” films are, at heart, a story about a band of people rejected from society who form a chosen family. That family just happens to jump million-dollar vehicles over submarines to escape heat-seeking missiles. 

The responsibility to bridge the human experience doesn’t fall on filmmakers alone, but their capacity to do so is unrivaled.  Whether you enjoy screaming in terror, laughing with joy, or having your heart broken, connecting with a movie is a powerful experience. In a world that often seems divisive, on-screen representation can shift viewers’ outlooks. Until Hollywood fully represents the audiences it entertains, viewers will continue to feel left out of this chosen family.

“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” is now in theaters. “Fast & Furious 9” is set to release May 22, 2020. “Fast & Furious 10” is set to release April 2, 2021.