For Speed and Creed: The Fast and Furious Franchise

Edited by Maggie Laurel Boyd

Introduction to The Fast Saga

Maggie Laurel Boyd

“The streets we know best”: The Fast and The Furious’s imagined Los Angeles

Nichole Misako Nomura

Refusing Narrative Time as Grief Practice

Mackenzie Streissguth

Wheel Men: The Blue-Collar Masculinities of The Fast Saga

Joshua Gulam, Fraser Elliott and Sarah Feinstein

Macrobrews and Melodrama in the Fast and Furious Franchise

Christian Giallombardo Long

“For those ten seconds or less . . . I’m free”: Working Class Male Fantasies and Spatial Politics

David Pierson

The Fast and Furious Formula: The Role of Family in Meaningful Work

Katherine Cottle

2 Make Kin, 2 Make Memories: Care Ethics in The Fast Saga

Maggie Laurel Boyd

Pod45 Episode 9: Fast and Furious

Post45 Contemporaries Editorial Team


Long considered ludicrous, the Fast and Furious franchise (or The Fast Saga) does not concern itself with the laws of nature, the state, or narrative itself. Watching these films requires you to cede your expectations of what cars can do, how law enforcement works, and what constitutes an action movie. And viewers are clearly plenty happy to suspend their disbelief, with ten movies and counting that have generated $6.6 billion in revenue.1 Roxane Gay's review of the films welcomes their famous implausibility, finding it "refreshing to know that you must abandon all sense of logic to proceed."2 And the "Fast Mythology" (as star and producer Vin Diesel once called it) doesn't just abandon notions of gravity but also Hollywood norms like continuity (as Gay points out) and, more significantly, the centering of whiteness.3

Reviewers have often remarked on the saga's easy multiculturalism as standing out amongst its peers the majority of the stars are nonwhite and, excepting (arguably) The Fast and the Furious (2001) and Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), the films don't center the plotlines of their white heroes at the expense of their nonwhite heroes.4 In a review of the films published after Fast & Furious 6 (2013), Christopher Borelli calls The Fast Saga a "utopian vision" of everyday diversity that never addresses the thorny subject of race, choosing instead to let its white protagonist Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) become just one of the crew with no discussion. Borelli concludes that the film series "is really pointing us toward the post-racial horizon we've been hearing about. Except it's not post-racial anymore. It's post-everything, because, you and me, we're moving too fast to notice race and ethnicity now."5 The movies' clear valuation of speed lead them to be included in Tina Kendall's study of "accelerationist aesthetics" in cinema, where she determines that the pressure to always be going faster captures the experience of living in the twenty-first century and navigating the demands of global capitalism. The "illegibility and incoherence" she sees in this genre therefore reflects our contemporary moment.6 It is certainly true that the films are not all that interested in coherence just think of Tej (Ludacris), who goes from organizing street races in 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) to becoming a super-hacker and even calculating the physics of launching a car into space in F9 (2021). And yet it is also true that speed isn't always the end goal.

In the third movie, when Sean (Lucas Black) explains to Han (Sung Kang) that he wants to make it in Tokyo's drag race scene "to see if I'm better than the other guy," Han responds: "It just proves you're faster, that's all. If I were to race, it would be for something important."7 Fastest is not always best, it seems. And this is hardly the only time this idea comes up. From the very first movie, when Brian first gets himself on the crew's radar, he races for the ownership papers to his car and for respect, announcing "for some that's more important" as the camera cuts to Dom. Brian loses the race, but works his way into Dom's good graces anyway.8 Seven movies later, in The Fate of the Furious (2017), Dom races again for ownership papers but when he wins, tells his competitor, "Keep your car. Your respect is good enough for me." Later, that competitor will help Dom hide from supervillain Cipher (Charlize Theron) precisely because he does indeed respect Dom.9 What earns someone respect within the world of the films? Driving and knowing cars well is certainly a big part of it, but many of the villains can also do this. What distinguishes our heroes from their enemies is, as Brian points out about Dom in Fast & Furious (2009), their code.10 And that code, of course, hinges on "la familia." The Fast Saga's wholehearted obsession with family the chosen family that is Dom's crew in particular is no secret, but it merits further consideration. How is it constructed, and what are its implications? Many of this cluster's contributions reckon with the intriguing sense of family displayed here and its symbols; see Katherine Cottle on how the films' image of family inflects work with meaning; Christian Giallombardo Long on how Dom's crew's famous loyalty to Corona beer parallels their loyalty to each other; and my own essay on how their care for one offers an unexpected ethical model in an action film.

This investment in family may motivate many of the plots, but it is a tense relationship with law enforcement that repeatedly puts these family members in such sticky situations of course, Brian's undercover work brings him into Dom's family and initiates the whole saga in The Fast and the Furious, and his resulting fugitive status brings him back together with Roman in 2 Fast 2 Furious to clear their records. But police activity also launches movies three, four, five andsix, prompting Sean to move to Tokyo, Brian and Dom to begin hunting Letty's killers, Brian, Dom and Mia to go on the run, and then the whole crew to fly to London for Letty, respectively. Many of these premises offer a unique image of restorative justice several times, these characters pay their supposed debt to society, clear their names and avoid jail time by using their driving skills to catch "worse" villains. This embroilment between our outlaws and the supposed face of the law creates a gray area, posing questions about who qualifies as a criminal and what counts as justice.  

When Brian's boss at the FBI asks him, "Do you know the difference between a cop and a criminal? One bad judgment call," he never tells us who, exactly, has the bad judgment. Now, of course, we might be meant to assume that the police are making good judgment calls, but seldom in the world of the films is that true. Just a little later in the same film, we watch as the FBI refuses to wait for Brian's signal to capture the drug lord they are after; Brian and Dom quickly read this mystery man's clothing and behavior and deduce that they have been tricked, but the FBI blows the whole ruse by not trusting or valuing this knowledge.11 It's no surprise that Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) turns to Dom and his crew for help hunting down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans)in Fast & Furious 6, given the seeming incompetence from many in law enforcement. Brian's and Elena's (Elsa Pataky) ability to side with the family, go on the run, and then return to the force often with a promotion suggests just how razor-thin the line is between cop and criminal. Notably, though, the life of someone on the "wrong" side of the law is clearly one of precarity. When Dom is sentenced to prison, the judge intones that "one right does not make up for a lifetime's worth of wrongs."12 One bad call apparently can destroy a lifetime of good calls, but the reverse is not true. As they remake their lives while on the fugitive list, members of the family make clear that they would rather be home than any amount of money or power acquired on the run. They don't actually seem to care that much for either.

At the end of Fast Five (2011), as the team pulls the drug lord Reyes's (Joaquim de Almeida) safe from the police station in which it has been housed, we watch them literally dismantle the institutions of police and capital, swinging this massive metal box through squad cars and banks. Of course, Reyes's safe was in the police station in the first place because the police were in his pocket, suggesting they are hardly upstanding citizens. And when Dom and Brian drive a billionaire's tricked-out car through the poshest towers in Abu Dubai during Furious 7 (2015), they similarly and in quick succession violate numerous elite spaces. But this is not to suggest that they are operating with only the noblest intentions. When hacker Ramsay (Nathalie Emmanuel) asks the crew if they "work for the U.S. government" Letty just laughs, while Dom adds "we got similar interests." It's an effective summation of exactly how closely aligned they are with power - and how far from it. For more on how The Fast Saga's characters' literal mobility translates to their class mobility, see David Pierson on how their use of space endows them with power and see Nichole Misako Nomura on the price paid for that use of space. Meanwhile, Joshua Gulam, Fraser Elliott and Sarah Feinstein investigate how these characters play with class and even gender demarcations.

There are frankly no thresholds The Fast Saga can't cross, no frontiers that cars and racers alike can't navigate having extensively traversed the earth, they make quick work of space, too. While the gang certainly takes the road less traveled say, soaring over the ocean onto a boat (2 Fast 2 Furious), crashing through several skyscrapers (Furious 7), skydiving onto a road (Furious 7, again) there is always a road to travel, always a way of carving out a path. First with Letty's reappearance at the end of Fast Five, then more clearly with Han's in F9, even death is not an irreversible threshold: see Mackenzie Streissguth on how such examples reveal the ease with which the films disrupt narrative norms.

By the later movies, the films even draw attention to their own narrative structures. In F9, Cipher tells Otto, the rich heir behind the latest world-destroying plan, that "if this was a movie, this would be the moment where the villain has an unexpected setback, overcompensates without thinking it through and gets crushed by the good guys." This trajectory has indeed been a pattern in The Fast Saga, as well as other films in the action genre. When Otto insists that "for the record, we're the good guys," Cipher ruminatively asks if he's "sure about that." Cipher helps Otto avoid a setback in that particular moment, but in the end, the plan does get crushed by the good guys or, at least, by The Fast Saga's protagonists. But are they always the good guys themselves? The movies aren't so clear on that. Earlier in F9, Dom's father's friend had asked, "What is it with you Torettos, where you're all the heroes in your own stories?" and asserts instead that "you, your dad, me, we're all stuck going round and round in the same shitty circle. And we ain't ever getting out."13 The stories of the Fast and Furious franchise are certainly those of the Toretto Family, and all that entails. And while they might be returning to the same narrative tropes again and again, and driving around the same roads again and again, there is comfort in that return think of them reconvening for a barbeque at 1327 once more, or the audience members settling into their seats come 2023 for Fast X, the apparent finale, for one more ride.

As F9 ends, Dom gives his biological brother Jakob his car keys to help him evade capture, as Brian did for him at the end of The Fast and the Furious. Dom tells Jakob, "Someone once gave me a ten-second car as a second chance. I owe you that, little brother."14 In a film series intent on exploring what we owe to each other and on extending chances to those who follow the code, we have returned to the beginning, then just in time for the end.

Maggie Laurel Boyd (@mlboyd23) is a 5th year PhD Candidate and Graduate Teaching Fellow at Boston University. She also works as a Writing Fellow at BU's Educational Resource Center and in BU's Fellowships Office. She is currently writing a dissertation on contemporary U.S. and Irish narratives of healing, using a blend of trauma theory, gender theory and queer theory. Her research explores the ways in which texts represent and re-imagine healing amid and against an increasing tendency to pathologize experience. She has been a devoted fan of the Fast and Furious franchise ever since her brother Brendan Boyd - a Fast and Furious aficionado - first sparked her interest in the films.


  1. See "Fast & Furious: Box Office Performance," Wikipedia, last modified November 7, 2022. []
  2. Roxane Gay, "Not-So-Guilty Pleasures: The Fast and the Furious," The Toast, July 10, 2013. []
  3. Vin Diesel, "Blessed to have a career of so many iconic characters... however, with the Fast mythology, every frame is a little more sacred. Always..." Facebook, March 4, 2019.  []
  4. Gay discusses this multiculturalism in the above film review. Zeba Blay similarly reflects on the ensemble cast and their "fully-realized characters of all races" in "15 Years Ago, 'The Fast And The Furious' Proved 'Diversity' Works," The Huffington Post, June 2, 2016. Pamela McClintock notes that this ethnic diversity matches that of its audience in "'Furious 7': Audience 75 Percent Non-White: Inside the Diversity Stats," The Hollywood Reporter, April 5, 2015.[]
  5. Christopher Borelli, "'Fast and Furious’ series depicts post-racial America, plus fast cars," Chicago Tribune, April 26, 2013. []
  6. Tina Kendall, "Staying on, or Getting off (the Bus): Approaching Speed in Cinema and Media Studies," Cinema Journal 55, no. 2 (Winter 2016), pp. 113-15.[]
  7. Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, directed by Justin Lin (Universal Pictures, 2006).[]
  8. The Fast and the Furious, directed by Rob Cohen (Universal Pictures, 2001).[]
  9. The Fate of the Furious (F8), directed by F. Gary Gray (Universal Pictures, 2017).[]
  10. Brian tells Mia: "One thing I learned from Dom is that nothing really matters unless you've got a code." See Fast & Furious, directed by Justin Lin (Universal Pictures, 2009).[]
  11. Fast & Furious.[]
  12. Fast & Furious.[]
  13. F9: The Fast Saga, directed by Justin Lin (Universal Pictures, 2021).[]
  14. F9: The Fast Saga.[]

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