This article contains minor spoilers for Fast X in how characters express masculinity in their arcs.
There are aspects of the Fast & Furious franchise that are quintessential: family, cars, explosions, and fights. More often than not, those fights feature men jacked to the gills displaying superhuman displays of strength. While it makes for great action set pieces in the movies, it leaves much to be desired in the emotion department. There are only so many ways that the word family can be used to convey feelings, and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) can only flex out of so many casts to show his dedication. However, Fast X goes beyond its own portrayal of masculinity, offering a refreshing and nuanced portrayal of manhood, not just the furrowed brow stoicism you expect in action films.
Fast X without a doubt checks all the boxes for a great installment in the franchise. But what way may go underappreciated among all of the insane action set-pieces is its attempt to display a great range of masculinities in a healthy way. Through multiple characters, the film presents a diverse cast of male characters, each displaying their unique expressions of strength, vulnerability, and emotional depth. This can be seen with Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), Jakob Toretto (John Cena), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej’s (Ludacris) relationship, and even the film’s villain Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa).
The Fast & Furious franchise begins and ends with Dom. For over 20 years, he has embodied the archetype of the gruff, noble, strong man of little words. Dom’s unwavering loyalty to his family and unyielding moral code is a testament to his masculinity and provides a sense of stability and strength throughout the franchise. This is taken a step further in Fast X where Dom continues his character exploration as a father with Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry). He showcases a softer side as he interacts with his son, balancing toughness with tenderness, demonstrating that true strength can coexist with nurturing and emotional connection.
While the message of faith is a bit ham-fisted in their interactions, there is no question that Dom is trying to be the best father he can be, imparting wisdom and a sense of security as his father did before him. Further, in Fast X Dom has to come to terms with his own fears as a father despite being perceived as the unweaving symbol of strength for the family. While he shares a little about fear with his son, he shares them more fully in an intimate moment with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), showing that even the unshakable Dominic Toretto doesn’t shy away from sharing his feelings with those who will listen instead of bottling them away.
Jakob Toretto presents a different facet of masculinity. In F9, Jakob comes across as very one note: a muscle-bound super spy living in the shadow of his older brother Dom as the stoic and intense archetype. However, Fast X surprises audiences by showcasing Jakob’s ability to be silly and playful with Little Brian. Cena’s portrayal of Jakob harkens much closer to his WWE persona and it works in the film’s favor. This unexpected display of vulnerability challenges the notion that masculinity must always be serious and unyielding. Additionally, Jakob isn’t afraid to talk about his own fears and inadequacies with his nephew. Jakob’s ability to let his guard down and engage in light-hearted moments emphasizes the importance of embracing joy and connection, even in the face of adversity and no matter how big your muscles are.
Fast X also further delves into the realm of male friendship with the characters of Roman and Tej. Their budding bromance has been on full display since 2 Fast 2 Furious as the duo trade barbs back and forth but maintain that traditional bro love. Even in Fast X, their playful banter exists and even leads to an actual fistfight between the two when tension boils over. However, the two eventually have a heart-to-heart moment where they reflect on their journies and support each other in their lowest moment of the film. It’s one of the few times in the franchise where the two men talk to each other as two humans going through a traumatic experience and not just the next measuring contest of wit, jokes, or muscle.
At that moment, they aren’t afraid to say “I love you,” challenging societal norms that discourage men from expressing emotions openly. This portrayal breaks down barriers, normalizing emotional vulnerability between male friends and promoting a healthier understanding of masculinity. With all the comedic relief their dynamic provides, it was a pleasant surprise.
Finally, there’s Dante Reyes. In his portrayal of Dante, Jason Momoa challenges traditional perceptions of masculinity in his own unique way. While menacing and driven by revenge, Dante’s flamboyant wardrobe, painted nails, and endearingly immature sense of humor add layers to his character. By juxtaposing his villainous nature with elements traditionally associated with femininity, the film breaks down stereotypes and offers a complex representation of masculinity.
On the surface, Momoa’s portrayal is reminiscent of other effeminate villains like Jafar, Scar, and Jareth. However, what sets Dante apart is that he unapologetically embraces his flamboyance as a form of masculinity itself in the face of a traditionally masculine franchise. As the film progresses, it becomes evident that Dante possesses other masculinized traits; he is physically formidable, a womanizer, strategic, and not characterized by pettiness or hypersensitivity. His choice of muscle cars in feminine colors, his skull-adorned gaudy rings, chest hair-displaying shirts, and even his playful pigtails all contribute to his distinct representation of masculinity setting him apart from the effeminate villains that preceded him.
Dante even goes as far as to challenge toxic masculinity tropes and behavior throughout the film in a way fitting of a character who is clearly a villain but comfortable in his own skin. Dante engages in a significant conversation discussing the need to challenge society’s rigid perceptions of masculinity while he paints the toenails of men he has killed. It’s this type of awareness that makes Dante downright scary as a villain while his multifaceted persona proves that masculinity is not confined to a narrow definition and can encompass a wide spectrum of personalities and styles.
Healthy masculinity still has a way to go when it comes to representation in media. Even Fast X which takes many strides, still suffers from its fair share of toxic masculinity. Dom should certainly extend his vulnerability passed just conversations with Letty and share his feelings of fear and doubt with his son. Tej and Roman should be able to acknowledge their comradery demeaning jokes and physical altercations proceeding the hugs and “I love you’s”. Dante should have certainly gone to therapy instead of planning a 10-year revenge plot that wreaked havoc all over the world. However, the future is bright for the franchise. From where the men in the franchise are now versus where they are no over twenty years later, is almost night and day.
Fast X presents a tapestry of masculinity, highlighting that strength can be multifaceted and that vulnerability and emotional connection are not weaknesses. The film challenges traditional stereotypes and promotes a more inclusive understanding of what it means to be a man. By portraying Dom as a gruff yet tender father, Jakob as a soldier unafraid to be silly, Roman and Tej as friends who express love openly despite their jokes, and Dante as a villain who defies expectations, Fast X encourages audiences to embrace diverse expressions of masculinity and celebrate the strength found in individuality. Despite all its ridiculous stunts, cheesy humor, and thin plot, the film fosters a more inclusive and relatable portrayal of masculinity, contributing to a broader conversation about gender norms in popular culture.
Fast X and its masculinity is playing now in theaters.
I am just a guy who spends way to much time playing videos games, enjoys popcorn movies more than he should, owns too much nerdy memorabilia and has lots of opinions about all things pop culture. People often underestimate the effects a movie, an actor, or even a video game can have on someone. I wouldn’t be where I am today without pop culture.