Corrigan Vaughan
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A Mixed Race Girl Watches Fast & Furious 6

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Thanks to Myc Wiatrowski’s fantastic article about the Cheerios miscegenation debacle, consumers of the Electric Feast have had a chance to become familiar with the plight of the mixed race person when it comes to looking for representation in TV and film. Basically, we don’t exist. We’re all over the place in the Target and L.L. Bean catalogues, but onscreen, not so much. We are so invisible that the mere suggestion that we exist in a TV commercial caused everybody’s racist uncle to climb out of his underground helter skelter shelter and learn how to use the YouTubes. Not great.

paulwalkerskulls

Yeah, I totally saw The Skulls 800 times for the complex storyline and stellar ensemble cast.

So imagine you are a sixteen year old mixed kid from the whitest neighborhood in the world. Everywhere you’ve lived, you’ve had one Japanese kid in your class, and that has pretty much been the extent of your experience with non-white people outside of your family. You roll up on the movie theater with your white best friend to see The Fast & the Furious because you’ve both watched The Skulls and She’s All That too many times to count and would never pass up the opportunity to see Paul Walker on the big screen.

Then what to your wondering eyes should appear, but a sea of racially ambiguous faces, just like yours. And it’s like that M&Ms commercial where Santa sees those talking candies and gasps, “They do exist!” before falling to the floor in a dead faint. And okay, now for the next decade everyone’s going to tell you that you look like Michelle Rodriguez because she has roughly the same skin tone as you, but hey, it’s worth it to finally have someone you kinda resemble other than Scary Spice and Piggy from Road Rules.

It’s been twelve years since I learned that I was not some sort of Time Lord or last unicorn, and I’ve gotta say, the novelty has not worn off — mostly because the media still has yet to entirely acknowledge our existence.

Fast & Furious 6 maintains the tradition begun with the first film in 2001. At this point, Brian O’Conner is the sole white male in the gang, and he’s not the leader. That’s Dom, played by the outspokenly mixed race Vin Diesel. The rest of the crew is a melange of women, minorities, and women minorities. I can feel my pulse speed up the first time I see them assembled together in one room and I’m this close to fist pumping the air like I’m the lost cast member of Jersey Shore.

Look at all these minorities and fully-clothed women. This is a sure flop.

Look at all these minorities and fully-clothed women. This is a sure flop.

Ludacris plays the tech nerd. Not the Asian guy. Ludacris. Tyrese plays the vain, clumsy one. Not some Sandra Bullock or Katherine Heigl type. Tyrese. Interracial relationships abound: Brian & Mia. Gisele & Han. Dom & Elena. Letty & Shaw. Dom & Letty. It’s as if being attracted to someone of a different race were like, normal or something.

The women fight just as hard, and at times way better than the men. One of the female characters ends up sacrificing her life for a man in a way normally reserved for the love-stricken male hero saving the damsel in distress — as if it were instead Rose freezing to death in the water while Jack floated to safety on ship debris. There are no damsels here. Even when requiring rescue, the females do at least 50% of the work to get themselves out of the mess. They are equal protectors of their male counterparts. In one scene, two female characters discuss a male character in a distinctly paternal(istic) way, one promising the other she’ll take care of him and keep him out of trouble while they both look on at him like a doting dad giving away his daughter to a suitable mate.

successfulblackmanLet’s be clear here: The makers of the Fast and Furious franchise know what they are doing. It’s not accidental that the women are tough, the minorities abundant, and the stereotypes messed with. Are there plenty of anonymous women wearing next to nothing in the background? Oh, for sure. And lest we forget, our daring protagonists are also technically criminals. It’s not perfect. But it’s self-aware. One of the funniest scenes in the movie comes after a white guy mistakes Tej and Hobbs for kitchen help at an expensive car auction, then goes on to explain to them that they could never afford these cars while using stereotypical hood slang to further put them in their place. Nek minnit, the same white dude is delivering those cars to them in their warehouse, and as he grovels and insists that he will gladly assist them in any way he can, the twosome take him up on the offer by forcing him to strip and give all of his clothes to Hobbs. I can feel the fist pump brewing again and I half expect Hobbs to call the groveling white guy, “Boy,” before sending him on his way. There is nothing subtle about the Jim Crow reversal here.

In the end, all the entire group wants to do is move back to the rundown Los Angeles neighborhood from which they came. They have lived the good life in exotic locations worldwide, but the barrio is their paradise. Think about that. When has living in the hood ever been aspirational? It’s supposed to stand for poverty, violence, and inherent inferiority. It’s supposed to be the place you escape. In Fast & Furious 6, it’s not the last resort. It’s Main Street U.S.A. Who wouldn’t want to live there in beautiful, urban, multiracial harmony?

Fist pump with me now.

 

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10 Responses to A Mixed Race Girl Watches Fast & Furious 6

  1. Myc June 6, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    This article wins over all of the other F&F6 articles ever.

    Reply
  2. Matt Vest June 6, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Why is seeing someone who looks like you, or acts like you, on screen so important? If race does not matter, why does it matter what people on screen look like? I mean I don’t watch superman and think, “Thank God he’s white”. I think it has been the down fall of humanity to look to TV, movies, books or media to find our self worth.

    Reply
  3. Mel June 6, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    PERFECTLY written, so well said!!!! And all so true!!! More break throughs against bullshit cliche movies!!!!! I want to be your groupie!

    Reply
  4. Corrigan Vaughan June 6, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Valid question, Matt.

    It’s easy to say that seeing someone who looks like you doesn’t matter when you’re surrounded by people who look like you. The rest of us are treated like some exotic bird. It’s not just that we need to aspire to be someone else or find our self-worth in someone else. It’s that EVERYONE contextualizes their and others’ positions in the world by their experiences with them. And people have a tendency to categorize. Would it be great if they didn’t? Sure. But that’s not the real world. So if you’re a black person who only ever sees black people portrayed as criminals who steal and kill and can’t speak proper English, it’s not just you who interprets your self-worth that way. You become aware that that’s how everyone else AROUND you interprets you. As I’ve said before, people have told me to my face that they think I get into schools because of affirmative action. Why should they think that? They’ve never seen my transcripts or read my CV. That’s just what they’ve been told about minorities in universities. So it’s huge to see mixed race faces or any non-stereotypical representation of women and minorities onscreen because we can look at those images and think, gosh, now maybe the world won’t have the same stupid expectations of me. Maybe people won’t look at me like some weird anomaly. They won’t have to ask me WHAT I am because they’ll be used to people like me. We might get to feel like NORMAL people. That’s a big deal.

    Reply
  5. Sean June 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    It speaks for miles that more articles on popular culture like the one above are needed when someone might imply in the comments that we live in a colorblind society and use Superman as his example. Come on now.

    Reply
  6. Myc Wiatrowski June 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Can I put that response on business cards and hand them out to people? Because that is an AMAZING answer to what is really a very complicated and common question.

    Reply
  7. Sean June 6, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    That will be a very large business card.

    Also yes.

    Reply
  8. Kam June 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I managed to fit it on a standard size business card. Plus our url. Plus our logo. Want a high-res pdf? :p

    Reply
  9. Matt Vest June 18, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Sean, being that the article written above is using a fictional movie about fictional people in it, Superman is the perfect fictional person to use, being that I love Superman a lot. Also, I was not implying that the world is color blind. I was saying , that I don’t care how the world sees me.

    Reply
  10. Myc Wiatrowski June 19, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Yes Kam. Yes I do!

    Reply

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