There's an endless list of Things You Can Do On A Friday Night. On it, the simultaneous viewing of every Fast and Furious movie remains unexplored. This is for a very good reason: It's a very stupid idea and a physically repulsive practice. But because what I love most is doing things I hate, I sat down last Friday with three computers, two monitors, one projector, and no god to watch the entire The Fast and the Furious franchise at the same time.
I haven't watched very many movies since 2004, when I saw Hidalgo in theaters. It was such a wretched and rubbery trash-fire of a film I decided to categorically write off all movies forever (except for Rocky, which I watch once a year, always sobbing by the end of it). So I had never seen a single movie in the Fast and Furious franchise, but I have been cramming "2 Faust 2 Furious" puns into every germane conversational crevice since 2003 with focused and excruciating glee. This seemed like a good way to atone for those sins (and catch up in time for Furious 7, the latest installment, which had a trailer promising a car parachuting from an airplane, which makes me want to believe in film again).
To talk of The Fast and the Furious is to whisper a little prayer for Vin Diesel, the centerpiece around whom the series is built. The corpus of Vin Diesel news is extensive—he is a tremendous Dungeons & Dragons geek, he named his child Pauline in honor of the late Paul Walker, he has predicted an Oscar win for Furious 7. (About the D&D: Vin, you are formally invited to my standing Thursday night 5th Edition game.) But headlines do not make a man, and Wikipedia neglects questions of the soul. Thus, in preparation for the task ahead, I had to sit in a small dark room and ruminate upon the question: What the fuck is up with Vin Diesel?
Vin Diesel is a gift. Vin Diesel is the light no bushel basket can hide. We all must bellow his name into the sky until the clouds are full and heavy and descend upon us to wrap the earth with blood and sweat and mist. The body of Vin Diesel looks like the giant slab of frozen meat Rocky used as a punching bag; the soul of Vin Diesel rings like the celebratory yawp of a training montage. I could watch him wear some dorkenheimer-ass cyber-stilts and very solemnly repeat the phrase "I am Groot" hundreds of times until I, myself, began grunting the word Groot, the most evocative sound, in different voices over and over again in a windowless room in the dark.
Vin Diesel in the recording studio for 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
I am flattened and amazed and otherwise inspired by the absolute and unwavering seriousness with which Diesel approaches his bizarre residency in American pop culture. His Facebook page is a font of unflinching earnestness, a mix of the sincere sentimental detritus, tributes to Paul Walker, workout photos, a semimonthly wishing of "Happy Creative" to his followers, and the occasional hint of the full-bore egomania required of all Great Actors from time to time, even when those Great Actors are best known for frowning while pretending to drive.
And then there's the fan art. Out there among us are people who make absolutely insane Vin Diesel fan art.
Vin Diesel fan art, like Christological iconography, constructs a physical metaphor for the divine by which its viewers are able to better understand the spiritual and noncorporeal. These tributes share a broad visual language: soft focus, high contrast, heavy application of Photoshop, the luster and sinew of Vin Diesel, and a raw emotional sincerity which staples the whole tapestry together. There is a lot of these things. To wit:
From what well do these artists draw the emotional need to perform this art? There's a spiritual eroticization murmuring through all the fanart of Dieseldom. Certainly Vin Diesel's onscreen presentation—his muscles are almost always on display, each movie usually finds a way to work in a shirtless scene—implies he is being sold as a sort of hot piece of ass.
But do a lot of people actually want to fuck Vin Diesel? I can't figure this out. Do you want to fuck Vin Diesel? Do you want to go buckwild on his fat hog? Or would you perhaps just be down to fondle his incredible and golden muscles? What does it mean for a powerful man to be designated as a scrap of sex-meat in a manner that is usually reserved, vehemently, for women? Is Vin Diesel actually a sex symbol?
This question demands an answer and I need to put my pale, father-disappointing shoulder to the wheel. I have constructed a survey, which, with your assistance, will create the dataset I can use to derive a comprehensive and statistically sound conclusion. No child will need to grow up in a world in which the amount that people want to fuck Vin Diesel is unquantified.
I clung to visions of Vin Diesel's muscular and extremely nude body the Friday I watched all six Fast and Furious movies simultaneously. I found a couple tall boys of Colt 45 and an orphaned Lime-a-Rita and set some basic rules: I could only watch the same screen for a six-count at a stretch. I could not use the restroom. I could not look at my phone. I needed to be wholly consumed by the big angry men and their powerful guns and cars, and I needed to apologize to my roommate the next morning. I took about six minutes of preparatory breaths and hit play:
I became a chalice into which the mouthwater of our fast and furious Creator dribbled down as I explored an extremely specific frontier of stimulus overload. I wasn't able to process the nuances of any of the plotlines presented to me, but the narrative arcs were clear: big and intricate smashings-together of flesh and steel, widely variable in production value, and punctuated with painfully temporal soundtracks—this marked the first time I heard Limp Bizkit and Propellerheads in years. Hoping to resolve the titular question of the series, I kept a tally of every time something "fast" or "furious" happened—the "fast" sheet was filled within half an hour.
The movies feature luminaries such as the late Paul Walker and beautiful giant-man the Rock, but when viewed at such rapid speed all faces converge into an amorphous blob of flesh upon which Vin Diesel was laid. I grew instead to care about the cars, the franchise's true heroes and subjects. Lance Armstrong claimed it's not about the bike, but Lance Armstrong is a human Chernobyl—once a monument to man's potential, now a hideous poison-dome by whose mere proximity one risks severe emotional and spiritual damage. Riding a bike is about the bike. The Fast and the Furious is about cars.
The cars of franchise serve as symbols of human aspiration. In fact, the idea of the Car is the spirit that courses through every Fast and Furious movie—the suburban American dream where independent ownership of a Car is the only true path to agency and liberty. Somewhere along the way from The Fast and the Furious to Fast and Furious 6, this idea is dissected and eventually inverted. The Car goes from being something rebellious and wild with vice (not to mention a way to literally win women, which happens at least three times) to, in Furious 6, a vehicle for the middle-aged yearning for home life. The series opens with a drag race; it closes with a backyard barbecue. The Fast and the Furious is designed to perfectly fit the function of American pop megaspectacular—it reinforces the suburban American value set while pretending to flout it.
About 40 minutes into the movies, I realized that there hadn't been a second where someone wasn't driving. The sounds of Car Action had become the only constant sensory experience and in them I had become rooted. My brain had slipped the surly bonds of earth; I was kissing the swollen, skidmarked face of God.
About an hour and 20 minutes into the movies, someone on every screen reached for a phone and I leapt out of my chair. I went to take a note, but found I had chewed my pen in half on accident and my Post-Its were covered in ink.
About an hour and 47 minutes into the movies, someone on every screen turned to the camera and said, very clearly, "Tim, you are going to die." I consider this synchronization a remarkable technical achievement.
When the movies ended—four of them at once, then two more slowly over the next 30 minutes—I stood up and found my knees were shaking. I wanted to do nothing more than go outside and get into my mistreated but sincerely beloved pre–Iraq War Honda CR-V and drive around the block at 95 MPH, but instead I stood around in my kitchen for a while and wondered if I were dead.
When I slept, I was yanked into that terrifying out-of-body freak dimension shared by K-holes and nightmares and Rob Zombie music videos. I looked toward the sun but did not know what it was. I had forgotten the name of my father. I had forgotten my own name. It occurred to me that I had never existed, and that I was a car, and this knowledge shattered me. I was ecstatic and I remain ecstatic still. There is a tire that never stops screeching. There is a "check engine" light that never goes out.
I am definitely going to see Furious 7.
Please consider taking Timothy's survey about Vin Diesel so he can perform some important research. Please consider sending this survey to everyone you have ever met, and to people you hope to meet in the future. Please send this survey to Vin Diesel. Please click here and help him figure out if Vin Diesel is a sex symbol.
A warning: This survey is canon.
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