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The Fast and the Furious Saga Is the Best Soap Opera

The increasingly ridiculous movies have more in common with soap operas than you'd think.

by Emily Baron Cadloff
May 2 2017, 6:34pm

Regardless of your opinions on quality, the Fast and the Furious movies are infinitely watchable. While the recent installments in the franchise have been celebrated for their bombastic (and seriously awesome) crash fests, even the most glowing reviews reference paper-thin plot lines and wooden dialogue.

But the cast and crew embrace these films wholeheartedly—no one more so than Vin Diesel. He celebrates Toretto Tuesday on Instagram, posting inspirational stills from the films; he's said that he believes Furious 7 should have been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. When he brought The Rock into the franchise in Fast Five, he called it a great moment for all of cinema.

I can't get enough of it.

The Fast and the Furious movies resemble an intricate soap opera‚ albeit one written, produced, and directed entirely by men. Women in the series fall into one of two camps: the faceless (but not assless—Slashfilm counted 137 gratuitous shots of women across the first seven movies) women who gyrate at parties or street races, and the cool chicks who keep up with the dudes in their own 'suped up rides. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) drives and fixes her own car, and races to win; Mia (Jordana Brewster) falls for Brian (Paul Walker) against Dom's (Diesel) wishes, and they start a family. Gisele (Gal Gadot) kicks ass while Han (Sung Kang) watches in awe.

These women are integral to the heists from the start—but there's still a noticeable gender imbalance in the franchise. Regardless, audiences for the movies are diverse, with both female and male fans clamoring to theaters. Why? Because the movies borrow tried-and-true techniques from daytime soaps. As with any long-running franchise, the Fast and the Furious movies have continually raised the stakes to keep viewers interested, which means the story's twisted and turned and looped in on itself with increasing absurdity.

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

Brian working as an undercover FBI agent to infiltrate the smuggling gang led by Diesel's Dominic Toretto is reminiscent of the Bo Brady storyline on Days of Our Lives; the chronology of the series is out of order (2006's Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift actually takes place after 2013's Fast & Furious 6), similar to the flashbacks and timeline changes in Passions. When Letty is presumed dead in the fourth movie, Fast & Furious, it's revealed two movies later that she just had amnesia and was working against the crew—reminiscent of Ryan Lavery suffering from amnesia, and losing four years of his life on All My Children. Diesel even made a 20-minute short film detailing Dom and Letty's wedding, ostensibly to tie up plot lines and connect the timelines. The short film plays out like Luke and Laura's legendary wedding on General Hospital. The only sudsy twist the franchise is missing is if we discovered Roman (Tyrese Gibson) has an evil twin.

But the biggest debt the Fast and the Furious movies owe to soap operas is the shifting alliances of its characters. Over the eight films, there have been a rotating cast of good-looking people in tank tops—but how they relate to each other and the audience changes to suit whatever plot points are introduced. In the first movie, you could make the argument that Dom and his crew were actually the villains, and Brian the hero; by Fast & Furious, Brian was turning his back on the FBI to break Dom out of jail. When Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) was first introduced as a special agent, he was working to bring the misfit crew to justice; now, he's an old buddy hiring Dom and the gang to help foil international terrorist plots. In Furious 7, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) was out to kill the gang, seeking revenge on behalf of his brother; by the end of The Fate of the Furious, Shaw is acting as de-facto babysitter for Dom's son.

Not only do the characters' motivations change, but they seem nearly and physically unbreakable, with an unending arsenal of skills at the ready to help them out of any jam they get caught in. At this point, they're basically superheroes, crashing cars at hundreds of miles an hour, diving out of moving vehicles, getting into brutal fist fights, and stepping away from the action with little more than a scrape. They've become world-class computer hackers, martial arts experts, organic chemists, and military tacticians—this in addition to being able to drive cars really fast.

At the end of each movie, the gang gathers around for a family barbecue, reaffirming that what's really at the core of the films are their relationships with each other. There's a reason soap operas are able to maintain loyal viewers over decades: Many center around a large family, or a group of friends in a small town, with interweaving lives and intricate backstories. It's precisely because the storylines are so outrageous that audiences remain rabidly engaged.

So bring on the next two films: I want to see more cars jumping through skyscraper windows. I want to see Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) being passed through the passenger side windows of cars in a free spin. I want to see Hobbs and Shaw (Jason Statham) fight their way out of a concrete prison, inflicting maximum damage on all the extras while escaping unscathed themselves.

Indeed, these films are ludicrous in the best way. The Fast and the Furious movies are a serialized story, following the same group of people through the years as they encounter incredible problems. While Diesel has said that The Fate of the Furious is the first of a trilogy, designed to wrap up the series with the tenth movie, I would be delighted if he kept making these movies until he died. I want to see Fast 26, where Dom and Hobbs race their wheelchair scooters around their gated retirement complex in Miami, while Letty sits on a lawn chair, wearing a tasteful tank top and drinking a Corona. I hope they never stop making these movies.

Follow Emily Baron Cadloff on Twitter.

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vin diesel
soap operas
The Fast and the Furious
fate of the furious