“Besides, we are men, and after all, it is our business to risk our lives.”
—Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers

I can’t believe I’ve seen the whole thing! No, honestly, I can’t believe I’ve seen all the Fast and the Furious movies. (I’ve also seen all the Underworld movies, but that’s an accident for another day.)

I’d managed to catch this road-race-turned-heist-serial at home over the years, except Tokyo Drift, which I saw on a plane because it was the only film on the plane. (Never has a movie so loud lulled so many to sleep.)

The others, though less grindingly dull, are not paragons of excellence (unless one counts Excellence in Sound, or Excellence in Number of Vehicles, or Excellence in Palming Your Gearshift Like You Don’t Know What That’s Even a Euphemism For, You Just Belong to the Road, Okay?), and yet they keep appearing, because public demand is high enough with every installment that someone looks over a script that includes “He jumps from his vehicle at 100 miles an hour, leaps over the enormously tall bridge, and catches the other person in midair” and stamps it IT IS ON. (I’m assuming these movies come out of a dudebro production office; you have to step over a putting green and deliver pitches to a guy sitting behind four computer monitors under a sign that reads GO HARDER.)

I’ve been to a lot of movies where interesting audience reactions happened, but unless it’s Legion or Splice and your entire audience tunes out twenty minutes in, there is at least a modicum of general concentration at play when the movie’s rolling. Not so! Fast and Furious 6 felt like a night at home with a bunch of strangers in front of someone’s TV. A group of young men took selfies of themselves drinking peach Schnapps, and half a dozen other people took phone calls that turned at points into narration. (“Hang on, hang on….yeeeaaaah, that’s what you get! Yeah, he just smoked some guy. Okay, so anyway -“)

It’s a testament to how comfortable the formula is by now, with all the characters in place and departed ones lurking in the shadows – someone’s going to bite the big one in every installment, and someone’s going to have ulterior motives, but danger being the business of a man (or a sufficiently coded woman) and Honor being his code, means that if you’re masculine enough, you can jump from a high-speed car across a bridge hundreds of feet high, catch a person in midair, and maneuver your combined angles to make sure you land safely without so much as an “oof.” Just like in the Three Musketeers!

I mean, there were probably fewer tank chases in the days of Dumas, but the markers of true manliness as an almost supernatural ability are the same whether you’re behind the wheel or wielding a blade, and the various permutations of the franchises have more in common than you’d think at first glance. Even in the small things, there are some interesting parallels – Vin Diesel, called from retirement because of a lost love, is bearing a literal cross, which is about three Aramis ticks in Musketeer Bingo all by itself.

I wrote it up into an essay that almost had my longest title yet (foiled again). In my heart this essay will always be titled its full name, “Besides, We Are Men, and After All it is Our Business to Risk Our Lives: Superhuman Masculinity and the Musketeer Mythos in The Fast and the Furious,” because why not. And you can read it now at Strange Horizons!