As a film lover who tries to see every movie with an unbiased eye, I was never drawn to the Fast & Furious franchise. Why? Because it’s a movie almost solely made for men. Beefed up – albeit very good looking – men star and spend the films in equally good looking cars with around 20 action scenes each (okay, slight exaggeration). The tired, tried-and-tested franchise is a hugely successful one – so much so, there’ll be ten films about what is basically men in cars made altogether – with one redeeming quality: Michelle Rodriguez. Appearing in five of the eight films, Rodriguez plays a kick-ass, no bulls**t-taking racer but took to social media to say that unless the film’s ratio of women to men improves (and then some), she’ll consider bowing out of the future movies.
It’s almost a case of Smurfette Syndrome – she’s one of few actresses to have appeared in the series and even then the calibre of her character (as well as her screen time) was always less than that of her male co-stars. She did have a part in the most recent film The Fate of the Furious or Fast and Furious 8 and while that movie introduced two new female characters, played by Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren, Rodriguez and her fellow actresses still had limited screen time; the film had a greater focus on male actors such as Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. It isn’t just about a numbers game when it comes to women in film, we want to see that women are represented more than just the arm candy there to appease the boys – and Rodriguez does too.
Revealing that Letty’s storyline on The Fast and the Furious was initially nothing more than a stereotypical love triangle, Rodriguez had previously said she was on set when she realised how two-dimensional her character was – and fought to change this.
“[The audience] definitely wouldn’t have related to what was on paper for the first one,” she said. “It’s not until now, post-Angelina Jolie doing her thing as a woman who can actually bring box office, that you can make money with a woman who’s respectable and kicking ass in a movie. It changes the game for writers. Before there was no incentive for them to take the girl out of being captured or being the girlfriend. That tone was something that was set in the first one by me fighting [director] Rob Cohen, to punch somebody and knock him out.”
And in an interview with Entertainment Weekly she said that she had hoped that as the series progressed it would evolve out of the “90s macho vibe” so synonymous with the series but the film’s growing popularity in developing markets like China, where “the grand majority of the population are boys”, meant that never happened.
“At the end of the day, what message are we sending out there for women?” Rodriguez said. “It does weigh heavy on [me], especially in the male-dominated environment that I work in,” she said.
“I’d love to see four girls who actually get along in a movie that’s not about chasing some guy or marrying somebody. Like, where the f*** is our Pulp Fiction? Where is our Reservoir Dogs? Where’s that cool s*** with the chicks kicking ass, having some fun?”