Jason Momoa is one likable dude.
Even when he’s going through the motions of a dour super-drama like Justice League, his natural charisma shines through. His energy is just infectious.
So, when he giddily teased his upcoming role in the 10th Fast & Furious movie, it was hard for us not to get excited, too. But the more we thought about what he said about his character, the more nervous we got…
— Variety (@Variety) August 24, 2022
On the red carpet for his AppleTV+ sci-fi series, See, Momoa was asked about his villainous turn opposite Vin Diesel in 2023’s Fast X. Careful not to give away too much, the former Mr. Lisa Bonet told Variety he had the time of his life playing “the bad guy” for a change, and that his character is very, “sadistic, and… androgynous. He’s a bit of a peacock.”
He had similarly colorful descriptors for Entertainment Tonight, remarking this his character was “evil and quirky and androgynous.” Again with that word. Hmmm.
Though Momoa keeps things vague, the specific choice of words sure makes it sound like his Fast X character might be queer-coded. Which is fine—some of our favorite villains are queer!
But the thing is, well, the Fast & Furious movies aren’t necessarily known for their subtlety (unless you count the oh-so-subtle way Diesel’ Dom Toretto expresses his love of Corona beer). So, while we’re not necessarily worried about a thoughtful and capable actor like Momoa playing a—potentially—queer or queer-coded role, it does give us pause to hear the “androgyny” descriptor hit on again and again.
Is the character—which Momoa refers to as “he”—actually nonbinary? Is he a cis man that embraces his more feminine qualities? What does Momoa mean by that? Does he even know what he means?
We really don’t know much else, so we’ll give the actor the benefit of the doubt for now. But it’s hard not to be a little wary because Hollywood has ventured down this specific lane before. And it didn’t necessarily go well.
If you’ll remember, in the long awaited and much maligned sequel Zoolander 2, Benedict Cumberbatch starred as an androgynous model character named “All.” As was clear from that film’s first trailer, this wasn’t a progressive and inclusive storytelling choice so much as it was an opportunity to make jokes at the expense of trans and gender non-conforming people.
Cumberbatch’s All was introduced as neither male nor female—”All is all”—to which Owen Wilson’s Hansel responded, “Do you have a hot dog or a bun?” This supposed laugh line was immediately deemed transphobic, and got such blowback from the LGBTQ community that a petition was passed around to bar the movie from theatrical release. It had nearly 25,000 signatures.
Of course, Zoolander 2 was eventually released, and even in the movie’s full context, the treatment of All didn’t fare much better. Nylon knocked it for “perpetuating the violence and mistreatment of transgender and gender non-conforming folks.” It was also (perhaps not not unrelated) a box office let-down and a critical bomb.
y’all…. no trans characters in major studio releases in 2019, 2018, and 2017, and in 2016 the only trans representation in a major studio film was Benedict Cumberbatch’s reductive and offensive non-binary character in Zoolander 2. https://t.co/yeJObttAkn
— Palmer Haasch (@haasch_palmer) July 16, 2020
As recently as this January, Cumberbatch has expressed regret over the role, saying, “I think in this era, my role would never be performed by anybody other than a trans actor. But I remember at the time not thinking of it necessarily in that regard, and it being more about two dinosaurs, two heteronormative clichés not understanding this new diverse world. But it backfired a little bit.”
So here we are a few months later—very much still “in this era” Cumberbatch is referring to. Is Momoa really the right fit to play this so-called androgynous role? Is the Fast & Furious franchise really equipped to feature an androgynous character and not make it offensive?
That all remains to be seen. But, for now, we’ve got our eye on you, Fast X. Don’t make us furious.