Analyzing Jason Momoa’s Queer-Coded Villain Dante Reyes In “Fast X”
Having now watched Fast X and getting to see Jason Momoa play the long-running franchise’s latest villain, Dante Reyes, I’m currently unsure about how I feel about such a global IP featuring a clearly queer-coded big bad.
This article for Fast X contains spoilers. Drive with caution!
The promotional material for Fast X (or Fast and Furious 10) did hint at Dante Reyes being a bit “fruity” (for lack of a better word). So, I was looking forward to seeing if Momoa’s portrayal of such a “feminine” character was going to be used to crack jokes at the character’s expense or if Dante was indeed going to be treated as a major villain for the (as of now) final chapter of the franchise.
After viewing the film, I have to share that Momoa’s portrayal of Dante Reyes left me with complicated emotions. Having an actor like Momoa act in a “feminine” manner to make the audience laugh (to be honest, I laughed, too) was a deliberate creative choice. However, at the same time, there wasn’t a single moment where Dante wasn’t presented as an actual threat to Dom Torretto (Vin Diesel) and his ever-expanding family.
While yes, the audience sure as heck laughed at Dante whenever he appeared onscreen and did something “feminine” (and he did it numerous times!), none of the characters laughed at Dante onscreen.
In a sense, having a “feminine” Dante Reyes served as an effective counter to Dom’s “masculine” persona. In previous installments, Dom could fight a male villain in hand-to-hand combat. However, Dante was different. He wasn’t into having a fistfight with Dom. Instead, Dante was more focused on annoying and borderline flirting with Dom. A number of people have pointed out that the latest movie gave Dom his “Joker” in Dante Reyes, and I have to agree.
Dante is focused on destroying Dom and his family as revenge for Dom and his crew killing Dante’s father in Fast Five (2011). However, instead of simply having Dante be a revenge-hungry bad guy, the writers decided to make him “crazy” to have him fit the “Joker” mold against Dom. The added “feminine” eccentricities were, in my opinion, for visual flair and comedic effect.
No matter which way you put it, Dante Reyes being a queer-coded villain just can’t be ignored.
He treads a line similar to many queer-coded villains of old. Dante’s obsessed with the main male hero. However, the narrative made sure to include enough crumbs of him being “attracted” to a woman to feign plausible deniability.
Fast X had scenes that showcased Dante painting his nails (as well as the nails of two dead henchmen) while talking about Dom and his family. We had Dante suggestively move his fingers on the guns aimed at Dom. Dante shared his love for ballet, giggled quite a bit, and did a whole lot more during the course of the movie. Dante Reyes was queer-coded the house down boots! But we also had Dante wanting to apparently “get it on” with a very uninterested Isabel Neves (Daniela Melchior).
The issue surrounding Dante Reyes was further exasperated due to the franchise’s overarching narrative. The Fast and Furious series focuses a lot on the concept of having a “chosen” but “heteronormative” family and holding onto religious faith. The “heteronormativity” was presented as the “good” side via Dom and his family. In contrast, Dante Reyes’ flamboyant character was the “bad” side because he wanted to destroy Dom and his loved ones.
I do feel that Dom’s family is large enough to warrant a single queer character being added to the roster or a legacy character being confirmed as queer. The concept of chosen families is one of the cornerstones of the LGBTQ+ community. And having a queer character be part of the “good” side could have helped lessen the harmful implications of having someone like Dante Reyes as the villain. But alas.
So, while I have to deduct points for Fast X creating a blatantly queer-coded villain in freaking 2023, I also have to give the movie some points for how the other characters interacted with Dante Reyes and him being an actual threat to our heroes.
Released in the USA on May 19, 2023, as of writing this, Fast X has gone on to gross more than $300 million at the global box office against a reported budget of a whopping $340 million. With Fast X serving as the debut of the two-part finale, a sequel is planned for a 2025 release.
Have you watched Fast X yet? What did you think of Dante Reyes being a queer-coded villain?
Let us know.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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