Ride or die. The social media phenomena that has provided the vehicle to drive the world together to the cinema to pay tribute to a brotherhood, to family, to Paul.
Furious 7 has become a global phenomenon beyond the Box Office. Connecting the audience, their followers, the #FastFamily, crossing all sectors of society on a global scale. For example Vin Diesel who plays Dom Torretto, has a mass following of over 90 million people alone. In the last two years Vin and other cast members have taken the fans on a ride revealing how ‘good a brother’ Paul Walker was to all of them. How missed he is, how loved he is, and how great a person he truly was.
In the age of instant information, social media has taken artist and audience to another level. Traditional artists becoming like vine, Snapchat, Youtube famous. Just “man” and phone.
But there is no doubt, whatsoever that the loss of Paul Walker, who tragically passed away in a car crash during Thanksgiving 2013 while attending his charity anniversary Reach Out Worldwide ROWW, was a significant part of catapulting Furious 7 into the history books.
The truth is though, it is more than that. Paul was real. It was the use of these media platforms that allowed his fans, friends and family to ‘ride along on the journey together, to Furious 7.
For those of us who grew up watching Paul on television as a child, will remember him and his sister Ashley on a siblings quiz show. Paul was asked by the host ‘who looked better on stage him (Paul) or Ashley? He hesitated to answer and looked at his sister, and you can see he was weighing up his answer to ensure that he was not going to hurt her feelings. He eventually answered the question with childhood laughter by saying ‘he did’. That thoughtfulness displayed on screen is an attribute that has become so rare in this celebrity worshiping age.
Before Paul passed away, he completed two films which were quietly released between 2013 and 2014 Brick Mansions and Hours. These films especially Hours showed how much depth of an actor he was drawing on his own ‘fatherhood’. And Brick Mansions showed more of his martial arts passion. Although the masses didn’t know him personally, he allowed glimpses of himself whenever he was onscreen. The comedic laid back relaxed happy go lucky side is evident in interviews and behind the scene footage, as we’ve seen in the latest clip referred to as Diesel Time. His passions revealed show his was a diverse deep thinking person forever upskilling himself like his expression to upskill and become a paramedic.
The Walker family’s love for their son and brother is powerfully evident in their blessing of the movie to be completed. As expressed by the cast, having the brothers part of the movie was like having him there. Vin described the film as one the hardest he has ever had to do. Cody Walker, Paul’s younger brother said that he believed his brother would be proud. Cody and Caleb stepped in to assist with completing the film. New Zealand’s Weta Digital used their technology to create a digital Paul by using his brothers. Cody has also taken up the humanitarian legacy that Paul left behind by becoming part of the ROWW family.
The knowledge of knowing that a sincere, good person lost their life so tragically is heartbreaking. The advancement in technology instantly brought the images and reports to the world as the event unfolded. Walker’s family, friends, and fans witnessed the tragedy through the use of CCTV coverage, social media, Youtube video captures and media reports at the same time. The image of Vin Diesel and Tyrese Gibson attending the crash site brought a human element between “actor” and “fan”. The invisible bond broke through the Fast and Furious domain and crossed over the global divide instantly.
Paul Walkers untimely death did something, his real life friends, brothers became accessible to the world on another level utilizing social media to lament the passing of their brother. As they mourned, their fans mourned right there with them not in the thousands but in the millions. The cast in particular Vin and Tyrese Gibson who plays ‘funny man’ Roman drew the fans in and shared their lives. Before the release of the film, Tyrese used social media to ask whether someone was able to drive him as he had missed his flight. He filmed the journey, but what was unreal was that the person who drove him wasn’t part of the Hollywood hype.
These are real artists, who have tapped into the “youth phenomenon” of digital media not for marketing purposes and removed the makeup, the stylists, the script and the entourage and became just man, thought and phone.
The release of Furious 7 was also at a time where many western countries were celebrating Easter, a time of reflection and where many millions of people contemplate God and the afterlife. The dual release of the movie and the music tribute by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth ‘See you again’ was timely. It was an opportunity for everyone involved to celebrate the life of Paul but also for the world who “virtually walked beside” Tyrese, Vin, Jordana, Michelle, Ludacris and Dwayne an opportunity to say goodbye and to also celebrate the success of Walkers last film.
The global respect these cast members have been given is shown not just monetary with the success of the movie but personally. An example is when Vin became emotional during the beginning of their promotion for the movie, and someone in the audience called out “you’ve got family here Vin.”
The #Furiousfamily have grown with the franchise for 14 years and longer when you look at when these actors first started gracing our screens. You cannot help but feel compassion for them, their commitment and perseverance amongst great sadness and celebrate for them in all their successes. But this level of respect has come at a price, at the depth of their love for their brother whom they lost, they opened up and laid bare at such a vulnerable time, that the world has responded and said ‘we love you too, we will ride with you together.’ No strings, no commitments just people riding together, beside each other, willing to pick up these celebrities these artists for no reason except love. A form of love brought together through human compassion.
Although I have written a lot about the impact of Paul’s death and what it may have had on the movie, let it not take away from the fact that the movie is a great movie, worthy of the global phenomenon that it has become. The Fast and Furious family deserve every success.
The Furious 7 tribute provided something that I think the fans did not expect, another memory another opportunity to quietly say goodbye. A memory that softly overpowers the CCTV footage and mobile phone coverage broadcasted across Youtube. The opening lines to the tribute truly heartfelt captures the essence of the last two years ‘It’s been a long day without you my friend, and I will tell you all about it when I see you again.’
“No matter where you are, whether you’re a quarter mile away, or half way around the world … you’ll always be with me. You’ll always be my brother.” – Dominic Toretto
Today Vin tweeted that Furious 8 will be released April 14, 2017. As Vin said earlier in the week Furious 7 is #forPaul Furious 8 will be #fromPaul. Ride or Die.
Written by Aroha de Silva
Variety twitter and website
Vin Diesel Facebook, instagram, twitter (official account & fan accounts)
Tyrese Gibson Facebook, instagram and twitter
Michelle Rodrigez Facebook
Dawyne Johnson Facebook, instagram and twitter
Youtube – cctv footage of Paul Walker fatal car crash, peoples accounts with phone footage of the crash site during the accident.
Youtube news footage
Youtube interviews of Furious 7, Fast and the Furious 1,2,3,4,5,6. Interviews with Vin Diesel, Dawyne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodrigez and James.
Reach Out Worldwide Facebook, instagram and twitter
Paul Walker (Paul Walker Team) Facebook
Paul Walker Fan facebook pages
Fast 7 facebook pages
Fast and the Furious Fans facebook pages
Youtube: The Today Show extended interview with the Furious 7 cast
Youtube: Interview with Paul Walker Fast and the Furious 6
Youtube: Paul Walker archived footage (quiz show)
Wordpress Fan Blogs
Unscripted Vin and Paul Walker
Nobel Awards 2015
Interview with George Lopez
Interviews on Entertainment Tonight
youtube Vin Diesel appearance at the LA screening of Furious 7
Hip Hop Hollywood Reports
Interview with Davidoff – marine biology his first passion & ROWW