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Vin Diesel: The Off-Screen Hero Who Wants You To Look Beyond His Physique

When most people hear the name Vin Diesel, they think of rippling muscles, fiery explosions, heroic deeds and dude-bro manliness of the highest order. Nothing more, nothing less, am I right?

The thing is though, most people haven’t given all that much deep thought to Vin Diesel or the characters he plays. Why would they? Brawn is brawn, after all.

But if still being alive in 2020 has taught us any enduring collective lessons, it’s that overall, when it comes to our heroes, both on and off-screen, we need a little (or a lot) more. Personal power, emotional intelligence, sensitivity and depth are increasingly the deciding factors in a hero’s likability. 

Back to Vin Diesel. While his larger-than-life hyper-masculine persona might, on the surface of things, be part of the good ol’ status quo toxic masculinity problem, that’s far from the actor’s intention, and a lot of his work, if given a second thought, is evidence to the contrary.

Vin Diesel on being a hero on and off camera

In case you never heard, Vin has shown himself to be a real-life action hero, much like the vast majority of characters he has portrayed. As the story goes, back in 2001, while Diesel was riding the Hollywood Freeway on his motorbike he witnessed a fiery, flaming mess of a car crash—in real time.

Maybe it’s all the times he had to think quick on his feet in the movies, or maybe it’s just who he is, but regardless of the why, Diesel proceeded to ditch his bike, pull the two kids out and then managed to guide the driver on how to crawl out before the car was engulfed in flames minutes later.

True story. Imagine being rescued by a real-life Vin Diesel? Holy. But while Diesel seems very capable of channeling his characters’ toughness when needed, we like him ‘cause deep down he’s a bonafide softie. You heard it here first.

Challenging the usual ‘hero’ narrative

Much as sexy actresses are objectified and not taken as seriously as their work may warrant, Vin too, has been largely reduced to his buff appearance—most people focus on his body and stop there.

But, alas, he endeavors to spread good vibes and manly love, thereby challenging status quo toxic masculinity’s characteristic inability to love.

“The best version of myself has always been just a pure message of love,” he tells Flaunt.

I really, really, really, really, really, really believe that. At my core. Maybe because I was a bouncer in New York City, I don’t have to front to be tough. And because of that, I have more freedom to be—loving? If that makes any sense?

Vin Diesel to Flaunt

Yes, Vin may have always been a strong man–a bouncer is tough by definition–but that has also been reinforced by his onscreen roles. And that has shaped our perception of the man. But he wants us to know it’s not entirely true.

The Bloodshot emotional challenge

Diesel’s most recent action thriller, Bloodshot, happens to be among the films most impacted by the Covid-19 induced closure of cinemas worldwide, since it was released just days before mass lockdown measures were implemented back in March.

The film’s protagonist is a tech-enhanced former soldier who is manipulated into becoming a corporate assassin. An homage to Valiant Comics, known for developing superheroes who were flawed, and therefore more relatable, the idea with Bloodshot was “to create a different spin on the superhero narrative.”

As Vin elaborates, “we really wanted to attack these themes like post-traumatic stress disorder and we wanted to imagine how that plays with our concept of a superhero.”

In other words, in spite of the muscle and flash, Bloodshot’s hero is ruled by his emotions. “And that’s kind of what’s so tender about the movie,” he says.

“You actually feel sorry for this character. The empathy that the character evokes while simultaneously having superhero-like powers creates a very interesting dynamic. To play a character who both evokes empathy and evokes fear simultaneously was very challenging.”

But Vin’s perspective indicates a greater understanding of human nature, and our needs and wants. He doesn’t want to play one-dimensional male heroes anymore–and with good reason.

Even just being flawed isn’t enough. Now we’re wanting to understand, really to get their motives.

Vin Diesel to Flaunt

The Fast and Furious and soft fatherhood

Diesel is of course, to this day, most well-known for playing the role of Dom Toretto in the Fast & Furious movie saga, dating back to 2001. But what many don’t know is that he’s been making efforts to create a more emotionally mature, complex action hero since the first.

A new installment of the highly successful franchise is set to come out in May 2021. When reflecting on his character, a persona he has inhabited for almost two decades, Vin recognizes the difference between the two.

Dom Toretto in his initial films didn’t have the liberty to be as quote-unquote ‘lead with love’ that I do. There are times when I speak my truth, when I try to encourage the world to be just love.

Vin Diesel

Clearly, it’s a fine balance. Takeaway: it seems that to both sell films and spread love, one must examine the methods of Diesel more closely.

In real life, Diesel is a father, much like Toretto. “In many ways,” he says, “what the world needs is a reconciliation with the father archetype. And hopefully, Fast 9 does something to serve that reconciliation with our world’s relationship with, and understanding of, the father archetype.”

Late fatherhood changed him

Becoming a father came at a later time in his life. Much like his female counterparts, working in the industry meant that he has had to delay that stage in his life. Indeed, Vin only became a father in his forties. “Becoming a father was life-changing,” he said.

I waited a long time to become one because this industry is so demanding. If you want to be the biggest star in the world, you have to be very selfish at times. Sometimes, you have to be a little late at starting a family.

Vin Diesel

Vin got together with his partner Paloma Jimenez back in 2007. The two have been going strong ever since then. They have three children, Hania, Vincent and Pauline. The latter was named after the late Paul Walker, whom Vin loved dearly.

His kids are everything to him. Yes, his daughter has a huge hold on him.

My daughter is my queen. She’s everything to me to the point that if I don’t send her a video of where or what Daddy is doing, even if I was on a talk show, I’d get in trouble.

Vin Diesel

According to Vin, a powerful line from Fast 9 was in fact written by his 4-year-old daughter—but we’ll have to watch it to know it.

He leads with love, not hate

The thing with Vin is that, he doesn’t care. Love has always been his motto. He proudly flaunts his love for the world to receive it. He basks in it and wants us to take part too. Admitting vulnerability and his softer side does not make him any less of a strong man–quite the opposite.

Vin is the kind of hero the world needs. Personally, I’m more than happy to inhabit a world where action thrillers are based on the knowledge of young girls and loving fathers—for starters.

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Maya Khamala

Maya Khamala is a freelance writer and editor interested in gender, race, sexuality, anxiety, and the great power of humour. She likes to write poems in her free time.

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Maya Khamala