NGUYENERS_Vin and Dwayne final

5 Life Lessons Learned from Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson’s Boy Shit

In this week’s “Nguyeners and Losers,” Stacy Nguyen grades the beef between a couple of meatheads

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Words by Stacy Nguyen

Nguyeners and Losers: A weekly JoySauce column full of hot takes and emotional deep dives on pop culture and celebrity news. This column is a manifestation of the countless hours of ‘research’ and ‘analysis’ of stuff like Reddit AMAs and YouTube convo threads that writer Stacy Nguyen likes to obsess over at 11pm.


As we saw over the weekend, there’s nothing quite like boy shit. One of the most entertaining bouts of boy shit comes from an emotional series of miscommunications that have spanned years. 

Yes, I’m talking about Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s beef, which I love so much because it reminds me of the kind of dysfunctional dynamic that I sometimes get embroiled in with various coworkers. (Stars! They are just like us!) 

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Back in the summer of 2016, Diesel and Johnson were finishing up filming Fast & Furious 8, from one of the longest-running movie franchises ever. Johnson’s star power was rising considerably, and he probably butted heads with the franchise’s leading dude, Diesel, because, well, you know how it goes when two hypermasculine dudes have to play-pretend with each other and act heroic and strong to an imagined audience all the time—whilst sharing one spotlight—shit can get tense!   

Johnson’s frustration spilled over to Instagram, where he subgrammed that he thinks Diesel is a candy ass (in a since-deleted post—but luckily the internet is forever, so here’s a screencap of it.). 

Fast & Furious 8 was Johnson’s last film in the main franchise. He Cristina-Yang’d out of the joint and has refused to return, despite a lot of requests to. 

And instead of listening to their therapists and sitting down together privately to be vulnerable and share their feelings about how much hurt they respectively carry from years of working together—these two have been publicly talking at and about each other through the press in the ensuing years.

I’ve captured a lot of the lessons they have spilled over the years. Here are some of them:

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Lesson 1: Don’t be a candy ass.

When I first came across the term “candy ass,” I didn’t really know what it meant, but I knew that I didn’t want to be one. Just from inflection. Just from the thick, resonant feeling cradled in the white spaces between each letter that Johnson typed out.  

A lot of people apparently asked him what a candy ass is exactly, and he did us a real solid by finally defining it, via Vanity Fair, a few months ago:

“A candy ass is something you don’t want to be. And the best way that I can describe a candy ass is: Life is so much easier, I have found, when you are not full of shit. And a candy ass is completely full of shit.”

Lesson 2: Don’t tell on yourself.

When Johnson’s Instagram post first came out, he didn’t name Diesel explicitly. He left it up to fans to sleuth out which male co-star he could’ve meant: Diesel, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges (aka Ludacris), Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russel, Kristofer Hivju—just any of these dudes!

Well, Diesel dispelled any misconceptions real quick—even though none of his PR people asked him to. 

He went on his own Insta right after Johnson’s post to tell on himself, via a very unpleasant ASMR experience.

In his video, he talks about being on set for a while, coming home, hearing that his kid had learned a new word, which describes Diesel’s own spirit, soul, and people who stay positive. The word is happy. (Subtle.) He ends the video by saying, “Give me a second, and I will tell you everything. Everything.”

I cringe every time I think of him in this moment. I think about how his inner child must have been screaming out when he felt targeted by Johnson’s post, but Diesel’s adult male ego just couldn’t get out of the way enough for his inner child to be seen and heard. 

Lesson 3: Maybe don’t have an R. Kelly apologist be your hype man.

You know who my favorite tertiary character is in every saga of embittered coworkers? Yeah, that dude that leaps into the middle of things and randomly tells women that they should all just calm down. 

That dude is Tyrese Gibson. 

Fast And Furious GIF by The Fast Saga - Find & Share on GIPHY

Gibson spent years slamming Johnson over stuff like allegedly turning his back on their fake family and only grossing $760 million worldwide in a family-poor spinoff

This man is just great at passionately defending his boys, whether they be R. Kelly or Diesel, against tyrannical feminists—or a dude who just didn’t understand why his friend was being so mean

Lesson 4: Invoking ‘family’ with people who don’t share your genetics is pretty creepy and cultish.

Chosen family is a big theme in the Fast & Furious franchise, and Diesel’s character, Dominic Toretto, is the de facto father figure of this ever-revolving group of car people. Dom is fiercely paternal. He’s one of the bestest racers. He works with law enforcement catching criminals even though it doesn’t seem like he should have expertise in this type of thing. And he refers to his team members as “family.” 

Fast And Furious Family GIF by The Fast Saga - Find & Share on GIPHY

Diesel extends this language to his coworkers in real life, too—and it’s much less charming in real life.

I see it as the start of a bunch of boundary-infringement, since the great thing about work is you can be like, “That’s not in my scope of work, so I’m not doing it.” The unfortunate thing about family is you can’t say, “Does the SOW say that? Then figure it out yourself, Mom.” 

Diesel keeps infringing on Johnson’s boundaries, man.

At the end of last year, Diesel posted a homoerotic photo of him on set with Johnson from back in the day and pretty much continues not to listen to all of the Johnson’s very clear nopes over the years about returning to the franchise. 

Diesel delusionally wrote: “My little brother Dwayne… the time has come. The world awaits the finale of Fast 10. … do not leave the franchise idle, you have a very important role to play. … I hope you rise to the occasion and fulfill your destiny.” 

In response to this, Johnson astutely said, “Vin's recent public post was an example of his manipulation.”

Lesson 5: Stay classy while slaughtering, my God

Johnson is the highest paid actor in the world right now. He has so much clout in his industry, and seems to be well-respected and liked by people that work with him. This man is gold right now.

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I don’t think Diesel understands this. I think in Diesel’s limited worldview, he thinks he’s the big man on campus. 

In comparison, Johnson comes across far more grounded, nuanced, and reflective. In the aforementioned Vanity Fair interview, Johnson was prompted to talk about Diesel and their years-spanning boy shit. He admitted that he regrets sharing his frustrated feelings publicly—though he also asserted that he still meant what he said. 

And because he is great at defining things, he finally explained what it is about Diesel that bugged him so much. He explained his own philosophy (and thus what Diesel’s isn’t). Johnson said: “It’s the philosophy of going into work every day. Looking at everybody as equal partners. And looking at the studio as equal partners. And looking at the crew, regardless of where you’re at, either on the call sheet or otherwise, as equal partners—with respect and with humility, and being respectful of the process and every other human being who is putting in just as much time, just as much hard work and sweat equity, if not more.”

It sounds like Johnson felt Diesel disrespected crew members (AKA people who aren’t alpha like Diesel thinks he is) on set, and Johnson wasn’t into it. That was why he took his clout and his dollar signs out of Fast & Furious and has refused to back on it. 

That’s respectable.

 

Final tally:

Being a candy ass: Loser

Respecting colleagues who aren’t paid millions to play pretend in front of cameras: Nguyener

Using the term “alpha male” earnestly: Loser

Published on March 31, 2022

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Words by Stacy Nguyen

Stacy Nguyen is a Seattle area-based Vietnamese American writer, artist, and designer whose work explores the ways race and gender are reflected within the lens of popular culture. She makes a lot of logos and moves shapes around in a pleasing manner in her day job. She used to be a journalist and news editor, but now she mostly writes hot takes on celebrities. This is because she watches an obscene amount of TV that she should be embarrassed about, but is inexplicably not.

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Art by Robinick Fernandez

Robinick Fernandez is a prolific and visionary creative director whose work blends the worlds of art, architecture, design, and fashion. For two decades Robinick Fernandez connected art with design for global brands, and his work has left an impact having navigated across many countries and cultures including Europe, Asia, the United States and beyond. For his next venture, he celebrates his Filipino American roots as Creative Director for JoySauce, being committed to cultural storytelling, sustainability, forward-thinking design, and conscious content .