Comments on contemporary culture by Mark Hadley

Fast & Furious Spy Racers

CHANNEL: Netflix

TIME-SLOT: On demand


The Fast & Furious franchise has come to children’s TV, bringing with it all of the cautions associated with its films. Fast & Furious Spy Racers is pitched at viewers a long way off driving age, but here are seven reasons adults should be careful about putting this exhilarating cartoon in front of children.

  1. ‘Torettos always win!’ – The series introduces Tony, nephew of original Fast & Furious hero, Dom (voiced by Vin Diesel). His attitude is that anyone prepared to try hard enough can expect to win. It’s a mindset likely to deliver false expectations.
  2. ‘It’s not about the car, it’s about the driver.’ – Up against teen nemesis, Mitch, Tony’s team realises his car is dramatically underpowered. But Tony assures them the guy behind the wheel matters more than the horsepower beneath him. Now every kid in a Hyundai is a backstreet hero.
  3. Street racing? No problem! – Tony and his friends are street racers. Their racetrack is an ordinary alley, in the middle of the day, in a densely built-up area. Conveniently, no-one is injured, underlining the myth that urban racing is safe.
  4. Barely legal drivers – It’s worth noting that Tony and his crew are so young, Frostee’s voice is still breaking. The message is clear. If you can see over the dashboard, you’re ready to drive.
  5. No-consequence crashes – In Tony’s first race, Mitch crashes spectacularly. We don’t see the impact, but no injuries are sustained. During a high-speed chase, Tony and his friends cut off numerous vehicles, cross to the wrong side of the road and send pedestrians scuttling. Again, everyone walks away scratch-free.
  6. A paradoxical prudery – Despite pitting our heroes against international spy rings, there is no sign of a gun anywhere. Most likely, the producers are avoiding firearms because of the numerous school shootings in the US. It’s a pity they’ve weaponised the vehicles.
  7. It’s ‘me’ before ‘us’ – ‘Remember’, Dom tells his adoring nephew, ‘don’t follow orders, follow your gut’. The Spy Racers trust their judgement over everyone else. This leads to a casual approach to the law, which might seem reason enough to question the show. But this thinking also puts the wisdom and feelings of the individual over the community. When there’s no authority or guidance higher or wiser than me, it makes for a selfish community, leads to an awful life and an even more tragic afterlife.

The target audience for this cartoonish drama may be too young to drive, but that’s no reason to lower your guard. As Aristotle put it, ‘Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man’. What we learn well when we’re young sticks with us. It’s the same reason the book of Proverbs says, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it’ (Proverbs 22:6). So, we could look at the characters involved, dismiss them and feel justified in doing so. However, that would only make us like the Pharisee who thanks God he’s not like that tax collector. Instead, we need to insert in children’s lives and ours a foundation built on Jesus’ words.

There are few kids’ shows I’ve seen on Netflix that are so comprehensively disappointing. Rather than switch the channel, though, Spy Racers might provide the opportunity to tell our youngest more about what they need than what they want.

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