Opinion: Indie web series ‘Fursona Files’ looks a little mangy

by Patch O'Furr

Flayrah News, 3/7/2013:

I haven’t seen this shared around until I noticed it on the Bay Area Furries mailing list.

Admit One Productions presents – Fursona… A SNEAK PEEK from Courtney James.

(EDIT: video down, try here.)

According to their website:

What’s your Fursona? Thats [sic] the million dollar question asked in this fast paced black comedy web series about the adventures of Virginia Blake – a successful investigative journalist – who is writing an expose on the FURRY underworld to save her tarnished career!

A million dollars might elevate it to the level of an infamous CSI episode. The comparison provoked complaints about negative Furry media images, and this comment from a mailing list member:

I don’t think “Fursona Files” is going to have much effect at all, since it seems to be a grassroots-promoted independent web project (rather than primetime TV, or even basic cable). I think the most attention it’s going to get will be from people already familiar with the fandom, and they’re unlikely to base or alter their view of the fandom on a silly independent film project. If it’s good, the fandom-aware folks will share it. If it’s bad, it’ll probably die quietly.

Before watching the trailer, I poked around to learn who made it and why. Their helpful links show it’s made by a small team in the Toronto area. Their other recent project is a documentary on DJ culture; it just won a budget on Kickstarter. Their page has a prior mascot-themed music video, a pitch outline for a different Mascot themed movie, and there’s a line on Facebook about writing a Mascot-themed novel. It tells a common story of persistence to revise a concept until one version clicks. Did it improve in the process?

The trailer reminds me of previous opinions posted here about indie “furry” movie The Honey Cooler, with cheap costumes showing a shallow effort to exploit furries for sensationalism. Flimsy content is worsened by low budget acting and script. It makes me wonder, how do indie makers miss all the free consulting available from furries, who already spend time on stuff like silly blog posts about unnoticed web series?

I can’t hold ill-will towards indie folks with an eye for exploitation (as opposed to corporations who do it). They still have to do old-fashioned hard work to get anyone to care. Many talented people have succeeded that way in show biz, with exploitation films, pulp fiction, and other ridiculous, over the top stuff. It’s good not to be uptight about “our” thing, and support people being playful, provocative, irreverent or gross… if they do it well. I hope this series’ makers understand that it takes more than cheap suits to use furries and their kitsch factor for quality entertainment.

BAF member Troj commented (reposted with permission):

I watched the teaser clips, and I think she’s trying way, way, way too hard to be Arrested Development or the Office, with a Family Guy cinnamon swirl.

“If it’s AWKWARD, and the characters are WEIRD and QUIRKY to the point of making the viewer uneasy, it must be FUNNY!” Erm, not necessarily.

Thus far, the writing reeks of “Lookit how clever, edgy, and hip I am!” and the acting is over-the-top, and strangely “detached,” if that makes sense.

Por ejemplo, you can totally mine authentic comedy from an unassuming old Jewish man standing up in a routine group therapy session, and stating in a deadpan that he likes to dress up as a dinosaur and ravish prostitutes, and then telling the story of how an encounter with a prostitute helped him to discover his totem animal.

This can be funny. In such a situation, your comedy will be derived from two main sources:
1) Violation of the audience’s expectations, and
2) Empathy for the main character(s) , as they react to what’s happening to them.

You could also mine humor from the man’s dinosaur species. Perhaps the main character assumes that the old man must be a mighty T-Rex, and later learns that he’s something herbivorous and unassuming, like a diplodocus. Maybe the man’s chosen species gives him trouble during sex—say, as a T-Rex, his arms are too short to reach things, or as a triceratops, his horns get stuck in the bedframe, or as an apatosaurus, he can’t undo the prostitute’s bra, or as a pterosaur, he accidentally pokes the prostitute in the eye with his beak, and has to apologize and get her an icepack. Maybe the prostitute accidentally slams his tail in a door, and then can’t get the door open.

The scene in the clip is just boring, because the script can’t stop congratulating itself for coming up with something as high-larious and shocking as a pathetic old man who dresses up as Barney to have sex, yuk yuk yuk.

So, it doesn’t build long enough to violate our expectations, and we can’t have empathy for any of the characters, because they’re too inauthentically over-the-top to feel like real people, and all of them are too busy winking at each other and us, to show that they’re too cool for school.

The irony is that there’s plenty of authentic comedy fuel in the furry community, without one having to fabricate b.s. about a dinosaur banging prostitutes. Heck, there’s plenty of genuinely funny stuff you could touch on that doesn’t even involve sex at all!

Comedy is Serious Business, people!