Fursonas and Furries: A Tail of Two Docs (Part 2)
by Patch O'Furr
Here’s the thing – most of the anger towards Fursonas is because it wasn’t the doc we expected, or to some, what they wanted.
A lot of that comes with the general history of the fandom. How media took our hobby and portrayed it as a pagan cult of sex crazed orgies, by animal-suited maniacs. From Vanity Fair, CSI, MTV, etc portraying us as a fetish rather then a community of artists, writers, dancers, and more. The way they just don’t get what we are about is what many members in the fandom have been fighting to overcome for years.
And it’s been more or less a success, even with the press, as the fandom evolved to what it is today. To how we see each other, what we believe in, and just enjoying the weirdness that we are. After newly turning that corner, perhaps Fursonas could threaten to bring back all the negative old things they been working to overcome.
But that’s not what Fursona is or ever tries to do.
[DR]: My movie is meant to question what a “negative view” of the fandom is. While furry is definitely an accepting place, I do think that there’s a double standard in this community. People want to be accepted for themselves, but sometimes find it hard to accept things that are outside of their own comfort zone. I see this all the time in communities and I see it all the time in furry. Just look at babyfurs, and how plenty of more “normal” furries don’t want to have anything to do with them.
I love this fandom so much that I want it to be better. I think if we’re going to keep patting ourselves on the back for being so accepting, that means having to ask some difficult questions of ourselves—how much do we accept? What is the price of individual expression in the fandom? What is a “good image” and much is it worth? I still grapple with these questions all the time.
This is something I agree with. Our fandom does have a double standard. I know it because as a gay man I’ve seen how a community that views itself as open minded and accepting of all walks of life is also filled with selfish, shortsighted, rude, or even despicable people. Same with the kink community, with it’s view of itself as open minded and accepting to all walks of life, only to see some sides view other sides as inferior or even taboo. It’s the very same with the Furry fandom. We’re a community that is open minded and accepting, and guess what I’m going to say next. We’re also regular flawed humans. It’s not hard to see a pattern when you’ve seen it repeated many times.
This is what Fursonas talks about, and it’s not what everyone in the fandom wants. Which is why many have seen Furries as the preferred doc, with its more positive view of the fandom over Fursonas criticisms.
But here’s the other thing, Furries wasn’t made for the fandom. Let me ask you a question: if you’ve seen Furries and are a member of the fandom, what do you learn from it? What information does it provide that hasn’t already been discussed time and again from other members of the fandom?
I love Furries, it’s a good doc, but it already features information I knew by heart. When I saw it with my partner at Califur, he learned more about the fandom from the doc because he’s not apart of it. He knew very little besides what I told him. Furries works best for people on the outside to look into what we’re about while shedding away the tabloid crap. It does a great job of showing how open and creative the fandom is, while talking a bit about the history of why Furries are sometimes looked down upon.
The only problem I have with it is that I feel it’s too short. Especially since the doc brings up so many different areas of the fandom and only gives a small glance on some subject matters. But some of that can be chalked up to independent filmmaking and what resources Eric’s team had to work with. His team had some of the same issues when looking for subjects to interview.
[ER]: When I began work on my own documentary, this was probably the biggest concern that furries had when I approached them to be in the film. They wanted to know precisely what they were getting into, and they were curious about where the film would end up and how they would be portrayed. Because the media had a precedent of representing furries in a way that was overwhelmingly negative and/or satirical, this was an understandable concern.
I see the film works best to show outsiders what we’re about, but as Eric began showing the film at cons and film festivals, he’s been amazed by the reception for the film from the fandom itself.
[ER]: I’ve been thanked for including a diverse group of furries in the film that represent different aspects of the fandom, particularly when it comes to art and writing. A few people have told me that they would be comfortable sharing the film with their parents as a means of discussion their own furry identity, and I’m honored the film can initiate that kind of dialogue. I have even seen the film bring a few to tears, and I’ve been told it’s renewed and/or affirmed their drive to participation in the community. After working on the film for so long, I was acutely aware that furries were going to be my toughest, most critical audience. I feel fortunate that the film has been well received, and it’s incredibly rewarding to share the film with a community I care so much about.
That last quote actually makes me want to bring up one more point. The Furry Fandom is pretty much a sandbox fandom. We all have a basic agreement of what we are – people who like walking, talking animals. But that’s just the sand in the box. The fun is what we can make with that basic concept. How we can make something that can help us figure out who we are, or what we want to be. How to awaken the inner child as the years go by. Or explore adult areas about yourself.
The two docs show that. Furries shows all the avenues the sandbox can offer, while Fursonas points out some of the limiting walls of the sandbox and asks how we can work with them. Which is why Dominic wasn’t surprised to see the initial reaction to the film, but is happy to see what has been coming out of it.
[DR]: Polarizing, haha. Some people love it and some people hate it. Some people hate it without having watched it, which is the only thing that bums me out. I like to think the reaction has been more positive than negative. I think that so many furries start out on the defensive when they watch media on the fandom, because they’re waiting to see how the media is going to get it wrong. And so I wasn’t very optimistic about how the film would go over, because it holds a mirror up to the community and suggests that maybe we need to think about this stuff in a different way. And honestly? I thought that furries would be way too stubborn to want to listen to some asshole filmmaker trying to tell them that maybe they should be nicer to Boomer. But I was pleasantly surprised. The film appears to have opened up a discussion somewhat. I see people having informed, productive arguments about it. That was the best I could hope for—for the film to start a conversation.
Even the two filmmakers have agreed that each film explores different areas of the fandom.
[DR]: I’m a pretty competitive person, I have to admit. I had been working on Fursonas for a little while and then I found out about Ash’s documentary and I was all geared up to hate it, because I’m an asshole and wanted to be THE BEST! When it showed at Morphicon in 2015, I drove from Pittsburgh to Columbus by myself just to watch it. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the filmmaking and by its earnest message. I went into it thinking that it would be some kind of PSA, but it really isn’t. It gives you a nice slice of the fandom from his perspective. We had a long discussion about it afterwards. When I showed Fursonas at a limited furry screening in San Francisco, Ash surprised me by showing up unannounced the same way I did to him. Some people want to label his movie as propaganda and my movie as sensationalism, but I think both movies go much farther than that. Ash and I both adore this community and have dedicated over four years of our lives to exploring it as honestly as we can—just in different ways.
[ER]: Overall, I have seen furries respond positively to both films. That is not to say I haven’t seen critiques, but that’s to be expected with any work of art, particularly when two films with a similar subject matter are released around the same time (I recall the year when The Prestige and The Illusionist were both released). I don’t really see it as a contest, as both films ultimately have different focuses and serve to illuminate different themes, so if anyone is interested they should probably watch both.
I would say that certain differences in our philosophies as filmmakers is what produced two unique films with unique outlooks on the furry community. It’s difficult for me to be critical of Dominic’s approach because his goals were not my own. In many ways, Furries represents my perspective on the furry fandom at large, and I think it summarizes my feelings in a way that’s more well-rounded than anything I could put to words at this point.
That is the biggest take away I feel we should look at the two. The fact that we even have two docs about Furries released in the same year still blows me away. It’s not really fair to compare the two, since they have completely different purposes. For Fusonas in particular, it raises questions that are not easily answered. As Eric points out about AC…
[ER]: Given that Anthrocon is not only a non-profit organization, but also the largest furry convention in the world, I can understand and appreciate their need for discretion when working with the media.
Considering what Kage and AC have had to work with over the last decade with the media portraying us as a fetish, and being a go-to punching bag for other fandoms. Even with all that, AC has come out on top, having its biggest year so far with over 7,300 people attending. A 1,000+ increase from last year. It’s not hard to see why things are the way they are. I don’t see Kage as a bad guy. I have never met him, but you don’t have to see much to know how he loves and cares about the fandom.
But what Dominic presents is a question of how far love should go, even with good intentions, when it may have negative effects too. Is it good to have a sandbox with pre-made molds so kids in another box don’t make fun of you?
While Dominic shows his bias as clear as day, there are people in the film who agree with Kage. The subject, Bandit, agrees when he’s watching one of Kage’s lectures about how a good image can take fifteen years to make, but can be destroyed in fifteen seconds. Diezel Raccoon was fired from his job just for telling people what he does on weekends. Kage even tells us in the film himself. When Dominic goes onto one of his Winestreams, he poses a question about Boomer and Chew Fox, and Kage responds with fiery passion how they don’t represent him and his side of the fandom.
To be fair, Dominic shows it as a gotcha moment, but thinking about it shows more or less why Kage does what he does. I know people will point out that I don’t have anything from AC or Kage themselves for this piece. I reached out to them through their AC Media Liaison email, but never got a reply. I would have loved to have their view of the two docs here, but that is neither here or there. Instead, I want to wrap things up with this.
There are many levels of the fandom. I have had the privilege of seeing both the childlike wonder and the adult fun. I saw a ten-year-old girl in a partial fursuit dance her tail off in her first fursuit dance competition and have a blast, and I was part of a talk with an HIV-positive group learning about Furry as an alternative sex avenue. I have great respect for what Uncle Kage has done in the fandom, but I do not always agree with his policies.
I believe we need to be open toward criticism when presented to us. If not to see what other people think of you, then to see if there are areas you need to explore yourself to grow or reexamine. And from some of the reactions to this, I have a little less respect than before.
Fursonas does have its problems. The biggest being how it doesn’t go into detail about the fandom in general. Look at some of the reviews and they’ll say how they were interested in the project, but wished to know more about the fandom and its history. Plus the fact it doesn’t mention what a Fursona is can’t be ignored. Fuzzwolf & Savrin do a more negative review if you want to know more. But after seeing the film, I don’t see it as much of a film about the fandom as it’s a look at individuals in the fandom and the politics inside it.
Of course these are just Dominic’s, Eric’s, and my voices about what’s happened. Now I want to know what you guys think.
If you saw the films, what were your takeaways? Did you like both films or did your levels vary? Where do you see the fandom going? What are your thoughts about this article? I’m open to know and discuss what we see in the fandom. I want to end here with one more quote from Dominic about the need to learn and examine who we are.
[DR]: Something I struggled with when working on this film was how to avoid sensationalizing material that, in and of itself, was sensational? A lot of furries want to think of the fandom as a boring place when you examine it. They’ll try to downplay the strangeness of furry by comparing it to other communities. I think that furries are right on one level because yes, you can draw comparisons between our community and so many others. But I think if you look closely at sports fandom or religion or whatever else, you will begin to find these communities are anything but boring. They’re filled with drama, they contain hierarchies, there are politics, there is sex, and people that are living and dying for this shit every day. I think that the whole world (furry or not) is so fucking nuts and that it would be less honest to omit all sensational material than it would be include it. I look at this fandom and I see a chaotic living community with tons of people trying to exist under the same name. Sometimes it brings people together and sometimes it drives people apart. Maybe I’m way off base, though. Maybe it’s just cartoon fans. What do you think?
Thanks for your time with this beast of an article. I await your discussions and have a nice day, you crazy fluffer nutters.