There have been several short films, or more accurately, documentary-style programmes about the fandom recently; and, as I would discover, going back a number of years. Normally my first thought about this would be “Great, someone’s putting effort in to improve the image of the fandom”. But of course reality is rather imperfect, and most folks tend to disagree about the viewpoints put forth in the documentaries. So I, with my enquiring mind, decided to have a good look through them and see what I could get out of them, and to give you my thoughts on them.
FURRIES – AN INSIDE LOOK
Looking inwards, at Midwest FurFest 2010 by Curt “niteskunk” Perhson
This is a standard documentary (aside from the Pink Floyd-esque opening music used), filmed during proceedings at Midwest Furfest 2010. The programme starts with a brief introduction of the fandom, and then proceeds to interviews with some legendary figures in the fandom, such as Thibby, Smash, Uncle Kage, 2Gryphon, Daisuke, and Giza.
For me personally, this was a nostalgic trip that brought up quite a few memories of my online interactions with furries and artists. As Thibby explains, he comes from the Sonic fandom (as do I), and just hearing the names of people I have known about for a long time and actually hearing them speak candidly about the fandom and their beginnings was fascinating.
I found Uncle Kage’s explanation of his beginnings rather interesting, and I have a different opinion of him now. I was also impressed with what 2Gryphon said about his start in the fandom. This was quite intriguing to me as he is a comedian in the fandom, which I didn’t even know was a possibility.
The documentary follows on from the beginnings to focus to how the interviewees feel about being part of the fandom, and especially how furry integrates into people’s lives. It is a key insight into the life of the average furry that blows away the misconceptions that have been created by the media. This is important, because often furries get dismissed as being deviant- a term usually used in the negative sense. It also sheds light on the fact that most of the people behind the fursonas are generally well-educated, smart, and highly creative.
In common with many lay and journalistic pieces about the fandom, the message is still central: a sense of belonging, like being in a family: a concept that has been hard to grasp by myself until recently. It also dispels a commonly-held belief that furry is an “obsession”, especially when Uncle Kage explicitly states that during business hours “my mind belongs to chemistry”. Similarly, this view is also echoed by 2Gryphon.
|Release Date: 11 April 2011
Directed by: Curt Pehrson
Featuring: Uncle Kage, Daisuke, Matt Davis, LeoAngelo, Bryan Manternach, Douglas Muth, Thibby
Running Time: 36:57
|Parental Guidance Recommended
Rating: 3/5 Stars
FURRIES – A DOCUMENTARY BY ERIC RISHER
This documentary takes its cue from the Curt Pehrson documentary and starts out in a similar way, with footage from the street outside a furry conference; leading into actual footage at the event. Two forewords are given by well-known psychologists, Dr. Kathy Gerbasi and Dr. Courtney Plante.
Thereafter it gets into in-depth interviews with several furries, in a different manner than the Pehrson documentary.
A lot of emphasis with each interviewee is to find out why the person chose their fursona, what their fursona represents and how that fursona came about, along with a brief bit of personal history- how they found the fandom, at what stage of their lives it occurred, and what the circumstances were at discovery. This makes for some really interesting perspective, especially when you consider their childhood. Never before has anyone actually asked those kinds of questions, ones that give us a very clear idea of why we have so much in common in the fandom.
One thing that resonates with me is when the interviewee Mystee spoke about what people say when they visit her home, with regards to her like of squirrels. In my case this is “Ah, you really like Sonic and anthro animals”. The furs interviewed were Skookum, TJ, Mystee, Neala, and Luca.
The interviews are done in a way that shows the interviewees in a normal setting, i.e. at home, doing everyday things, to add emphasis to the fact that they lead normal lives like everyone else, smashing that stereotype that still persists that furries are “crazy people”. In some cases, their current partners are also interviewed for their perspective on their partner being a furry and part of the fandom.
The documentary then moves onto the somewhat awkward issue of furmeets, and a typical scenario is presented where TJ went to a furmeet at a zoo (his first furmeet). This again illustrates how everyday and outright “normal” things are as one would expect in any similar social setting. Focus then shifts rather abruptly to a smaller convention (Morphicon 9), and TJ and some attendees are interviewed again- asked questions as to how the wound up in the fandom. (I won’t spoil the surprise, but you will be amazed at what is revealed there).
The documentary also tackles a very low point in the history of the fandom, specifically the Vanity Fair article from 2001. Because most of us have not seen it in print (the online version is still available, but seems to have been edited somewhat in that most of what was found offensive to furries has been deleted), this documentary is useful in giving us who haven’t seen the actual print article the ability to reflect on what a damaging piece of media that was. From the layout (as if written for an issue of Cosmopolitan), it was full-on shock value; media sensationalism to shock and nauseate, and I still think very misguided.
Directly after this, the documentary also addresses other negative and disparaging TV series: CSI, American Dad, Entourage, and ER; and then describes what feelings the episodes in question evoked in the community. For the first time, we have a documentary that tackles the issue of sexuality, specifically “yiff”, head-on, and why it has a place in the fandom. It builds on what Uncle Kage said in the Pehrson documentary, and expands to give an honest and factual look at what yiff means to most furries.
This is probably the best introduction to the fandom that can be found at this time. It is the sort of introductory documentary that should be shown to all newcomers to the fandom, right at the point where they reach out to others in the fandom for the first time. For those of you who are parents of children of all ages, please, I cannot stress enough that you watch this documentary. It’s really enlightening.
|Release Date: 2015
Directed by: Eric Risher
Cinematographer: Andrew Southworth
Featuring: Skookum, Mystee, Neala, Luca, TJ, Dr Kathy Gerbasi, Dr Courtney Plante
Running Time: 33:00
|Parental Guidance Recommended
Rating: 4/5 Stars
This, the longest of the three documentaries, starts off rather unexpectedly with an interview of a furry, later revealed to be Boomer. It then rapidly switches to an interview Uncle Kage gave to the media in Pittsburgh. Right from the start I felt that this documentary was a bit disjointed, but it seemed to pick up the pace after a bit of a shaky introductory phase.
Once it gets going, it does become somewhat interesting. Several furs are interviewed; not in the traditional sense, but rather in a short segment of them explaining their situation. This is similar to what the Risher documentary did, but not nearly as in-depth as one would think initially, and it then moves on to them doing fun things in a fursuit.
A lot of this documentary centers on segments of the day in the life of several furs. There is a bit of a break with a segment of a speech given by Uncle Kage in several places, and then it returns again to the furs chosen to be interviewed.
It is clear that the Risher documentary definitely influenced this documentary, as focus is given to how “normal” furries live at home. I do feel that this is done in a somewhat unflattering light, as a lot of the interviewees were probably interviewed at their worst.
Besides this, this documentary does have one thing going for it: it examines the relationships of furs at a personal level. For example, we get to meet the partners of some of these furries. This is something I had never personally appreciated in the past, but I do now.
As in the Risher documentary, there is mention of media portrayal, and the actual relationship that furries have with the media at large. What I did find interesting is that it clearly shows what happens and how the media is dealt with at Anthrocon. The opinions expressed also tie in with what many believe about the media, that it handles much of the news very poorly. What is very cool here is also a string of segments of Uncle Kage explaining how to handle the media, reporters, stupid questions and when stereotypes are brought up.
Unfortunately, that’s where all positive things said in this documentary about Dr. Samuel Conway come to an end.
The aspect of sex is also handled very transparently and without restraint or sugarcoating. An interview is given with Varka (owner of the websites e621, BadDragon and FurryNation), and at this point, the content is pretty graphic and not safe for work; especially where Varka demonstrates his products. This is the reason that I am attaching a R18 rating to this documentary, and I feel that this was overlooked when the documentary was rated. Also, the language towards the end of the documentary becomes fouler, leading me to think that this production started off okay, and in the end became the product of some kind of vendetta against Anthrocon, and by proxy, Uncle Kage.
What we can also take away from this documentary is how to deal with extreme individuals in the fandom. A lot of reference is made to Boomer appearing on the Dr. Phil show and the controversy storm that it caused on FurAffinity, in addition to the interviewees expressing how they felt about it. The documentary makes the argument of acceptance versus tolerance, and why this is important.
What I don’t like in this documentary is the mud-slinging against certain members of the fandom, and it is for this reason I rate this documentary as not recommended for sensitive viewers at any level. I understand that the director wanted to give a true account of how life is in the fandom, but this didn’t score any points, at least not with me.
The documentary went very far south towards the end, being of a standard that I would rate as barely watchable, as it became an almost personal slag-fest against Uncle Kage.
Overall I found this documentary to be very jagged and very rough around the edges and certainly explicit; only somewhat in the sexual sense, but more in expressing beliefs about the fandom and the politics. The focus changes make it hard to follow at times, and I believe you’d probably have to end up watching it several times to get an idea of what is actually going on, if the end bit didn’t put you off completely.
|Release Date: 10 May 2016
Directed by: Dominic Rodriguez
Featuring: Samuel “Uncle Kage” Conway, Gary Matthews, Dominic Rodriguez
Running Time: 1h 21m
|Restricted to 18 and over
Rating: 2/5 Stars