Some time ago, a friend of mine said that his girlfriend was interested in doing a short documentary on the furry fandom for a class of hers. I expressed interest but it didn’t go anywhere. Then, earlier this year, I was contacted again that there was another opportunity and the project was back on!
The documentary aired on 12 April 2017 on the Viennese non-commercial TV channel Okto (as well as repeats almost twice daily till the 19th) marking my first TV appearance! Marlene said it was okay for me to share after the broadcast which I will do here and add some further discussion. The documentary is very short, and in German, although I am sharing the version where my part only has German subtitles but the original audio.
My German is pretty terrible and I am not 100% sure of everything which is said in the documentary, aside from my own parts, of course. Even there, what is presented is merely the tiniest fraction of what was recorded. I sat down and discussed the furry fandom with Marlene and Lena for just over two hours, which was to be cut down to only 90 seconds! A week later, they further spoke with two Austrian furs and that further reduced my screen time. To counteract any possible ill effects of this, I would like to expand on a few things.
Many sources, including those inside the furry community, will tell you that the furry fandom is about anthropomorphic animals. This is not entirely true. The furry fandom is better defined as those people with a preference for characters who have a mixture of human and animal characteristics. This is primarily visual but there are other details which we will not bother with at this point.
The need to use a mixture of human and animal characteristics as opposed to merely anthropomorphic animals is actually very important. Taking a fox and imbuing it with human characteristics, such as in Zootopia, is anthropomorphism. However, a fursona (the character which a furry uses to represent themselves) is created by starting from a human and, generally, adding animal characteristics. These two processes end at the same point but they start from very different points and the term anthropomorphisation only describes half of what is involved in the furry fandom.
There is something in the documentary which may also confuse people. It states, correctly, that I do not have a fursuit, yet also shows me putting on a costume. That type costume is called a kigurumi and is a cheap, commercial costume with no particular significance. In contrast, fursuits are very expensive (2000-3000 Euro), are almost always custom-made for a specific person and generally depict that person’s fursona, meaning that they are intensely personal. Fursuits are an opportunity for an external manifestation of what a person feels inside them.
That said, due to the cost, fursuits are quite rare among furries. It is a misconception to say that furries all dress up in costumes. They are certainly eye-catching but they are not owned by many furs and they are not something that is often worn. It can get extremely hot inside one and your vision is greatly reduced; leading to the common practice of having a “handler” supervising a fursuiter at all times.
That said, fursuits can be amazing to watch, as you would hopefully agree after watching the video below.
Lastly, I had to talk about the sexual aspect of the furry fandom, something known as yiff. This is a fairly sensitive topic as discussion, not to mention depiction, of sex is generally considered taboo in most societies. However, if you are reading this, I can all but guarantee that you are here because your parents had sex, as did their parents and so on until the beginning of our species. Sex is a facet of all our lives and cultures, whether in the open or not.
What is different with the furry fandom is that it tends to very inclusive and tolerant; as well as being particularly young and male. This means that the negative stigma that is often associated with erotic works is almost completely removed in the furry fandom. It does differ from person to person but furries can, and do, share and discuss erotic art and stories similarly to how someone might discuss Michaelangelo’s David.
I would say that this is a good thing. However, that openness means that the sexual aspects not well-hidden, so sometimes people will look at the furry fandom, see porn and assume that is all there is. It is present but it is not the motivation that drives the furry fandom and porn does not have the same negative associations that it tends to have in the wider world.
Lastly, since I would be remiss not to put some science into this. The furry fandom is the subject of study both internally and externally, particularly by the International Anthropomorphic Research Project (IARP). The IARP is an ongoing sociological and psychological study funded by the Canadian government. Their work is available from a website, aimed at the general public, called FurScience and I would recommend giving it a look before jumping to any conclusions or falling in with misconceptions of the furry fandom.