Mittwoch, 22. Oktober 2014

"Furry", what's that?

When I get to know people closer, I know that there will be the moment when they ask this question. This is where it gets complicated for me. The problem isn't in explaining it but in not knowing how much the person who asked already heard about this subculture. This makes it hard to determine where to start the explanation best, but here I go. 
Back when I wrote the german version of this article, the furry fandom was on TV once again and as television always does, they don't exactly paint a very good picture of this subculture, because nice people do not fit in the current style of television shows the viewer wants to see. Instead the makers of TV shows try to find shocking material, so it's no wonder that TV turns the furry fandom into a group of freaks who either have lost their grip on reality or are practicing debatable sexual fetishes or both. For them furries are "guys who believe that they are animals and thus practice bestiality - all of 'em." So when someone asks me what a furry is, I need to be aware that the other person might have similar associations with the word. That's by the way the reason why I started this explanatory post with media coverage about furries.

To understand what a furry is, let's start with the word itself which is rather easy, at least in english. According to Merriam-Webster the word "furry" means:
  • covered with fur
  • covered with something that looks and feels like fur
  • resembling fur
This definition makes one assume that the word "furry" is used for people with a large amount of body-hair, but that's not the case (although those exist in the furry fandom too). The word "furry" itself is used to reference people who belong to the "furry fandom". Not a very helpful definition, I know - but a way better starting point for an explanation. Why? Well the word "fandom" is the key. A person belonging to the furry fandom is a "fan of furry things" (or a fan of things covered in fur, covered with something that looks and feels like fur or resembling fur). But what exactly does that mean?

Actually that's a question which isn't answered that easily. The reason is that there is no definition, no checklist which you can tick off and easily determine if soemone is part of the furry fandom. One might think the easiest hint would be the so called fursuits (basically animal costumes), but that's also not true, since the cosplay-scene also has people wearing such costumes. They usually would not call them fursuits though, since they don't consider themselves part of the furry fandom. Like with many subcultures there is no gatekeeper, checking if someone who "claims to be a furry" can be "allowed to be part of the subculture", although sadly there are lots of discussions going on who is a true furry. Yes, the whole "holier than thou"-crap (great song by Metallica by the way) also happens in the furry fandom. But I'm getting too far away from the topic.

Someone told me that user interaction would be good for my blog, so let me ask you a question: Do you like the characters from Robin Hood? No, I'm not talking about the movie with Kevin Kostner, I'm talking about the one by Disney which came nearly twenty years earlier. The one where Robin Hood and Maid Marian are foxes. Although, they aren't really foxes, because they walk on two legs (just like all the other animal-characters do, except for Sir Hiss, who is a snake) and they talk and generally behave like humans do. (Yes this is a reference to the song which was included with one of the windows media player versions - I should get more focused on the task at hand). Animals with these features are generally called "anthropomorphic". 

Thing is, should you admittedly like characters like these, you could call yourself a furry. There are furries who see their link to the furry fandom in their love for art containing anthropomorphic animals. Other furries have an animal (anthro or not) as alternate persona on the web and/or do role play sessions with that character. On the other extreme, yes there are those in the fandom who think that they are animals born in the body of a human.

As you can see, the term "furry" contains a wide range of different people and each of them has his or her own definition of what the term means. But the most furs (which is another short term for furries) unites that they do have aforementioned alternate persona. This furry-persona is called "fursona" in the fandom and usually is an anthro, meaning he walks on two legs, etc. But other fursonas are called "ferals" meaning that they are non-anthropomorphic. They walk on all fours and some of them can't even talk. Theres a huge range of fursonas out there (though you can bet that when a new movie with non-human life comes out a whole lot of fursonas will be based on it. Yes, fursonas are not limited to real animals. For example you can find dragons rather often in the fandom. When District 9 came out, it didn't take long for the first prawn-fursona to pop up. Also people tend to change their fursona, especially if they aren't tied to it that closely. You'll discard a pen and paper character too, should he die and generate a new one, won't you?

Speaking about the ties between a fur and their fursona: As already mentioned for some their fursona is only a character that they can play like a character in a game. They choose the fursona that they want to play in that moment. Others, like me, try to express themselves with their fursona of choice and thus feel rather close to their fursona, since it symbolizes their worries, fears, wishes, what they like, what they don't and overall their character. And as I already mentioned there are also those who see their fursona as their real character, their real "me".

After I spent most of this article talking about what a furry is and what different kind of furries you can find in the fandom and tried to not judge all of them, I now want to share some of my personal experiences with the fandom. I am always amazed about how open people in the fandom usually are. When I come into a group of people that I don't know I usually get rather introverted, defensive. This is because of a strong fear of rejection. Once I learn that I'm accepted in that group, I get more and more relaxed. As you can imagine the time it takes for me to overcome that fear depends mostly on the group I get into, its size and the behavior of the people in it. With furries I usually almost instantly relax, because a group of furries radiates a feeling of welcomeness. They welcome you with open arms - literally, since a common greeting and way of parting is hugging each other, even if you don't know each other. This leads to a feeling of more closeness between the members of the group and thus to discussing topics more freely where you'd usually think twice if you talked about them to people you just met.

To conclude my post, I want to reveal to you my fursona. As you might have guessed from the background image, my fursona is an anthropomorphic black panther - and since this word is also used generically for black big cats: It is a "panthera pardus melas", a black leopard. So should you see me, see my desktop background (it's the same than the background of this blog), see me wearing my cap or my scarf, you might know what they mean. Maybe when we meet, I'll finally have my own fursuit and you will see me wearing it, who knows ;) 

Finally there are some examples to show:
  • A picture of a furry wearing a fursuit [link]
  • A picture of a feral fursuit [link]
  • A YouTube video of "Telephone" who is very good in protraying her character [link1] [link2]
  • A drawing of some fursonas [link]