Something the furry fandom has had to put up with for literal decades is not just misconceptions about the community, but also “the media” trying to highlight the fandom as some kind of freak show for their views of the week. This ranged from an infamous Dr. Phil interview with two furries to Vanity running an article on the sexual side of the fandom, and let’s not forget the infamous “Fur and Loathing” CSI episode – known in the fandom as just “The CSI Episode.” Furries are always skeptical of the media seeking interviews out of the fear of what they say being used to portray the fandom in a negative light; so much so that Bandit Raccoon even did an episode of his Raccoon’s Den show about that exact thing happening to him and his crew – while the events were fictional, the message was all too real.
So, when we all heard that Lisa Ling was going to do an episode of her This is Life series on the Furry Fandom we were…understandably a little anxious. But, when the episode aired late this November, we were relieved to see it painted a pretty decent picture of the fandom. And this furry’s gonna give you his own take on the feature.
This article assumes you’ve seen the feature, but if not, then you can check out this upload that I found here:
One of the more obvious aspects of the feature was the seemingly heavy focus on fursuiters, which left some furs feeling slightly agitated as they felt it added to the narrative that to be a furry, you need a suit; though to be fair, Lisa Ling did attempt to dissuade this perspective by noting that not all furries wear a suit, though practically all have their fursonas.
I liked that there was a link between fursuiting and cosplaying, too – an opinion I’ve held for years now. I don’t get why people think fursuits are so odd when there are events like Comicon where folks dress up as whoever they want to dress up as – I dunno maybe it has something to do with the whole animal aspect?
And while each of the main three folks interviewed had their own take on suiting and their experiences doing it there was one common thread that could be seen: the idea that the suit, the character, seems to take a life of its own. As someone who routinely partial suits myself I definitely know what they’re talking about. When you put in the costume it’s like…you transform, in a sense. You go into an entirely different headspace and turn into someone else.
There was also a side mention about fursuit making being done as a business – something that I feel like doesn’t get enough attention when folks discuss fursuit making. People are legit surprised when they hear about how much a suit costs to purchase!
A cool aspect of the feature was how they showed how each of the three “main” furries all had their “origin story” for how they found the fandom through other interests they hold. Leilia liked dogs, drew dogs, and encountered the fandom when she started making dog miniatures; Captain Boone had become a recluse due to abuse suffered in the US Army and began dabbling around in cosplay, which led to him finding out about furries; and Ashaeda had her own Dungeons and Dragons character she created – that was her own unique anthro species, no less! – and when she went to look for someone to make a costume of her so she could cosplay she ran into the fandom.
What I like about this is it’s something I feel a lot of furries can relate to. It seems like a lot of us “discovered” the fandom through some sort of preexisting interest in animal characters. I’m sure there’s plenty of others who stumbled upon the fandom through other channels, but I think we’d be lying if we said anthro-based entertainment didn’t have anything to do with it.
Another big highlight was how the episode gave a glance at the good the fandom does, and how it can help people. Of course, they mentioned the usual repertoire, such as charity work done at conventions, but Lisa Ling also showed how becoming a furry and getting involved in the community can help someone. I liked seeing how each of our three fur friends found a way to overcome their own inhibitions through their characters and activities in the fandom, and it’s all in different ways, if really think about it: Leilia was just a shy and anxious person; Boone had scars and PTSD from his abuse in the US Army; and Ashaeda developed an illness that took away her ability to be an athlete. Each has their own hill they’re trying to climb.
This, surprisingly, was a source of contention for some furries. They felt like the feature was trying to make the fandom look like it was full of “broken souls,” but I don’t think that’s what Lisa Ling was going for. I think the idea, the intent, was to show that the fandom is a good thing because look – it helped these people overcome their own inner demons and improve their lives for the better.
I mean, I understand that not every furry has anxiety or mental scars, but there’s a good chunk of furs out there who balk at the thought of going to a furry event and meeting people. I even mentioned in my own earlier article that fursuiting helps some furs overcome their shyness. A friend of mine even claims that if it weren’t for his character, I’d have never met him, and the fursuit helped him come out of his shell and grow and develop; so much that he celebrates his fursuit’s “birthday” with just as much, if not more, gusto as his own birthday.
This aspect of the good the fandom can do for individual members is something that I feel like doesn’t get enough credit. We rush to say “Oh we’re inclusive” and “Oh we donate to charity” and those are good things, they truly are! But it’s also good to show how the fandom can change individual lives for the better as well. The stories of how these people have become better through their time here is perhaps one of the more powerful parts of Lisa Ling’s journey.
The episode also briefly touched on something else that’s been on my mind as of late –younger kids and the fandom. Believe it or not, this is something that can be a source of contention for many furries, as there’s a good chunk of adult content in the fandom – even Lisa Ling and her fuzzy friends claiming that the fandom “isn’t about that” can’t deflect that away. Though, at the very least it does show that furries are in the fandom for different things. Some furs never even think about getting adult materials of their characters produced.
Personally? I feel like the fandom can’t stop this arrival of younger members. The Internet is here, and more and more people and kids are gaining access to it, and when they see there’s a whole community of people dressing up like characters out of a Saturday Morning Cartoon of course they’re gonna get interested. So to me, the real discussion is: how do we allow these younglings in without exposing them to that adult content? It’s an answer I don’t really have at the moment.
And then there’s the existence of LGBT+ furries which, believe it or not, is a huge part of the fandom. Furs were understandably upset at how Lisa Ling didn’t even give them a side mention, and rightfully so, but I have my own theories as to why. I kinda feel like the discussion was more on “No, Furries aren’t a sex cult, they’re people just having fun.” By going into the world of LGBT+, we’re somewhat taking away from that.
How could that be though? These folks have fun too, and they deserve representation. Well, maybe it’s my inner college paper writer, but I feel like Lisa Ling would want to do that aspect justice if she did open that door. I’ve written enough papers to know that you shouldn’t just “throw out” something just to have it there. Something as large as the LGBT+ side of the fandom deserves to be talked about in depth, developed and explored. It shouldn’t be some statement thrown out to fulfill a checkbox only to get notes from the Professor saying the topic was severely underdeveloped.
My other theory is just plain ol’ time constraint. They were already busy enough with what they did – not only did they hit up our three friends, but Lisa Ling also hit up Anthro Northwest, where her new friends were also going; not only that, but she also talked to Telephone, and Kage, and had that last segment on kids and the fandom. That’s…quite a lot of ground to cover. Maybe they felt they would’ve just…had too many things going on? And remember, this is only a 40 minute feature. I refer you to the above about underdeveloped topics.
But overall, this was a heartwarming episode, and by the end, I was reminded of why I’m in this fandom and why I’m a big time apologist for it. It’s a place to go to meet people, have fun, and just escape the silly busy adult world, if even for just one night. And it helps people grow, evolve, and become better, helps them find themselves, who they are, or at the very least, discover a community that’s all too willing to be helpful and supportive of those in need. To say nothing of it finally being a positive look into the fandom by a mainstream media group.
If you ask me? I’d say that’s definitely worth yapping about.