What do you get when you mix a culture that promotes individuality and self-expression with an autocratic, dictatorial, self-declared leader? Fursonas, a documentary that began as Dominic Rodriguez and Olivia Vaughn’s senior thesis, dives deep into this question while simultaneously dismantling everything we thought we knew about the Furry Fandom.
So what exactly is the furry fandom? In 2001, Vanity Fair writer George Gurley wrote an article on the fandom, stating, “This is no hobby. It’s sex; it’s religion; it’s a whole new way of life”. In 2009, The Tyra Banks Show featured an episode titled “Is Your Sex Life Normal?” where the audience and Tyra ostracized a furry couple for having sex with their fur suits. Historically speaking, the media has traditionally deemed furry culture as an abnormal fetish.
Fursonas hopes to shift the tone of this conversation, moving past furry culture as a “weird” kink or fetish, by encouraging acceptance through the power of human experiences.
“The most common misconception is that it’s just a sex thing.” says director and fellow furry Dominic Rodriguez, “It’s a rich, vibrant, unique community.”
This message is crystal clear in the film; the audience is able to follow Rodriguez’s journey through Anthrocon in Pittsburgh and beyond as he interviews multiple members of the furry fandom. It is through these interviews that the audience is able to see the contradictory clash between the individualistic nature of the community and the collectivistic ideologies that have been enforced by Uncle Kage, the self-declared spokesperson of the community. On one hand, each individual member wants to express their own unique experience with the fandom. On the other hand, they fear persecution from the media, public, society, and ironically enough, Uncle Kage himself, if they “misrepresent” the fandom in any way.
Given the history of the media’s portrayal of furries, it is no wonder that Uncle Kage is quite overprotective of the fandom’s image; however, the film argues that his selfish, dictatorial control completely undermines the culture’s encouragement of individuality and acceptance. Fursonas beautifully depicts the contradictory beliefs that currently exist within the community, while bringing up a question that everyone, whether furry or not, can ask:
Should one man’s definition of appropriateness define the identity of an entire culture?
Although Rodriguez acknowledges that furries have been misrepresented in the media, he does not believe that the fandom should hide who they are for the sake of conformity.
“The media is doing what the media does, which is just following what’s interesting, trying to sell papers. That’s what they do with everyone…. If anything the media has gotten better. The community is growing and mainstream media is noticing that. Responsibility is on the community, on the furries, to just stop caring. The media has the power that you give it.”
Fursonas will be playing on April 23rd and April 27th at the 2016 Newport Beach Film Festival. Winning the 2016 Spirit of Slamdance award, while also airing at the Atlanta Film Festival, Treefort Music Festival, Docuwest International Film Festival, and Wicked Queer: The Boston LGTBQ Film Festival, you won’t want to miss the airing of this eye-opening, powerful documentary. Encouraging individuality, understanding, and acceptance, Fursonas is guaranteed to show you the beauty and complexity that exists within this fast-growing, unique fandom.