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Opinion: A call for more criticism of furry

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Furry fandom has had more than its fair share of criticism, both from within and without. A Flayrah review of Shawn Keller's "Horrifying Look at the Furries" (2001) notes that Mr. Keller "associated furry with bestiality and pedophilia." A decade later, most of our critics do the same.

But the title was purposely provocative. This may come as a surprise, but I'm not talking about the furry fandom at all. Instead, I'm calling for more criticism of the furry genre.

This piece has three goals: to explain why criticism is needed, what kind of criticism, and finally to offer a few points of criticism as examples.

Criticism: descriptive, not prescriptive

What I mean by criticism is an explanation of what art does, how art does it, and, if it's feeling really good about itself, why art does what it does. Criticism is not necessarily critical; it is not criticizing, nor is it necessarily laudatory. The kind I'm talking about is descriptive, not prescriptive.

Criticism of anthropomorphic animal characters is scant, both inside and outside the fandom – and as a result, our understanding of our own genre is woefully low. To date, I have found only one book that even begins to offer any such criticism; M. Blount's Animal Land. It isn't very good. If anything, it illustrates my point; early chapters range from Richard Adam's Watership Down to William Caxton's The History of Reynard the Fox, drawing few connections other than that they both involve talking animals. Anyone who is familiar with these works knows they are very different animals.

The reason for this lack of criticism is quite simple. There is "high" art, which is quite respectable to write critically about. Then there is "popular" art. You won't be quite as respectable critiquing such art, but normal people might actually have read, say, Roger Ebert, as compared to Susan Sontag.

We can argue all day long about high and low art, but the average piece of anthropomorphic animal art belongs to another realm, one so low that critics on both sides like to pretend it doesn't exist. I'm talking about children's art.

Now, I can hear the protests already; there are plenty of talking animals in "adult art". In my defense, whether all anthropomorphic animal art is for children is beside the point; the man on the street perceives that talking animals are for children — and in art, perception is as good as reality.

Why call for more furry criticism? First, because it is virtually nonexistent; and second, because such criticism will not come from an uncaring public.

Dubious definitions

There are good reasons to be wary of genre definitions. Simple descriptions, when offered, soon become very complex.

Take, for example, "adult anthropomorphic animal." Okay, sounds simple, but we instantly run into problems:

What, exactly, do we mean by adult? Is it a question of appropriateness, or theme? What about the level of anthropomorphisation? Is talking enough? Do they need a bipedal stance, opposable thumbs and all? Or, going the other way, what if it can't talk, but is more subtly anthropomorphized?

Surely we can agree on a definition of animal – but wait, what about fictional or mythical animals? Dragons? Pokémon? Those blue guys from Avatar?

Erotic objectification: The human gaze

Kistelli, by XianJaguarLet's refine animal to mean any non-human creature, real or fictional, that does not explicitly have human sentience. All well and good. But furry art routinely and thoroughly presents its subjects as sexual or erotic objects.

There is a word for this, and it is fetishization. It is an ugly word, but it fits.

A frequent feminist critique of movie portrayals of women is the "male gaze" effect, whereby the camera tends to focus on places where a man might tend to gaze if he wasn't being particularly tactful. According to feminist theory, this turns female human beings into fetish objects, and is thus called "objectification."

A clarification of the word "erotic" may be needed here. Eroticism is art which causes arousal. An individual may act on this feeling, but that isn't the artist's fault. Conversely, pornography is not erotic. The pornographer has failed if he merely causes arousal; his intent is for the viewer to act on this arousal.

Now would be a good time to show an example. For this, I'd like to bring in XianJaguar's "Kistelli."

To start with, the central figure is definitely an "erotic object." The vixen is dancing; an activity for the young and healthy, hallmarks of what is usually called beauty. Furthermore, her costume and setting suggest a Middle Eastern or Indian theme. Her position recalls the Hindu god Nataraja, often depicted dancing in the act of creation.

But on further analysis, another much more familiar creation story comes to mind. Take a look at the black, flat ground on which the character dances, with the watery blue fabric draped randomly.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Now, the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. " Genesis, Chapter 1, Verses 1-2, NIV

Follow the rest of the poetic (if not quite scientifically accurate) opening chapter of the Bible, and you'll see it's all here. The darkness over the deeps. The sky, the seas and the land. The two great lights. The green plants and the wild animals. Perhaps even – if you're so inclined – the Spirit of God. That the central figure is "erotically objectified," (i.e. fetishized) doesn't detract from this symbolic analysis; in fact, it is almost impossible without it.

Now, to come back down to earth for a minute, I doubt XianJaguar got the commission from Thomas Brady, sat down, and told herself she was going to code the first chapter of Genesis into a simple furry picture. But I do believe symbolism in art is not always conscious; sometimes it just happens.

Funny animals: The worst popular art-form on the planet

You can find long, boring theses, tracts and essays for each banality offered up as popular entertainment. People have pretentiously blithered on about spaghetti Westerns, Japanese monster movies, prime-time sitcoms and mid-day soaps.

Yet somehow, when funny animals are mentioned, it's usually as a footnote in a work dedicated to general comics or animation, or perhaps as background for a sociological study on a certain Internet subculture. By comparison, the sheer level of analysis given to superheroes and anime is depressing for a fan of funny animals. If those cartoons can be taken seriously, why can't ours? What justifies this critical ignorance?

Funny animals – of which I argue the furry genre is merely a particularly garish subset – are often thought of as nothing more than a handy shortcut. In visual mediums they allow the artist to skip problems of the "Uncanny Valley." In prose, they permit implicit characterization.

Funny animals, despite frequent accusations, don't fall into the Uncanny Valley. The Uncanny Valley is when something seems almost human, but isn't. If a cartoonist can't quite seem to get, say, the eyes right, the simple solution is to stick an animal head on a human body and call it a funny animal. Now the character is a few steps removed from a human, so if you still can't get the eyes right, it doesn't matter.

As a bonus, you get a character with built-in appeal (who doesn't like cute animals?) and you don't have to spend as long describing them, since animals are fairly archetypal. In Brian Jacques Redwall, we know from page one who our hero is, because he's a mouse. We also know our villain when we meet him, because he's a rat. These two characters are a bit more complicated than that. But not much.

This is why critics turn their noses up at funny animals; they assume it was a lazy gimmick, even if the artist chose this form for other reasons.

Here, furry parts company with funny animals. While I argue that furry is simply a subset of funny animals, it is chosen for specific stylistic concerns, rather than as a cheap shortcut. It relies more on visual appeal than traditional funny animals. Ironically, in furry objectification replaces species typecasting with a more rounded representation. Species are chosen to look good in a story role, not as a result of their symbolic compatibility.

As a subset, furry must follow the rules of funny animals. A delineation of these is in order:

  1. The majority of the characters must be anthropomorphic animals. Humans are allowed, and a human character can even be the protagonist, but they must be a distinct minority. Animal characters must be presented on the same level as any human characters.
  2. The level of anthropomorphisation should be both physical and mental. Bipedalism is a must.
  3. The genre of funny animals is not science fiction, or at least not hard science fiction. Anthropomorphisation should not be explained — at most, it should be vaguely hand-waved, as with fantastic "magic" or the ever popular soft sci-fi catchall, a "virus." That said, funny animals can be applied over a basic framework of soft sci-fi, like the space opera.

Conclusion

Conclusions are usually left to defenses of the genre; I will refrain from this, as genres are typically poorly served by fan apologists. If my definition of "fetishistic funny animal" seems underwhelming, remember that the title of what I've begun warily calling an essay is "A call for more furry criticism," not "A call for more furry criticism … by me and me alone." My goal is to provide a starting point for debate on what, in theory, we're all here for.

Instead of defending furry, I will instead defend myself. I cannot draw, and I am dubious of the merits of furry prose; to me, the genre's appeal is primarily visual. Therefore, I feel that I can best contribute to the genre by defining and analyzing it. If nearly 2,000 words seems overkill, I can only say that the first submitted draft ranged to the far side of 4,000.

I know, I know. Only 4,000?

Comments

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I'd be willing to bet a significant amount of money that XianJaguar knew exactly what she was doing. Not only can good artists consciously load their work with symbolism, her own name is intended to be pronounced "Christian jaguar".

I disagree with your second rule. To me, the mental characteristic is both necessary and sufficient; walking upright is neither.

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If I can analyse my analysis, I'd call it Jungian; Jung is the one always talking about "the collective unconscious." Its a kind of psychoanalysis, but unlike more Freudian psychoanalysis, it is much more flattering to the artist, and doesn't devolve into what is basically a game of "spot the penis."

As for the rules of funny animal, the problem with definitions is that they also bring about personal biases. I honestly can't defend the exclusion artistically right now (though perhaps historically), but I can't think of a good defense of the inclusion, either.

By the way, nice job editing.

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Life has taught me this much: criticism leads to improvement. Improvement leads to fulfillment of desires (couldn't find a synonym). That, in turn leads to satisfaction and happiness.

In short, open-minded ppl who criticize themselves end up better off.

Hope I made a point here.

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My criticism of this article is that it does not really offer any new insights ... it just merely discusses the words being used, and a view on anthropomorphic ("funny animal") art that is so US-Centric it borders on ignorance, and then the author tries to draw conclusions what the furry fandom should or should not do.

But what is the point? The argument itself is pretty thin already, but on top of that, the furry fandom is a genre on one level, and a cloud of people grouped by their common interest for that genre on another. IT is not an organisation, and neither it is some kind of intelligent entity. It's pointless to argue what it should/shouldn't do based on some abstract cultural goals that you just pulled out of your hat ;)

The only way you can really shape the fandom is by actively participating, and shaping the culture with the impact of your contribution.

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Well, furry is primarily an American phenomenon.

I am not talking about the furry fandom; I tried to go out of my way to avoid bringing the fandom into my analysis. I am not worried about what the fandom should or should not do; I am concerned with what the art means.

As far as the last sentence is concerned, well, isn't that what I'm doing?

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Well, furry is primarily an American phenomenon.

I'm not sure how you justify that, having cited Watership Down (UK), Animal Land (Canada), and Reynard the Fox (France/Luxembourg/Germany). The Disneys and Pixars of America draw on world culture, each country with its own twist.

As for the fandom – and really, I'm not sure it makes much sense to strictly separate the two – few would deny its initial organization in the U.S., but I have a map and Analytics statistics from WikiFur that suggest a wide dispersal since then.

In pure numbers, the English WikiFur gets 65% from North America, 7% from the UK, 3% each from Germany and Australia, then maybe a percent or two from Russia, Sweden, France, Finland and Poland. Russian of course has its own very active wiki with about 10% of visitors as the English version (mostly from Russia, some Ukraine), and there are a number of other languages with their own traffic.

Eurofurence is also the longest-running furry convention in the world – going on 17 years now. Sure, it was below 400 for all but the last five of those, but there's something to be said for pure longevity. Rusfurrence has been around for over a decade, too.

As far as the last sentence is concerned, well, isn't that what I'm doing?

I think Cheetah's point was that art critics generally do not drive new trends in art. About the only field in which they "matter" is politics. (They may have more influence on art's popularity than its direction - here's perspectives from TV [x2], music, film and theatre.)

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Perhaps furry as a movement (both culturally and artistically) can be seen as a reaction against the narrow limits of the "American definition" of funny animal. I think it can be argued that furry only could have happened in America, or at least started. Basically, you can't push the envelope if there is no envelope.

Of course, furry is a "popular" genre; it should have worldwide appeal. But just because anime has Western fans doesn't make it any less Japanese.

Funnily enough, none of the above quoted works would fit into the definition of furry I provided.

And also, William Caxton is English, not French/Luxembourgese/German.

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William Caxton is English, not French/Luxembourgese/German.

Yeah, but read the article - he just printed a translation of the Dutch version.

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Dutch, while not English, is also not French/Luxembourgese/German.

We're going to be here, like, all night, aren't we?

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I struggle to see any point to this article. You state that the purpose of the article is "to explain why criticism is needed, what kind of criticism, and finally to offer a few points of criticism as examples." I don't feel that you ever did any of those.

The only part where you were giving a reason for more criticism was because there wasn't any. That isn't a reason in and of itself. Why do we need criticism of the genre? We don't need it just for its own sake. You also seem to claim we need it to understand the genre but that ignores that the appeal is different for different people. Some claim a spiritual connection and some merely like the aesthetic appeal. There's no one way of understanding furry and I can't see how trying to explain the genre would benefit anyone.

You make an attempt to say what kind of criticism is needed but never said more than it needing to be descriptive. There's no more support to that idea and I raise the same objection as in the above paragraph. Why do we need descriptive criticism other than for its own sake?

You do manage to offer a few points of criticism but, apart from the section on funny animals, I think you're just trying too hard. Your explanation of the definitions just misses the point in a number of areas.
Adult is not a furry-exclusive term and generally denotes that it contains material not appropriate for minors, that can be sexual, violent, drug-related and such.
Anthropomorphism is just the attribution of human traits to non-humans. Any amount is enough to make it furry because there is no organisation to declare how much is needed. Some people, such as myself, are fine with just mental anthropomorphism but others will care about the body more. That's an individual's decision and one of the reasons why rule 2 that you provide fails.
And again you make the term animal into something far more complicated than you need to. Pokemon, mythical creatures etc are all animals. They don't exist but if they did they would be animals. Taking that as a difficult definition would be the same as getting worked up just because furries are not real.

I also find your analyses of Kistelli to be trying to find something that isn't there. If Greenreaper is right then perhaps you are correct but those sort of analyses should be done by anyone other than the artist themselves. You are just looking for some sort of symbolism and can fit the picture to whatever you want.
I could claim the picture is a homage to the WWII spy Mata Hari. She was also an erotic dancer so that link is obvious but more than that she was a spy using her feminine ways to get behind people's guard. In the same manner foxes are known to perform a 'dance' to distract rabbits and allow them to get close enough for the kill. That behaviour is referenced by the dancing foxes on the vases.
Those sort of analyses can be made to link a picture to almost anything you want and only the artist (or commissioner) knows what the real meaning behind the picture is.

In short you haven't convinced me of anything you set out to convince me of. This essay meanders across the genre, sometimes making sense but often vague and unguided, and never makes a real point.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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I also find your analyses of Kistelli to be trying to find something that isn't there... You are just looking for some sort of symbolism and can fit the picture to whatever you want. I could claim the picture is a homage to the WWII spy Mata Hari.

If you want serious criticism, stuff like this will be a natural consequence. While the more academic criticism fields can sometimes contribute great insights, they are also rife with people trying too hard and looking for things that are probably were not actually there. There are endless debates about the borderline stuff about if it is actually there or not. And that gets kind of awkward when the author/creator is still alive and clearly takes gives their intent and meanings, but the debate continues...

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There's no one way of understanding furry and I can't see how trying to explain the genre would benefit anyone.

I think there is value to criticism of specific works, in that it may reveal new depths to images which might otherwise be dismissed as "a nice picture", thus increasing viewers' enjoyment of the work.

Such criticism arguably has more value in the cases where the original artist is not around to explain their own intentions. Online galleries provide plenty of space in which they may do so, if they so choose.

(Though I feel interpretations should not be restricted to the artist's intention, even if they give it — and many don't.)

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Seconded. I think it would be wrong to argue against an artist's own profession of the meaning behind a piece, but when it is not provided, and yours is not denied by the artist, it is more than appropriate and helpful.

Art, movies, etc are constantly given the same treatment. And its both expected and acceptable.

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Just for the record, Mata Hari was involved in World War I, not II.

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Taking that as a difficult definition would be the same as getting worked up just because furries are not real.

Here is where we two must always part company; the fact that furries (or anything else in art) are not real doesn't stop them from producing real emotions.

The call for criticism is of most use to, well, critics. It isn't entirely fair to compare apples to oranges, nor is it easy. Therefore, critics must try and compare apples to apples to find out which is the best apple, and which are the bad ones. Unfortunately, if noone knows what an apple is, how can they know if a particular apple is good or bad example of appleness?

Actually, your analysis of the Mata Hari symbolism isn't bad. I've mentioned my use of Jungian psychoanalysis in my reply to Green Reaper. The problem with it is that it turns art into inkblots; my analysis may reveal more about me than Xian Jaguar.

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>But I do believe symbolism in art is not always conscious; sometimes it just happens.<

Most of the time it doesn't, especially if the picture is as tecnically complex as the one you've chosen. But even when it just happens it doesn't mean it happens by chance. Much of an artist's growth consists in turning conscious processes into unconscious ones. For example, when you first try out a new media you have to struggle with it for a while and think very carefully about the technicalities and what you are trying to do, but after a few years you have learned the gestures and the routine operations so well that you no longer pay attention and you can focus on more abstract thoughts. First you were wondering "should I use green or blue to paint the water here?", later you are wondering, "do I make the mood of this picture lighter or gloomier?".

The same happens with symbolism. After years of looking for hidden symbols in other artist's work, studying, trying consciously to convey certain meanings etc., symbolist thinking becomes the norm of the artist's fantasy. It becomes integrated with composition, anatomy, etc., so that all choices in a picture are connected to each other. I'm sure if Xianjaguar wasn't consciously thinking of a Genesis metaphor it's because at the time of inventing this picture she crunched so fast through possible symbols and ways to depict the scene that it was by all means a subconscious process for her. But it was not a [i]random[/i] process at all. The difference is very important to understand the traditional approach to art (as opposed to the modernist/conceptual approach) and to understand its achievements.

>Here, furry parts company with funny animals. While I argue that furry is simply a subset of funny animals, it is chosen for specific stylistic concerns, rather than as a cheap shortcut.<

I disagree with this, I think furry is rather a superset. There are things which fit well into modern furry art but have no place in traditional funny animal stuff, for example the strong atavistic/pagan undertones of some works and the urge to actually identify with one's avatar at the deepest levels. Erotica has no place in fables and funny animal stories either: sexual matters were referenced only for the purpose of jokes or satyre, while in modern furry art eroticism is often very "real" and physical, meant to cause actual arousal, on top of the fun factor.

I find furry art to be plit between two kinds of fetishism at least: one for real animals, atavism and biological facts, and the other for childhood feelings and animal symbolism. Funny animals were only the latter and modern furry art has expanded upon them to include the former, probably because the former has been all but dismissed from other genres and media.

I'll also add that the biggest mistake of people who criticize furry art is assuming that a "fetishistic" approach to a subject is inherently degrading and pornographic. Almost all human cultural activities could be described as "fetishism" for some item or concept, from religion to politics to the highest art. That this is somewhat "wrong" is an immature idea the furry fandom has inherited from the funny animal fandom and it has stifled all criticism attempts so far, turning them into sterile discussions about morality and social norm rather than artistic merit.

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Good post. 5 stars.

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So.... Furry is only graphic art? Forgive me, but I thought I'd noticed some stories and stuff, too..

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That part got cut. But, actually, furry prose seems a bit contradictory to me; the appeals are primarily visual. If it fits the rules, I suppose it still counts, but I wonder sometimes what the point is.

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Have you actually read any "serious" furry literature that makes use of animals as symbols or as alien viewpoints vis-a-vis humanity? If not let me suggest that you begin with "Watership Down". There are other examples of furry literary art--- and I emphasize art here-- as well. It's a growingly important part of the fandom, and more of our authors are gaining in stature in both our own subculture and the mainstream every year.

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Yes.

"Watership Down" does not fit into my definition of furry, even though it is one of my two favorite books of all time.

If there is one thing I've noticed about furry art is that it tends towards animal choices for aesthetic rather than symbolic reasons. This may sound like negative criticism, but it does allow for more unstereotypical characterization; a character often neither follows the symbolic path set out for it, nor does it "subvert" it. It is allowed to be a character in its own right. Notice this only applies to furry art; furries often have their own very personal "symbolism" tied up with a favourite animal.

As for alien viewpoints, that is the realm of hard science fiction or experimental fantasy, not furry. After all, an alien viewpoint is hardly anthropomorphic.

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If your definition of "furry" excludes fiction that clearly involves anthropomorphic animals - which last I checked is what the furry fandom is based on - then your definition is so limited as to be practically useless.

No wonder you don't see the point.

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And your definition is so wide as to be completely useless. "Anthropomorphic animal" is not a genre; it's a story device. A very common story device with many levels and effects, some of them very contradictory.

Perhaps the problem here is use of the word furry; it may have too much emotional baggage to have any practical use in and of itself right now. I think the best solution to the problem here is simply to rename the genre (the one I am describing) as, well, let's just call it "new funny animal" for now. I'll think of something clever later.

Perhaps the word should only be used in connection with the fandom.

That makes me strangely sad.

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So perhaps furry isn't even a genre then? The furry fandom consists of fans of anthropomorphic characters. That could be in any genre because it's the kind of characters that are liked. There doesn't need to be some uniting story theme.

The definition isn't useless, it's just wide. There are various levels of anthropomorphism and you only want to recognise certain ones while others are fine with the whole spectrum. There's nothing wrong with a broad definition. In comic book conventions they can have all sorts of genres, not only superheroes. That doesn't make comic book a useless definition, just a broad one.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Ah, man, I could almost go with this post, but you missed something. Comic books aren't a genre; they're a medium. But that's just really a nerd quibble.

Anyway, there was a portion I cut saying the furry fandom is a fandom of anthropomorphic animals; I'm not interested in changing that definition. I think what I'm trying to get across is that furry artists have created a brand spanking new genre the likes of which has never been seen before. This is what I'm trying to define in the article. Yes, it is a derivative subset of funny animal, which uses anthropomorphic animals as a story element, like everything from "Watership Down" to the Bible.

Anthropomorphic animals are a dime a dozen; this new genre is almost nonexistent, and may in fact die before it gets any kind of attention outside of the fandom. In fact, from what I'm getting here, the fandom doesn't seem to really care about it that much.

"Watership Down" is a great book, but when it comes down to it, Richard Adams is probably unaware of furry, and if someone where to leave him alone for five minutes on FurAffinity with an adult login, it would probably kill him. The man is 91. And "Watership Down" is a fairly politically conservative book, when you get down to it.

Meanwhile, in the last 30 years, furry artists, backed and often exclusively commissioned by furry fans, have created something never before seen. "Anthropomorphic animal" already has a name. It's "anthropomorphic animal."

This genre doesn't. Why not name it in honor of its creators?

In conclusion, IT IS NOT HERESY, AND I WILL NOT REPENT!

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I'm getting tired of this new trend of wanting to define "furry" to mean "created with awareness of, or for the specific consumption of, the furry fandom." It used to just mean "involving anthropomorphic animals." And furry fans were people who liked stuff with anthropomorphic animals, whether it was made within the fandom or outside it. What does it matter that Richard Adams is either unaware of furry or wouldn't like it? Why does something need to be made by the fandom or for the fandom for it to "count"?

If you just want to talk about your concept in terms of a visual art phenomenon/genre, fine, but confine it to visual art and leave the rest alone, because shoehorning writing into your definition isn't working all that well.

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Ouch.

I specifically tried to seperate the genre from the fandom in the article for about the same reason as stated here.

So I guess I deserve to be called out for sucking up the fandom in the comments.

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Oh, that's not a new trend at all. The word "furry" has been used in multiple contexts for decades and there's never been much agreement. When referring to things people have created, furry can mean (like you said) "created with awareness of, or for the specific consumption of, the furry fandom" (usually by someone within the fandom, but not always) - or it can mean "contains content which might appeal to people within furry fandom, regardless of origin". So we say Watership Down is furry, Bugs Bunny is furry, Flayrah is furry - anything goes.

When it comes to someone who's not in the fandom, the vagueness of using the word "furry" sometimes results in the creators saying, "Look, what I've created may have characters that you call furry, but it's not made with the fandom in mind, and I don't participate in the fandom." Although some them aren't so polite about it, sadly.

Drat - I wish I could find the example - an online comics artist who's not a furry recently did a short webcomic about why they like to use anthropomorphic characters, it was quite a positive thing. Then you've got things like the Game Dogs series of videos where they made it quite clear at the start that it wasn't going to be a furry thing.

I think what it boils down to - when you're talking about anthropomorphic stuff to another person - some people want to know if a piece of creative work is being produced from within or from outside the fandom, and who its intended audience is. As a reviewer, this is important. However in day-to-day fandom conversation, the distinction doesn't need to be made so much. :)

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I know "furry" has multiple contexts and definitions and always has, depending on who you're talking to. But in my experience, I've been in the fandom for over a decade, and I've only seen this fandom-based definition really gain ground over the last few years at best. YMMV.

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When it comes to someone who's not in the fandom, the vagueness of using the word "furry" sometimes results in the creators saying, "Look, what I've created may have characters that you call furry, but it's not made with the fandom in mind, and I don't participate in the fandom." Although some them aren't so polite about it, sadly.


The good news is that whether it was created with the fandom in mind or not is irrelevant; Furry is defined as anthropomorphic animals, not anthropomorphic animals created by or for people in the fandom. (I've always found the claim that it's only Furry if the creator "intended it to be" a rather useless and unworkable definition because it requires one to be psychic, but it's always entertaining to watch the folks who say it's unfair to label these works Furry without knowing contradict themselves by saying if we don't know we should assume they aren't.)

Perhaps a little history/perspective is in order: The argument that Furry fandom is only stuff created by/for the fandom was one that was put forth more than a decade ago on alt.fan.furry (remember alt.fan.furry?) by a troll named Random. Can't say I really know why it's gained traction in recent years, although given the growth of the fandom in the last ten years maybe new fans simply don't know any better.

The bottom line is that Furry is about anthropomorphic animals—all anthropomorphic animals—whether created by someone just learning to draw or a team of professional animators in a Warner Brothers animation studio.

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I would have to hand this one to the ambiguity caused by the lexicon of furry. "Furry" can mean the art, or the fandom, and thus when people say x is "furry", some will add the art to it, others will centralize it on the fandom.

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'And "Watership Down" is a fairly politically conservative book, when you get down to it.'

I'm a liberal but even I find this a stupid statement.

If Conservatism disqualifies something or someone from being furry, I could name you a few hundred folks who should be banned from attending AnthroCon (and good riddance to the assholes too).

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Furry fandom is about fictional anthropomorphic animal characters.

We call them furries because it's a lot easier to say than "fictional anthropomorphic animal characters."

(Besides, most people don't know what "anthropomorphic" means, much less how to spell it.)

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Saying 'Watership Down' isn't furry is like saying '2001: A Space Odyssey' isn't SF, you furry fuckwit.

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Furry fandom has had more than its fair share of criticism, both from within and without.

Unfortunately, to date most of the "criticism" from within has consisted of irrational, angry people who make themselves look worse than the things they're criticizing. From the tried-and-failed Take Back Our Fandom movement to Shawn Keller to the Burned Furs to Vivisector, we've seen it all before—extremists who just think all they need to be a "critic" is a loud voice and a bad attitude. If you've been around the fandom long enough, you'll notice a pattern that every few years a new group crops up and makes the same mistakes the prior ones did, and then wonders why nobody takes them seriously.

The "criticism" from outside could more accurately described as "generalizations", or perhaps just plain ignorance. Mostly it comes from people who believe what they see on fictional television shows or the tabloid media. Focusing on the worst elements one can find and then extrapolating that into blanket statements of what's wrong with the entire fandom instead of recognizing it as a tiny minority; the exception to the rule.

There is a need for criticism in Furry fandom, but the corollary to that is the critics need to be level-headed and rational if they want people to listen to them.

Funny animals – of which I argue the furry genre is merely a particularly garish subset – are often thought of as nothing more than a handy shortcut.

Sorry, but you've got that backwards. Furry is a meta-genre. Furries are simply anthropomorphic animals, and funny animals are a specific subset of them.

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As stated above, I am not really interested in critiques of subculture; only in the art produced.

Of course, someone could very easily provide a strong argument that furry fandom and furry art are inseperable. The problem I've been seeing in both inside and outside criticism of the art is that rarely is the art discussed as an object of value in and of itself; furries tend to talk about themselves mostly, while outsiders tend to dismiss the genre entirely before moving on to more general discussions of animation/comics/children's literature/whatever, or also talk about the furry fandom.

Since this is the last post, I suppose my major point is I'm rather bored with constant discussions of the furry fandom and what that means, and would rather have a discussion about the art, and what it means, if for no other reason than a change of pace.

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In which case I'll reiterate my previous point: There is a need for criticism in Furry fandom, but the corollary to that is the critics need to be level-headed and rational if they want people to listen to them.

I'm not disagreeing that Furry fandom needs criticism (of art/writing/whatever), but I've seen art critique communities that bill themselves as being "brutally honest" which are quite frankly more interested in being brutal than honest; the ones that offer any sort of encouragement or constructive criticism to newbie artists have been few and far between.

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I think it helps if you are their friend before you become their critic; but criticism can risk friendship. I know several artists who trust my opinion because I do not pull it, but generally they have to ask for it.

I once seriously considered setting up a community dedicated to brutal criticism of artwork, with the condition that artwork could only be submitted by the artists concerned. I still think it'd be a neat idea. Maybe after I finish Metapix.

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Ah, this is where my points of "descriptive" versus "prescriptive" come in. These "brutally honest" art communities sound to me like they've already decided furry (or at the very least the art they are critiquing) is bad. Most of this comes from unfair comparison of furry to other genres.

Admittedly, the new artist wouldn't be helped very well. The criticism I'm calling for would be a tool to measure furry with by its own standards. It applies more to works that already meet those standards. For a new artist, at best it would give guidelines along the lines of "this is something that works, and here is why it works."

As far as critiques on technique, the only practical answer may be simply to go offline; criticism among friends, as Green Reaper points out, risks friendships, while criticism from enemies is, well, hardly helpful. Asking the local art teacher or even a local artist for critiques would avoid this problem, and probably be a bit more informed than the average "random Internet guy."

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I think they wouldn't want to call it "furry" in a "Serious art Forum". Because "furry" is what they call "kitsch" in the art world. This isn't necessarily a bad things. It's just "serious artists" are supposed to try and do something completely original and new, while "kitsch" art is trying to make an appeal to a broad fanbase.

So in other words as furry fans exist, furry will alway probably be "kitsch" to "serious artists".

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Who one voted this man?

I like kitsch very much. This may make me a bad person, but whatever.

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If this is your idea of calling for more literary criticism, you've got a funny way of showing it.

I could've made your argument for you a lot more simply:

  • The furry fandom needs literary criticism because... stuff that gets taken seriously has literary criticism, and you believe that if furry media is subjected to literary criticism, furry fandom will somehow also be taken seriously. You believe this in spite of bringing up media that is certainly not taken seriously, and thus does not prove your point; it may elevate the academic status of furry work, but it certainly will not make furry work any more palatable to the mainstream.
  • Literary criticism is distinct from what most people think of when you say the word criticism, in that literary criticism is more about analyzing a work and what meaning or intent the work has than it is about saying whether or not a piece was executed properly.
  • ... and here's an example of literary criticism, which, unfortunately, is lacking.

Now, this could have been gone about another way: instead of trying to define what literary criticism is and insisting that more magically appears out of thin air, you could have started your own furry literary criticism journal and asked for submissions. (It's not like publishing a black-and-white zine is expensive these days!) This would allow you to nurture literary criticism of furry media until someone else pays attention. Alternatively, you could approach various liberal arts professors and try to figure out the fastest way to get high-profile criticism in a literary journal -- or at least find a student or two willing to do the legwork for you. If there's 100k furries browsing the internet, SURELY we can find one or two that're liberal arts majors who do this sort of thing.

Leading by example makes far more sense in this case than trying to educate the fandom at large on how to critique a work.

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Basically, what I have become afraid of is that the fandom itself doesn't take the furry artform seriously. I mean, the last Ursa Majors went to Avatar over a movie with talking foxes that the director appeared as a weasel in (and accepted a different award as). We couldn't even get the animal part right! I'm repeating myself, but I'm tired of talking about the fandom; let's talk about the art. Maybe I'm just not hanging around FurAffinity enough, but nobody seems to be talking about the artform. This is the secret reason for the article; I just want to geek out about furry art.

Also, you've got me all backwards; I'm not interested in high-profile criticism outside the fandom (though I suppose it would be nice). What I really want is a real furry movie; that's what I'm working on. I'm currently waiting on a final critique of a screenplay before I try and hunt up a local director so I can find out exactly what I'm getting myself into.

Bad critical analysis is just what I do in the meantime.

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I'm just here for the art, people will make their critiques in comment section, good artist will hear it and understand advise from trolling, paying attention to the former, ignoring the latter. If they fail to do both of these they will stifle their own creativity and won't set the bar high enough to become better in time.

There can never be enough constructive criticism in the world, for without it growth is impossible.

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Criticism (or lack thereof) in the fandom is something I've been thinking about for a while and could write a good chunk of text about, but I'd best keep this relatively short.

In the late 1990s, furry suffered from years of flamewars between the lifestyle and hobbyist extremes in the fandom, and, as a result, criticism became largely taboo. For a little while, the very act of complaining could get you labelled as a troublemaker. On the Furnation art discussion forum, negative criticism was outright banned. And this is a problem - negative criticism is occasionally justified (e.g., satire, although I find positive criticism works better) - and it didn't help that most of the complainers were being a**holes. Yet if criticism is taboo, how do conflicts and differences in the fandom get addressed?

This is something for which there's no easy answer. By 2000 the strategy most people were using in the fandom was to avoid controversial topics as much as possible. That's why when mass furry trolling started happening in the early 2000s, we were such wonderful targets - we weren't emotionally or psychologically able to cope with criticism, and it highlighted just how unwilling we were to criticize each other. People outside the fandom were more than happy to do it for us, and our reaction was to circle our wagons and give each other group hugs, instead of addressing things. Now that it's 2011 I'm seeing more willingness within the fandom to discuss sensitive topics, but it's going very slowly.

Another problem with trolling is that although there's an occasional valid point on sites like Vivisector, they're buried, obscured and surrounded by inflammatory attacks, so you question the motives of the poster, and correspondingly the argument. Other criticisms in the fandom tend to be along the lines of "I don't like X". While a valid statement (and something I'm not immune to), it's not exactly helpful. On the issues where we're divided, we rarely get a mature, non-inflammatory discussion along the lines of "Given that so many X don't like Y and are unlikely to change their opinions, how can we all get along better?"

And most of all, nuanced, serious criticism is very rare. It's something I've tried to accomplish in my reviews for Anthrozine, although I'm not sure if that site will be ongoing. This criticism problem goes back years and years - check out this archived essay by Watts Martin. And writing good criticism is hard. It takes work, and now that there's a lot of younger people in the fandom, it's become even trickier - both to create quality criticism and to be able to take it. These skills take time and practice to develop.

Sorry I can't talk much about the art end of things as your post was largely addressing. I'm not much for academic artistic criticism in that someone tries to apply meaning to art that was never there - but I'm interested in identifying and deconstructing patterns, in a tvtropes sort of way. On the depiction of the body, I highly recommend the opening chapters of John Berger's book, Ways of Seeing, or episode 2 of the tv series (starts off slow, but stay with it).

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I like what you're going for, even after reading all the negative comments. Most people don't know what the furry genre is when it slaps them in the face. We had to read "Watership Down" as the first book of high school, and still all my classmates had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned "furry" art. What immediately came to mind was sexual deviancy, rather than the book they had read, discussed in class, and wrote a paper about. Even my English teacher said, "There's really not much to say about this book aside from the whole 'Is this book sexist?' controversy," as he had no clue how to look at the book from an anthropomorphic perspective.

I also took to my school library to read various copies of "Renard the Fox", and all of the introductions and conclusions and analysis seemed to spend a great deal of time on how the book was political or religious or societal criticism, and little on the use of the animal characters, which I would have been interested in.

As someone who reads a lot of furry webcomics, looks at art on furaffinity, reads the occasional furry book that piques my interest, analyzes the use of furry characters in videogames, and every once in a while takes a stab at listening to furry music, I enjoy seeing the different uses of these characters in a variety of artistic settings.

While I think that this is a noble goal, to increase the critical library of anthropomorphic literature to enable English teachers to actually teach furry novels as furry novels, it's just really unlikely to happen. We're not English professors at universities getting grants to writing about this fascinating new literary genre; no art history student is writing about furry art for their doctorate, and no ethnomusicologist will ever choose to willingly contemplate the world of furry music.

"Furry" is not part of academic vocabulary, and it's doubtful it ever will be.

But then again, a lot of things are outside of common vocabulary. I read my university's Music magazine, and as they start to name all these weird types of genres I can't help but wonder: "Is this how people feel when they hear me use the word 'furry' to describe what sorts of artistic work I appreciate?" (I still don't have a clue what "shoe-gazer anti-folk" is.)

Maybe this is okay. We understand what we're talking about, in a general sense. I would love to read an essay on the development of the "furry" genre, but I don't think other people need to appreciate it.

I would love to see more in-depth criticism from you, as opposed to broad political-tracty stuff. But it's hard to critique the genre as a whole, maybe just start with art? I have been waiting forever to read an article about how furry art is a combination of realism and partially developed off of the Disney art style, and what's going to happen to today's young furry artists now that all the animated movies are in 3D.

Yay Essays!

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>We're not English professors at universities getting grants to writing about this fascinating new literary genre; no art history student is writing about furry art for their doctorate, and no ethnomusicologist will ever choose to willingly contemplate the world of furry music.<

Not yet, but there are scholars who are part of the fandom and many others who are aware of its existence. There are already some serious studies of the sociological side of the fandom like this one:
http://www.openthesis.org/documents/Creature-comfort-anthropomorphism-sexuality-...

And nowadays there are artists of a much higher caliber than 10 or 20 years ago - both professionals who do personal work in the genre and skilled fans who have much less prejudice about style and subject matter, and all are more willing to think like a real avant-garde. It's no longer all about fanart and hobby pictures. It's only a matter of time before the community pulls out art which cannot be ignored any more.

>I would love to read an essay on the development of the "furry" genre, but I don't think other people need to appreciate it.<

Perri Rhoades has done extensive research on the roots of the funny animal genre: http://spectralshadows.livejournal.com/46979.html
The most interesting are parts 2-7 (part 2 is just a quick overview, parts 8+ focus mostly on commercial art and doesn't look into other influences of the modern fandom).

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Actually, the "Creature Comforts" thing is kind of what I've been talking about; furry art as a way to understand furry fandom, rather than furry art as worthwhile in and of itself.

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Context is necessary to say anything useful about art though. Would you review that image above the same way if you didn't know Xianjaguar is a proud Christian? Or if it were a page from a commercial fables book rather than a private commission?

I see what you are concerned about here, but be careful not to confuse trolling like Keller's with actual criticism of the furry fandom. Old school fans called it "criticism" just because they didn't know better, but nowadays we know better. Drawing fat guys and making zoophilia jokes is not criticism because it doesn't explain anything and doesn't show understanding of anything, it merely shows that the author doesn't like such realities and wants to make fun of them.

Stuff like "Creature Comfort" instead is real criticism, because it doesn't judge what it describes and it offers a rational explaination of *why* the fandom is the way it is. It shows that it's possible to discuss seriously about the fandom - if the author is up to the task.

Of course I'm not saying that all criticism of furry art needs to delve into fan psychology, but the critic needs to be aware of the motivations behind the art IMHO, else he risks to miss important things.

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Not a fan of Shawn Kellers. Just to make that clear.

Of course I'm not saying that all criticism of furry art needs to delve into fan psychology,

Just mostly, huh?

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Not at all! As far as I'm concerned the essay I linked and a couple others have already said what had to be said on the social side, and your article takes well into account the motivations of the people behind the art. I look forward for more analisys of the art like yours. What I'm annoyed at are other people who in the past criticized furry art by pretending it was just Disney spinoffs, and that the fetishism factor and the social oddities behind it were unexplainable anomalies which hindered good art... when it was actually the opposite.

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Does it seem to anyone, they were being told to play by their rules or else...

sorry for being so blunt...

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How can you break the rules if you do not know what they are?

How can you know the rules if you are unwilling to even discuss them?

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A Critique of this article.

The article sets out by establishing three goals. Unfortunately, it fails to meet any of them with great satisfaction.

First, is the goal of stating why criticism is needed. The article could well have a goal of stating why fish need water. Sadly, it doesn't actually state the benefits of Criticism. Instead, it launches into a strange and not quite correct description of the criticism deemed to be needed. What is described is not Critique, which determines the 'worth' against certain measures, but Analysis which examines the work's meaning and form. Something that is rather rare outside of academia anyway.

Then the writer goes on to make two easy to falsify claims to support a need for more criticism. First that all Furry creativity is by necessity to be categorised by the audience as "children's art", and then that "children's art" is not critiqued. The latter can be falsified by pointing out the column inches printed in newspapers on Pixar's film output. The prior can be dismissed by pointing out that there is confusion between 'the general public' perception, a works intended audience, and side stepping of the existence of clear non-children's art works accepted by the general public, not least of which includes The Island of Dr. Moreau.

More so the writer asserts that critique does not exist in any meaningful form within furry fandom. Again, this is easy to falsify, from personal experience attending furry conventions which held writers circles and discussions on a high level of critical appraisal of 'furry' creative work.

Next onto what kind of critiques the writer things we should give. Confusingly the writer addressed this before the first goal, by providing his unique definition of Criticism. This includes the rather abstract phrase, "Criticism is not necessarily critical", which seems to deny the very definition of the word. As mentioned before, what is then described is analysis of a work, not critique of a work. The two having very different results and purposes, it is hard to understand why they have been confused in this way. Analysis asks "What does it mean?" while Criticism asks "Did it achieve it's goal?".

Thirdly, the article provides some 'examples' of his desired criticism. The first is frankly a sophomoric over-analysis of a painting. It projects meaning onto the painting, and invents from whole cloth a connection to a bible verse so vague it could be applied to nearly any similar picture. Then to compound this, it asserts that even should there have been no intentional link, then there must have been a subconscious link.

The second example provides us with an attempt to critique an entire format of presentation, 'The Funny Animal'. But the definition of what is 'Funny Animal' here is so amorphous, that it even becomes possible for the writer to declare that the entirety of furry can be a subset of it. The writer then goes on to make some vague assertions that 'Funny Animal' is a creative-crutch to avoid 'the uncanny valley' and allow for easy characterisation. While the writer provides an apt example in Redwall, he ignores the contemporary counter examples such as Duncton Wood.

The writer than departs into what I have to consider the absurd, by establishing what he calls Rules for appreciable furry content in it's new definition as a subset of 'funny animal'. These rules are nothing less than the ghetoization of furry into a clearly defined and restrictive set. And they would exclude some of the greatest pieces of creative work in furry creative art, and indeed most popular 'furry' literature and film.

The conclusion attempts to wrap this up with a bow of "but that's just what I think, and I'm trying to start the debate" as a limp mitigation for any flaws. Along with a parting shot that attempts to belittle and side-line the written word as a legitimate part of furry creative endeavours.

Over all, the article lacks a terse and concise summary style that should be expected from journalistic work. Instead it reads like a rambling essay, delivered by someone who had had a half formed idea push it's way onto the page. And it seems published without much editing.

In all, the article does not impress.

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Well, then we both need a dictionary.

I got my criticism and analysis confused, you seem to think "obscure" means a small population ...

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Sorry, ego damage causes snarking. I've got a serious question here, because it pertains to my own interests.

Are you suggesting H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau a place in the, well, I'll call it the "furry canon" and you can correct me on my terminology later.

That is interesting.

I was fairly certain that, while a narrow definition would be contreversial (I'm sorry, I'm more into exclusions than inclusions), but I was pretty sure an agreed upon definition would exclude anthropomorphic animals as purely horrific elements. I mean, I don't mean that furry can't be horror; I think Xydexx is right for calling furry a meta-genre, if maybe not for the right reasons. But anyway, are you counting werewolf movies here?

This really is a serious question; I'm planning on a followup piece eventually, but don't worry, I'm going to wait until October. I want to talk about furry and horror and how I believe they have more in common than at first glance, or that they are at least much more complementary.

I didn't really like Moreau, though I'd kill for a furry adaptation of War of the Worlds ala Tod Wills' "Dracula." Or even just a period piece adaptation of War of the Worlds. I have a lot of problems with Alan Moore's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," but the second volume was amazing. Moreau creating all the British funny animal characters was a pretty good joke, and you thought the article was unedited and rambling.

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Why shouldn't 'An American Werewolf In London' be a part of Furry?

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Werewolf stuff would actually be in a weird place. It obviously has the appeal of the mixture of human and animal traits but it isn't actually a wolf with human features, it's a human that now has wolf features. That's not an anthropomorphic wolf its a bestial human.

In the end the result is the same and I guess the finished product would still be furry but it does make its way there through the opposite process. I suppose to properly include transformation as part of furry you'd have to say that furry was a fandom for characters with a mixture of human and animal traits, although a human with the mental capacity of a squirrel doesn't seem to fit as well as a society of intelligent squirrels.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Look, I've spent a lot of time on non-furry forums defending furry.

One of the things people keep telling me that they really hate about furries is the way they claim everything is furry. This really annoys people. I've seen some pretty angry rants from fans of Watership Down against furries claiming it as furry. These people are usually fantasy fans; Watership Down is a fantasy, and it was their book before it was ours. If it ever even was ours. And I don't think horror fans would appreciate you claiming An American Werewolf in London is the same thing as My Little Pony.

Once again, I'm not saying My Little Pony is furry, but you definitely would. And that certainly upsets me as a horror fan.

My definition of furry may insult you, but your definition insults a lot more people, I assure you.

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Fandoms don't get to declare exclusive ownership. Anyone who declares that Furries aren't allowed to consider 'Watership Down' to be something they get to talk about, and consider part of their fandom, has issues. Do we get to say they can't have Ursula Vernon's "Digger" and "Black Dogs" as fantasy too?

I suggest that the people you are talking to just have weird ideas about Furry, don't want anything "icky" associated with the things they like, and that you are actually not helping furry fandom by re-enforcing that.

And it's really not a good idea to try and prescribe genre definitions in the first place.

I direct you to the instructive case of Margaret Atwood.

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We already have a furry like KinkyCoyote who acts like he's the Malcolm X of Furries. Looks like Crossaffliction wants to be the fucking Pope.

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Look, guy who's over on the bestiality story saying all furry is about is jacking off dogs; seriously, go away.

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Right - it's about being mated by your own Pokemon as well!

Just got this checking the front page of FA: Vap Vap! (NSFW; icon: "BESTIALITY Pokemon")

In fairness all the other pictures there were clean; this may be partly to do with the time of day.

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I have no idea what you are doing with this post, so, uh, I'm going to ignore it.

So, anyway, I've recently been sending you drunken emails (except I wasn't drunk, just overworked), and it seems your faith in the average user was, as per usual, justified.

So, anyway, I've got a film review that will be hilariously ironic in light of some of the discussion on this article, but that is perfect for Friday the 13th.

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So we're going to bend over backward to define furry in a way that doesn't insult fans of other things, even if our definition winds up far more restricted than makes any sense?

Really, if we're going to give others that much power over what we consider furry and how we define our own fandom, we might as well give up now, because plenty of people think we're all losers at best and perverts at worst anyway. Why even bother to counteract those stereotypes, then, if we've already been reduced to rejecting Watership Down as furry just because that pisses people off in a forum?

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The folks who freak out about Watership Down being furry do it because if they actually admitted they liked furry stuff then they would be able to rag on furries anymore.

They should just get over themselves and embrace their furry side. They'll be happier.

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Also, I think I have to take issue with your putting words into my mouth. No, An American Werewolf in London is not the same thing as My Little Pony.

But... Star Trek is not the same thing as Event Horizon either, yet it would be absurd to segregate Event Horizon into Horror alone.

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I remember reading an interview with the intellectual European filmmaker Michael Haneke in which he said that he "didn't regard Tarkovsky's Solaris as a science-fiction film."

I don't deny that if Tarkovsky, in his lifetime, had ever attended a sci-fi convention, he'd have run a mile in the other direction -- but sorry, Solaris, with its spaceships, teleporters and alien powers, is a science-fiction film; Michael Haneke, for all his intelligence, is wrong; and you are a fucking asshat for continually spouting this shit.

Watership Down isn't furry?! GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!

"Look, I've spent a lot of time on non-furry forums defending furry. One of the things people keep telling me..."

What do you want you tiresome cunt, a fucking medal?!

Here's 2 suggestions: stop obsessing about what they say; stop obsessively fucking telling us what to think!

SIMPLES.

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Michael Haneke, for all his intelligence, is wrong


As an aside, he's also an incredibly annoying filmmaker, having seen his films Time of the Wolf and Cache.
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I've seen some pretty angry rants from fans of Watership Down against furries claiming it as furry.


Haters gonna hate.

But at the end of the day the problem lies in their misinformed, misdirected rage and not in the definition of Furry.

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I think the reason they get insulted is because they think that just because they like something with anthropomorphics animals people will see them as furries.

Tell them that just because they like one anthroporphic work does not make them a furry in the same way someone like a particular film doesn't make them a fan of the entire genre. Hell they could hate the genre BESIDES that one flick.

This is normal... I'm surprised intelligent people who read need to be explained that kind of thing. Hell I hate country music and techno music but I can name a list of songs that happen to be those genres that I enjoy.

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I'm replying to a bunch of people at once down here, so pardon me. Except for, of course, Desiring_Change, who's definition of furry was made clear in another article's comments, and one that we can all agree with is wrong. For those of you not aware, he’s over on the Florida bestiality article claiming we all jack off our dogs. I think we can all discount any of his opinions out of hand.

Get it?

Now, more specifically, Lamarr, you are now putting words in my mouth. I never prescribed nothing, brother. I described. There's a, if you will, deleted scene from the original draft, that sorta made it as a subhead in the final draft.

The kind of criticism I’m talking about is descriptive, not prescriptive. ... This is my way of basically saying I have a definition in mind, but you might not like it. But there is a simple way to avoid this problem; the common definition of a furry fan is a fan of anthropomorphic animals; not, ironically, a fan of furry. I will argue that the furry genre is more specific than just “anthropomorphic animal,” or even “adult anthropomorphic animal.” If my particular definition exempts certain works in your “furry canon” (as it were), no problem; it still exists under the umbrella of “anthropomorphic animal,” and is therefore covered in the fandom definition. Furthermore, I have no intentions on modifying, or even delineating, the definition of “furry fan.” And, finally, this essay is entitled “A call for more furry criticism,” not “A call for more furry criticism … by me and me alone.”

I am not taking any kind of stance on the value of the genre I am describing, either morally or artistically. Nor am I saying, as I believe a lot of people believe I am doing, that all furries should drop what they are doing if it does not comply directly to my definition; only like "furry, by my definition," and only create "furry, by my definition." I tried to make that clear in my conclusion; apparently, I failed miserably.

You yourself agree that a werewolf movie and a kid's cartoon are not the same thing. Let's just set the word "furry" aside for a moment. An American Werewolf in London is a great werewolf movie; I know this because I've watched a lot of werewolf movies. It is also a pretty good horror movie; I know this because I've watched a lot of horror movies. Both "werewolf movie" and "horror movie" are genres with rules that I feel I understand. So I know if it is a better example of a werewolf movie than, say, the recent Wolf Man remake. Hopefully we both agree there, if we don't, let's just set it aside, okay? We've got more important things to talk about.

However, I have trouble comparing An American Werewolf in London to My Little Pony, partially, admittedly, because I've never watched an episode of My Little Pony. But even if I had, I'd still have trouble, because they are so different. An American Werewolf in London is scary and disgusting; because of this it succeeds. This is its goal, if you will; to be scary and disgusting. If an episode of My Little Pony could accurately be described as scary and disgusting, it would have actively failed. My Little Pony is going more for cute and cheerful. The "artistic goals," if you'll let me, of My Little Pony and An American Werewolf in London are antithetical. Even the element they both share, anthropomorphic animals (though, as Rakuen Growlithe points out, it could be argued that they actually don't share even that), is used for antithetical "artistic goals."

Now let me be clear; I am only using the terms "scary," "disgusting," "cute" and "cheerful" descriptively. These are not value judgements. The only time I'd say a work fails is if it does not reach its own "goals," as I have tried to explain here. The thing about anthropomorphic animals is that they are a means to reach a "goal," not necessarily a "goal" in and of themselves. Different artists use anthropomorphic animals for different reasons; hell, the same artist could, conceivably, use anthropomorphic animals for two very different reasons in different works. That's the takeaway lesson. I'm not saying all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. I am saying all animals are different, and must be judged on their own merits, if we are to truthfully evaluate their worth.

What I was attempting to do was delineate a specific use of anthropomorphic animals; I believe that, since the founding of the fandom, this is the area that has seen the most interesting artistic growth. I labeled this new and still emerging genre “furry.” My claims that this genre doesn’t fit well with prose, while I still stand behind that statement, does not mean that literature involving anthropomorphic animal characters is worthless; I am simply saying the specific “goals” (which are primarily visual) of the specific subset I was delineating are not well served by non-visual mediums.

In other words, if you want to write a furry book, go write a furry book. If you want to create a furry comic with “non-anthro” characters, go create a furry comic with “non-anthro” characters. Just realize that there are much more subtle differences in art and literature than “it has anthropomorphic animals” and “it doesn’t have anthropomorphic animals.”

On further review, the analysis of “Kistelli” was superfluous, and perhaps should have been cut completely (and it was extensively cut down in the final draft) but I had so much fun with it, I can’t really say I really regret letting it out there.

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I mean, Jesus Christ guys, I reviewed Pokemon for this website.

That barely even fits into the super-inclusive "anthropormorphic animals" definition.

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I was pretty sure an agreed upon definition would exclude anthropomorphic animals as purely horrific elements.

*facepalm*

I'm sorry, what part of "Furry fandom is about anthropomorphic animals" are you having trouble understanding?

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Furry =/= Serious Business

Why in the hell you thought this would be a good idea is beyond me.

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The burden is on folks like you to argue why a genre isn't worth considering or critiquing, when virtually anything under the sun in art and expression benefits from it.

Perhaps you didn't read the bit where this is not about furry fandom, but the so-called furry genre of art and product.

"this thing I think is st00pid isn't worth talking about" is not an argument.

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(This is addressing comments here in general more than the article.)

There seems to be a reoccurring problem or issue with using a personal definition of furry. A common, broad definition of "related to anthropomorphic animals" seems pretty straightforward. Even with the second definition of referring to a member of the fandom, things are usually pretty clear from context. And while personal definition of furry are not by themselves bad, in the sense of thinking what aspects of furry things are meaningful to oneself, there is a problem when one tries to use such meaning in regards to something outside of their personal realm. All that really comes of it is confusion and frustration.

What can make this even more problematic though is when narrower, personal definitions are used in a prescriptive sense. In those cases, some people seem to try codify what they like into the definition of furry. So instead of trying to encourage or discourage something because of personal taste, they can argue that others are not being furry enough, or are betraying true nature of "furry" or some other junk. In other words, it looks like instead of someone saying "I don't like or care for that" they try to sound more authoritative arguing what is and isn't furry.

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I don't see what's wrong with using the established definition of Furry that folks have been using for the past thirty years. It sounds like people are making an issue where there isn't one.

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The post you are replying to agrees with the common, old definition. The issue is that some people try and use their own definition, whether outright saying the common definition should be changed, or more subtly acting like their more exclusive definition is just the way things are. This is a problem in the cases people try to use some other definition to push an agenda or otherwise look like they are winning an argument. But all it does is turn things into a semantics argument which doesn't accomplish anything.

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I feel certain I read this before, but didn't respond to it for some reason. This deserves a 4 page essay. And I probably didn't have time to write one before. But I finally got around to writing one. You'll find it here.

http://symphonic-rp.livejournal.com/205745.html

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While I got you here, you seemed kind of upset Fred’s retrospective not mentioning yours. I just wanted to point you at this piece, where I linked to both you guys essays (or whatever term you prefer).

Both are informative and useful pieces, and you need to know that. Also, you should post this new essay to the Newsbytes. If you don't, I will. ;) (And if your html stinks [I have to use an old Word file to copy and paste all my links], Green Reaper'll fix it, or at the very least I'll fix it before it goes to archive form.)

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Please feel free to post anything of mine anywhere you like. I have yet to figure out how to post articles at Flayrah, and I'm always shy about offering my own articles to someone else's site. But if someone picks up something of mine and posts it, I'm totally ok with it.

Html in Word? Egad! I always use Notepad or Wordpad for anything with html in it.

I wasn't really upset that Fred didn't mention me. The term I would use is depressed. I very often suffer serious misgivings about the work I put into my chronology being justified by the small amount of attention my work gets in the fandom. Particularly since I lost my Furtopia site, I sometimes fear it doesn't even come up in Google searches anymore. The fact that nobody on this site commented that they had seen a much larger document like Fred's made me feel hopelessly invisible.

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I am going to make a bold statement here, one that is going to ruffle some feathers: Furry is not a genre.

In fact, furry isn't even a theme. Also, furry should not even be a label for anthropomorphic creatures, the two terms should be disjoint and not used in parallel. This might already have some of you riled up, but I shall explain below if you care to read on.

I think the problem with the term 'Furry' is the word 'Furry' itself needs a proper definition. I offer this one that I think is pretty all encompasing: "Furry is term for a person or group of people who have a deep appreciation of anthropomorphic creatures". We certainly could nit-pick finer details of the definition but I think at the core this is a rather encompassing definition.

Notice, though, that Furry is a verb, a word that requires something to take action. It is the act of appreciating anthropomorphs at a deep level. This appreciation can take the form of a person drawing art, writing, costuming, going to conventions, or whatnot, but this requires an appreciative entity performing an act. An inanimate object like a piece of paper, or text on a screen or bits of fabric does not have any appreciation, it has no emotions, no feelings. A costume of an anthro creature is a costume of an thro creature. A drawing of an anthro creature is a drawing of an anthro creature. Art can only have a meaning tacked on by it's creator and even then that meaning if affected by what is the accepted meaning of the viewer. The act of making it may be furry, the act of viewing it may be furry, but he art itself is an anthropomorphc creature in some genre of some theme.

My other portion of the argument comes from examples about other already established fanbases. Furries are one of a very unique set of fans of having a label attached to them. Most forms of fans are just that, fans. A person who likes Star Wars is a Star Wars fan, a person who likes anime is an anime fan, a person who likes comics is a comic fan, etc., etc.

The term Furry should be used like the term 'Trekkie' or 'Gamer', both terms also for a type of person who enjoy a certain thing to a deep level. When a Trekkie makes some Star Trek art, it is Sci-fi, with a theme of Star Trek with their (or other) characters. Trekkie is not a genre, it isn't even a theme. The same should go for a Furry. A furry should make a piece of art of X genre, whith Y theme that has anthros in it, not a furry making furry art of a fury universe with a furry in it (furry furry furry). Even without my definition argument can it be seen how silly that sentence sounds?

I think the need to have a proper definition and to apply it properly is quite paramount. I believe a huge problem with defining Furry is people trying to apply the term Furry on just about anything to try and bring it in to the cultural sphere. People will describe Bugs Bunny as Furry, Madagascar as Furry and a host of other anthropomiorphic creatures as Furry. These things are not Furry. They are again pieces of media with no ability to appreciate anything. Also, they aren't even made with furry in mind, making it farther from the truth. Bugs Bunny was made more for a social commentary and a way to convey dark humor to the public in a light hearted way. The creator of an Orangina commercial did not create a piece of media about scantily clad animal creatures splashing around in their drink as an appreciation of anthropomorphic creatures, they made it to sell Orangina.

If furry as a fanbase wants to mature, we need to have a proper definition of what we are and ensure that defintion is properly applied. Any term for any group or object that can't properly be defined has a hard time existing because more structured definitions take place. The same goes for a group or sub-group. If you can't define what you're group is about, you can't draw a boundary to be a group.

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Sorry if I used your old journal as a testbed for some thoughts.

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Actually, I think you have a good point. Initially, Furries were fans of Funny Animals. That made for a lot of less confusing sentences. But eventually we decided we were fans of other things as well. So Funny Animals didn't cut it as a master term. Why we didn't just go with Anthropomorphic Animals is a mystery to me.

If we could get the fandom to agree with it, I'm fine with the term Furry being applied exclusively to fans, and phasing out the use of Furries for the object of the fandom. But, try getting a fandom to agree on a consensus for anything. You're looking at at least a 10 year transition just to get people out of the habit.

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"Notice, though, that Furry is a verb, a word that requires something to take action. It is the act of appreciating anthropomorphs at a deep level."

Okay then:

Fat is a verb because to be it requires an individual to not exercise and eat fatty foods...
Liberal is a verb because it requires someone to go to vote for Democrat Candidates
American is a verb because it requires someone to be born in America or to file paper work to be one.

Makes sense, if only that were true we wouldn't have to learn what an adjective is.

A verb is not a word that has a requirement to take an effect a verb IS an action. What you describe is called simply a "requirement". If an action causes someone's identity to change thus bequeaths them a new adjective, that adjective is still an adjective.

Now when it comes to "furry" being an ambiguous term then I would agree and have previously. We use it currently to describe the fans and the things we like so when we get people arguing "WHAT is and isn't furry" then of course it's going to draw into debates on "WHO is and is not furry" because as it currently stands furry describes people and things.

Of course changing the usage of a word isn't so simple as saying "it would make things more efficent in understanding", just as trying to make a language universal would be. Vocabulary and vernacular are very personal things, and the word furry has been used in both meanings for so long changing it now would cause contention with people in furry who have gotten used to doing what society tends not to do. Understand something through context rather then one fleeting word.

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About the author

crossaffliction (Brendan Kachel)read storiescontact (login required)

a reporter and Red Fox from Hooker, Oklahoma, interested in movies, horror, stand up comedy

Formerly Wichita's only furry comic.