"Pseudo-furry" videos raise questions about pop culture and Furry fandom
Have you noticed a trend of mainstream music videos that some call "pseudo-furry"? It might be a stretch to connect every video that has animal mascot costumes, but their frequency seems like no coincidence. They've been around for years but I seem to notice more and more. Newsbytes posted by GreenReaper and Sonious sparked my notice, and Flayrah's music tag has many more examples. What does this say about marketing? What does "pseudo-furry" imply?
What does the Fox Say?
Anthropomorphic art has been around for much longer than a dedicated fandom for it. Furry fandom didn't spring from an original concept in the 1980's- it's specific inspirations include golden age post-WWII animation, Disney movies and much more. Popular culture and it's gateways are an undeniably important influence. But identifying a trend for pop culture to re-absorb the Furry subculture that it helped spin off could make a good discussion about interplay. Is this happening because Furry is being accepted as a legitimate subculture, beyond a bastard child of the movies, shows, games and comics that furries enjoy?
Renowned pop artist Andy Warhol intentionally addressed this kind of interplay as the subject matter of his art. His paintings of Mickey Mouse, Coke bottles, and cans of Campbell's soup were defiantly "low" art that galleries weren't supposed to show, because of a feeling of separation between "high" art and popular culture. The subjects were never meant to be original, yet they were still art. That philosophy makes originality disposable:
"What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it."
- the Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)
By taking his images directly from such pre-existing sources as advertisements and everyday life, and replicating them in seemingly unaltered silk-screen paintings, Andy Warhol effectively critiqued the concept of originality that was so firmly held to by the mandarins of high art.
If artists want to exercise their skills and artistic freedom, why does every one require a ref sheet? Would at least some enjoy the idea of interpreting the basic character description as they see fit?
I don't want to jump too far off track, but I've noticed that furry art can often be called inspired by other stuff (it's called a fandom, after all). In my opinion, original design is cool, but not necessarily key for meaningful content. Personal expression can be done with styles and inspiration from common creations. It relates to what Andy Warhol did, and the question "is it art?" (Yes.) Furry art and it's relationship with pop culture is more complicated than simply wondering, "is it original?"
What is the most original aspect of Furry? I always say fursuiting- and DIY-ness adds charm too, especially for amateur fan expression.
We might use the term "interplay" when furries take inspiration from pop culture, and pop culture re-absorbs what furries do. But when it happens, furries often wonder: are they giving credit where credit is due?
Outright theft is an issue. The Tampa Museum of Modern Art raised such a controversy by hanging a piece that replicated furry art without credit. (I've seen furry art stolen for bootleg t-shirts, too.)
Inspiration is another issue. Maybe "pseudo-furry" works aren't stealing from anyone, but is it respectful homage or a superficial pose? It brings us back to the music videos...
What does the fox say? (Apparently they never thought to ask furries.) [tip: Yoshiba]
The same video was posted to my local Bay Area Furry mailing list. The poster commented: "Trendy psuedo-furry music video (it was bound to happen)" ...lending a title for this article.
And from Sonious:
Capital Cities releases a music video for their single "Kangaroo Court". A Zebra's attempt to fit in goes awry.
There's often a good reason to label them "pseudo" for using cheap commercial mascot costumes... but not always. DZ Deathrays' video Cops Capacity uses quality custom work from fursuit maker Komickrazi.
What do you think?
Is it a good or bad thing to be part of a trend? Is imitation the most sincere form of flattery? Or is the media trying to exploit a fandom that's more DIY than this?
(I'd connect this to business topics raised by Thoughts on measuring the Furry Economy, and Furries share worries about pay-dating fraud.)
As I posted this, yet another Newsbyte reinforced the trend:
dronon: OMG Ponies (music video)
Marketing with popular trends can can create gateways, or it can water things down. Let me relate this to Capital Cities and their music.
I'm not a musician, but I've enjoyed getting in fursuit and being a backup dancer for music videos. I've had personal and professional association with MTV. My animation resume includes over 30 TV music videos, and I'm a music lover that likes blogging about it. So let me say:
Capital Cities are a case study in music industry product of now. Pay close attention, and you may notice that their bio on itunes flips events in their website bio, and claims the band to be two commercial jingle writers who met on Craigslist intending to create an "indie" dance-pop band. (Did they muddle timing to call it more "indie"?)
I noticed the band before their own music, when their remix of a home video of a kid rapping about Jesus went viral. It was since deleted, but reposted here. Following attention for an honestly funny, throwaway joke video, they leveraged it to promote the everloving shit out of their first single Safe and Sound. (I thought it was fun at first, but mainstream to the point of bland and overplayed to death fast.)
A non-promoted song, "I Sold My Bed, but Not My Stereo", had my favorite qualities of theirs... digestible fun, but it still sounded personal with a more intimately produced sound. I felt like the remixed version for their June 2013 debut album smoothed away the melancholy charm, made it too big and upbeat, and shows pop overproduction. Watering things down is liable to happen when aiming for popularity.
The album mix: