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Opinion: Is the furry fandom especially creative or original?

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There is a quite widespread idea that the furry fandom is a uniquely creative group of people. We say it in our own documentaries, we say it in our own comment sections and the more senior members of the fandom such as Unci and Uncle Kage say it when they talk about the fandom. This majority opinion can be summarized in a single paragraph from the Furry Writer's Guild:

The furry fandom can be difficult to describe succinctly because, unlike media-based fandoms, furries aren’t fans of any one particular television show, film, or even genre. Many furries do find their way to the fandom through overlap with fandoms of mass media properties like The Lion King and My Little Pony, but for the most part, furries create their own original content to be fans of. It’s an incredibly creative community, and the boundaries between creator and fan are often slim to nonexistent.

But is it really true? Let's be clear, I am not saying that the furry fandom is not creative or original, but I do not think that we are uniquely so and, hopefully, by the end of this, I will have convinced you of that.

The furry fandom is more creative and original than other fandoms

Some people will say things like, "Sure, you wrote a 620 000 word story that combines My Little Pony and Fallout that went on to inspire multiple fan works of that fan work but since My Little Pony and Fallout are franchises it's just not really original."

Superficially, such an argument makes sense. But when you start to look at it more closely, some major cracks begin to show. This view makes claims about the nature of creativity and originality in general. It says that a fan work is inherently less creative and original than the work it is based on and, presumably, a fan-work of a fan-work is even less creative. But does that make sense?

We know that 50 Shades of Grey was originally a fan fiction about Twilight (the young adult vampire novels, not the pony). So even though changes were made and references to the Twilight universe were removed, we know that the novel was originally conceived in that context. Does it then make sense to say that 50 Shades of Grey is less creative or originally than other BDSM stories purely because it was originally fan fiction? If yes, does it make sense to say that the exact same novel, word for word, would've been more creative and original if it had been originally conceived without reference to Twilight? One could also ask the converse question, if 50 Shades of Grey had been written without reference to Twilight and was subsequently converted, before publication, into a fan fiction would that reduce the creativity of the work?

Answering those questions in reverse order, I would not consider converting a completed story into a fan fiction reduces the creativity of that work. Following on that, it must mean that merely being fan fiction does not alter the creativity of a piece of work. So, 50 Shades of Grey is not less creative than other BDSM novels nor is fan fiction less creative than non-fan works.

But, I would agree that direct adaptations are less creative and less original than the works they are based on. So the movie, The Phantom of the Opera is not as creative as Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, The Phantom of the Opera, which is, in turn, not as creative as Gaston Leroux's novel, The Phantom of the Opera. In these cases, unlike with 50 Shades of Grey, it's not only characters or settings that are being reused but entire plot lines. The amount of material that is reused is, of course, important because even "original" stories reuse multiple set pieces (see basic plot types and TV Tropes), even if it is not always obvious.

If we consider works like Twilight, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Vampire Diaries and Dracula, they all concern vampires. Despite whatever differences may exist between their specific vampires, the vampire is a concept from folklore and mythology that pre-dates all of them. It's not entirely unreasonable to consider these all to be a form of fan fiction of the original vampire mythology. Certainly, they can not be considered truly original. The same applies to many genres, particularly fantasy where portrayals of elves, orcs and dwarves have become fixed in stereotypical roles.

We can even go further to ask if the origin of the concepts used, natural versus man-made, actually matters. If someone creates art about anthropomorphic Pokémon is that really any less creative or original than someone drawing an anthropomorphic lion? One is based on a human-imagined creature and the other is based on a real existing creature. I do not see why anthropomorphising the one is more original than the other. In fact since one of the oldest known examples of art, the Löwenmensch figurine, is an anthropomorphic lion … congratulations! Our "original and creative" ideas are only 40,000 years old!

Furry is not about commercial and copyrighted franchises

I think this is similar to the original argument about creativity that builds to an anti-commercial sentiment where the furry fandom is seen as doing our own creative thing while in the commercial world drags creative people in to do specific projects.

It's true that while furry is different by not being about a specific franchise, we are about a concept. However, we can't pretend that commercial franchises are fully external and not important inside the furry fandom. Nearly every fur will tell you how they got into the fandom through Disney's Robin Hood or Disney's The Lion King or through various other works which are still a beloved part of the fandom. Furry artists are constantly producing fan works from similar franchises and it's not uncommon to see franchise-based fursuits at conventions. At Eurofurence 21, I saw My Little Pony suiters and a fantastic costume of Toothless from the How To Train Your Dragon movies. Let's not forget that Zootopia received four different reviews on Flayrah, as well as being reviewed on other furry sites, was screened at Nordic Fuzzcon, was the activity for various meets and was specially marketed to furs.

The non-commercial, non-mainstream aspect of the furry fandom is fading fast. The largest furry site, Fur Affinity, was, just last year, bought by a IMVU. Many conventions are registered non-profits that manage thousands of dollars or more and have multi-million dollar impacts on the towns hosting them. The fandom is not separate from the commercial world; we are the commercial world. The fandom has multiple book publishers and distributors. There is a furry sex toy company that sells and distributes globally. (And is cashing in on the Zootopia hype.) We have people who make a living through art and by building fursuits. The fandom is commerical!

We can no longer pretend the fandom is a purely amateur pastime. What is the difference between some teenagers making movies in their garage compared to Hollywood? It's money and facilities. Furry is no longer a flat playing field. We are far more equal than Hollywood but we can't pretend that most furry authors are writing and publishing physical books like Kyell Gold. We can't pretend that most furry musicians will have the opportunities to record a CD at Abbey Road, the same studio The Beatles (not a bad name for a furry band, actually) used, but Fox Amoore did. And most furs can't mobilize the sort of equipment and know-how that EZWolf can. Convention guests of honor are our own version of celebrities. The fandom divisions are smaller than outside the fandom but they are there and they are only going to grow as the fandom grows.

In the furry fandom there is no difference between fan and creator

Some people, based on what we've already talked about, will maintain that there is a divide in most media between fans and creators. Creators produce shows and fans consume. In the furry fandom we are all fans. Except that's creating a completely arbitrary distinction. Firstly, as shown above, there is a distinction between the big furry creators and the average furry consumer. Secondly, mainstream creators are just as much fans as furry creators are. They are motivated to do what they do because they love the franchise or the genre or the medium. Furries are not special in that way.

Take a look at Doctor Who. The Tenth Doctor was David Tennant. He is the Doctor, the title character. It's hard to be more "separate" from a fan than being the face of the show. But he is a fan!

As a child in school, it was all he ever wrote about, to the point where his teacher had to tell him to stop before she had to fail him. His most treasured possession was the stripy Doctor Who scarf his grandmother knitted him.

But he was a talented kid, even if he channeled all that talent into incessantly ranting about Doctor Who (a teacher still has one of his essays about the Doctor, titled "Intergalactic Overload," in which [Tennant] talked about becoming obsessed with the thought of being the Time Lord himself).

He became a part of the show because he was a fan. The same holds true for the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, who even tried to become secretary of the Doctor Who fanclub!

So, if we aren't special, then why do we keep saying that we are?

Basically, to make us feel better. It was when I was reading Dr Stephen Reyson's contribution to Furries Among Us that I learned something interesting. He started talking about the fandom in terms of social identity theory. There is a lot more to his essay than I can cover here and I highly encourage everyone to read it as there are details that I can not cover here.

Part of social identity theory states that individuals want to be part of groups that are positive and distinct. As described by Dr. Reyson, when a group has a low status (furry has a low status, we're even at the bottom of the geek heirachy), then members will either try to leave the group, if possible, or will, if leaving is not possible and the low status is considered legitimate, try to find a comparison that shows their group in a positive light.

This woulde explain the phenomenon of the "anthro" fandom; anthropomorphic animal fans who claim not to be members of the furry fandom. These people consider furry to be a low-status group with fluid membership and will leave the fandom for a higher status group, regardless of the fact that the "anthro" fandom is exactly the same thing. There are those furries who believe that furry is not a choice but is unfairly seen as low status and so try challenge that perception by emphasizing how creative it is as that is seen as a positive trait. That it isn't any more creative than normal is not an acceptable belief because then they lose a trait that makes the fandom positive and distinct.

Where does that leave us?

I think all this should leave us with a greater sense of self-awareness. We should recognize that furries are not uniquely creative or original. The ideas behind our fandom have been around since human culture began and, although we are smaller than more mainstream interests like rock music or science fiction, we have the same internal groups. We should recognize that content creators and content consumers are not distinct entities but overlap, both in and outside of the furry fandom. And, we should try to understand our own motivations to raise the standing of the furry fandom and recognize when our biases may be leading us to make distinctions that exist to make us feel better and not to reflect the truth.

When you think that in the early 1900's people like HP Lovecraft were writing their stories in small magazines, not completely unlike Rowrbrazzle and Vootie, and today see furries starting companies, incorporating non-profits and see the growing differences in the quality and scope of projects that are undertaken, it becomes hard not to believe that in 20, 30 or 50 years time, furry will be a genre no different to science fiction today.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 4.8 (4 votes)

Reaction - disagree.

Creativity and originality are incredibly elastic value judgements, up to the individual. I notice they aren't defined here to give context. I suspect trying to do that would be a fool's errand.

Furry is very close to pop culture and low art ("Lowbrow" defines itself as a genre too BTW.) I think originality isn't necessary for that to still count as creative personal expression. https://www.flayrah.com/5370/pseudo-furry-videos-raise-questions-about-pop-cultu...

"Commercial" is a very elastic term too. Just because furry subculture is making use of some tools like nonprofit incorporation or benefiting from outside marketing doesn't mean it's indie nature is fading. You can alternately look at dollars. (Anthrocon, the biggest group entity, has a tiny budget less than a few months revenue of a neighborhood gas station.) Or structure (FurAffinity may be owned but little on it is mandated by IMVU.) Plenty of indie endeavors stay creator owned while getting production or distribution from larger entities who don't mess with their internal operation.

Across the market of little fan run cottage industry, the levels of revenue are probably strongly close to personal income with very little control to mandate what others produce (in other words, very few leaders or employers and employed.) That's not commercial, that's grassroots creativity. Seeing marketers want a piece of that action (even just getting notice from the weird factor) isnt something to worry about. Its a super positive sign that things are growing the way fans want. And we can make them ask permission to get our cooperation.

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I didn't expect people to be convinced right away, so no surprises there.

Furry is still very indie and the amounts of money are small but I think that will change. Conventions do bring large amounts of money to their locations for those few days but I doubt conventions anywhere are really money-making enterprises. But more and more furry activity is becoming for-profit or some mix of free and for-profit. I'm not sure where it will eventually settle. Perhaps everything will stay at this level but I think the continued growth of the fandom will lead to more commercial aspects and perhaps a breaking away of the "bigger" artists.

"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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You start out the creative/original section by saying being based on something else does not make something less creative/original, then you go on to say that, actually, sometimes it does make it less creative/original because of plot, but then go to say that using tropes doesn't make something not creative/original, and even then, you say, actually, nothing is original. So I'm having trouble trying to understand what you're even trying to say there.

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I admit it's a weird section but I'll try explain it again.

Just being fanfiction is not limiting creativity. It takes just as much creativity and originality to write a story set in Equestria as it does to write a story set in New York. I don't think that one is real and the other is fantasy matters.

Similarly all stories are made up of set pieces. We're familiar with them and they're fine. I remember people predicting the bad guy in Zootopia because it's the least likely character. That's done so often we recognise it right away but it doesn't take away from our enjoyment or the originality of the show. What we focus on are the small flourishes that differentiate each telling.

Frozen and The Lion King are both great movies. But as many people have pointed out, they are basically the same plot.
http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/here-is-definitive-proof-that-frozen-is-li...
That's only a problem when it becomes too obvious or repetitive. For example, the parallels between Star Wars IV and Star Wars VII were too much for some people. I found many Redwall books to be very samey (still loved it) and 95% of Pokemon episodes go "Travel to new town, meet person with a problem, help solve the problem, Team Rocket shows up and threatens to steal Pikachu or the pokemon of the person they're helping, they beat Team Rocket, say goodbye and move on." It was fine for a season or two but then it was too much.

So it doesn't make sense to say furry is original and creative because it's not fan work of a franchise because that is not inherently limiting in creativity. It's also unfair because even those "original" works borrow from previous creations, either literary set pieces or mythology, but we don't consider that to limit creativity or originality unless it is done to excess.

"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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Well, a lot of the problem is that "originality" and "creativity" are pretty subjective terms; a news piece on boxofficemojo.com recently announced Zootopia had the best second week box office for an original movie without telling which was first. It did link to a list of the highest best second week box office, and it took my like thirty minutes to remember, oh, yeah, Avatar was an original movie. (On a different note, I don't know if using 50 Shades of Grey is the best example to use for, well, anything; it's kind of distracting.)

So arguing over whether furries are particularly "original" or "creative" is basically subjective; I think your argument that claiming "originality" and "creativity" are hallmarks of furry fandom is a bit overreaching is more on point.

Also, the boxquoted bit from the Furry Writers Guild in the intro struck me as an example of an odd thought process in furry fandom; yeah, explaining what furry fandom is in comparison to a single media fandom is a bit harder, but there are plenty of non-single media fandoms that aren't hard to explain. Nobody's mystified by what a comic book fan, an anime fan, or even a science fiction fan are fans of. Maybe "why" mystifies people, and "why" is an important question, but if we're still struggling with "what", well, "why" can wait in line for a minute.

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I used 50 Shades of Grey because it started from fan fiction and then became something else. I can't think offhand of anything people will know that has done that. I suppose Dota 2 would be similar.

That bit is odd. But I often see people saying these things that seem really odd. It was when I read about the social identity theory that it struck me that that could explain why they were thinking in such odd ways.

"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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Going the other way, I think at least half the Die Hard sequels started as original action screenplays that were repurposed into Die Hard sequels.

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Avatar is as original as the umpteenth retelling of 'A Christmas Carol', if James Cameron were half as good as Charles Dickens. I had no interest in seeing it when it came out. I saw it recently, and I was staring passively at the screen for the whole movie. It has nothing I haven't seen before a million times. Pocahontas. Ferngully. Dancing with Wolves. The "Noble Savage" myth popularized by Rosseau. Uncivilized / inconsiderate military. A MacGuffin the size of a planet, without the stylish setting of Frank Herbert's Dune. Bad guys flatter than a sheet of paper. Etc. etc. etc. It was pretty, but in a trying-too-hard kind of way, a colorful world where everything is extremely fakely beautiful. I give it 0 stars.

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I haven't seen Avatar, and I have to say comments like yours (which I've heard from numerous other sources) are the reason I'm in no hurry to.

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I have not seen “Avatar”. When it was released, I read a review that included a plot summary, and I thought, “I read this over fifty years ago! Humans want to exploit a planet that they can’t live on, so they develop a mind-link that lets them inhabit the bodies of natives; a human cripple who ‘operates’ a healthy native comes to identify more with him than his own body and comes to love his world – it’s “Call Me Joe” by Poul Anderson, from “Astounding Science Fiction”, April 1957. It was the cover-featured story, and has been reprinted in several s-f anthologies and collections of Anderson’s best stories.

I assumed the reason that “Avatar” wasn’t sued for plagiarism was that Anderson was dead by then.

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?57395

Fred Patten

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I assumed there had to be an old sci-fi short story too that resembled the movie's plot closely. There is a widely diverse sci-fi heritage of short stories from magazines of older times almost too big to count. It's nice you're very familiar with it.

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I thought the movie was fun in a cartoonish pulp way. It's sheer guilty pleasure and I think you should see it for that. It reminded me a lot of e.r. burroughs, but I can't put a paw on any certain story. It used a lot of common tropes. I don't support suing people for that reason (speaking of originality.) Cameron knows it well after being forced to put notorious asshole Harlan Ellison in the credits of Terminator without any reasonable justification - he just tripped himself with a casual statement about general "influence" and allowed an opportunist to use it against him. Ellison shouldn't get any respect for that. http://www.jamescamerononline.com/Ellison.htm

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"Avatar" was so incredibly bad-- and so incredibly unoriginal and ill thought out, plotwise-- that about 45 minutes in I was rooting for the Space Marines to blow away the screenwriters and then production staff and actors along with them.

How that movie made money, I'll never know.

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It's a product, the result of a carefully crafted technique to achieve maximum profitability in a summer blockbuster. RedLetterMedia talks about this in their review of the movie, going back to Cameron's Titanic. He isn't an artist as much as a smart movie engineer (making purposefully non-smart movies).

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I'm kind of relieved that somebody is downvoting the Avatar hate, because if there still weren't people with terrible taste in movies in this fandom, I'd be kind of out of a job.

But, seriously, where were we all back in 2010? And I say we because the Avatar fiasco is what finally got me off my butt and voting in 2011. Which I then promptly cast for How To Train Your Dragon, which is kind of funny, but at least How To Train Your Dragon didn't, in technical film criticism terms, suck, just, all the balls.

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Tsk, tsk, come on Crossaffliction. I had to go fix four html tags! Well, two were links so probably my fault. But the italics ones were you.

"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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A thought-provoking piece, well said. I don't agree with your conclusions 100%, and still think the fandom as special, but we're not that special.

We tend to emphasize what makes the furry fandom stand out, when we think about it, or explain to others why we're a fan. The same happens, when journalists and media focused on the furry fandom; they try to find what is distinctive, thus interesting, about furries. So it's nice to take a step back and have a reminder, about what it has in common with other fandoms and interests, and how that fits across the whole of human activity.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

I think it's indeed more correct to say we're _unusually_ creative, as a group. Certainly more so than most other identifiable social groupings such as, say, pensioners, divorcees or Wal-Mart shoppers. (For full disclosure, I belong to all three of these specified groups as well as the furry fandom.) Compared to other fan groups, not only is the difference less clear-cut but... How do you effectively and precisely measure something like creativity, anyway? What are the metrics? And, how are we going to conduct a formal, scientific study on the matter when we can't even define exactly what a fur is? So all we really have to go on are our own highly-subjective and unscientific personal impressions. Which, I freely admit, serve as my only basis for the unjustifiably authoritative-sounding statement below.

We furs are indeed an unusually creative group of individuals, easily ranking in the top two or three percent of identifiable human social groupings. We probably stand pretty high even among the especially-creative fandom-related groups. But are we _uniquely_ creative?

No.

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I don't understand the article. Furry fandom is a niche thing, less than 0,01% of the population belong to it. And it's mostly an amateur passtime, most furries put little / no money into fandom-targeted products.

Also, it has a commercial side, but I don't see how that's related (or inversely related) to originality or creativity.

To keep it simple, the fandom members are creative / original because they do shit other people don't. They dress in animal costumes. They draw / keep trying to draw over the age of 16. And they write long-winded articles about furry-related stuff and put them up on websites. Most people who like videogames but not furry, in contrast, consume media, don't create it.

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The article was to counter comments like this which keep saying that furry is special.

"Furry fandom is a niche thing, less than 0,01% of the population belong to it. And it's mostly an amateur passtime, most furries put little / no money into fandom-targeted products."

Only tangentially related. Even if most put little money into things, there are some that put large amounts of money in and I would wager that the majority has spent money on furry things at some point.

"Also, it has a commercial side, but I don't see how that's related (or inversely related) to originality or creativity."

It's not. That was one of the points I made.

"To keep it simple, the fandom members are creative / original because they do shit other people don't. They dress in animal costumes. They draw / keep trying to draw over the age of 16. And they write long-winded articles about furry-related stuff and put them up on websites. Most people who like videogames but not furry, in contrast, consume media, don't create it."

But they don't do things others don't do. I'm pretty sure there are cosplayers than there are furries.
There probably are more furries that keep drawing than the general population but that mixes up creativity with productivity. Is a furry that draws pictures more creative than someone who thinks up amazing new games but doesn't create them or are they just more productive? And there are plenty of anime and comic book fans who keep drawing, DeviantArt has 38 million members. Inkbunny has ~300 000.
I'm not sure most people who like video games don't create media. There are lots of small indie games and game creation engines. When I was in High School I played around with the OHRRPGCE and tries to make several games, I never actually finished them but there were plenty of finished games available. You also seem to forgot that games attract modders and there sites dedicated to modding games, especially Bethesda games. Mods that add whole new maps and quests. Don't forget that some big games like Counter Strike and Dota 2 began life as mods for other games, Half Life and Warcraft III in these cases. Even now, Dota 2 has user-made custom maps and cosmetics. And there are games like Mario Maker that only exist to let users make their own content.

"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 would say in a sense yes, we are more creative than the average fandom. A large portion of the art, literature, etc coming out of the fandom is based on original ideas coming of fans heads. It's not based on an existing idea beyond the basic concept of anthropomorphism. We're are not taking somebody else's idea and running with it, we're creating our own characters, our own universes our own rules. What we do requires far more effort and dedication than the average fan who likes a TV show and decides to write some fanfiction. If I were to write an MLP fanfic, no matter how much I alter the world, no matter how many new characters I create, it's still My Little Pony, otherwise I wouldn't be writing it in the first place would I? Just like Sci-Fi, western or superhero movies, anthropomorphism is a genre and it has limitless possibilities for storytelling, but when you rely on anothers hard work, you are not being creative, you are being derivative. That's not a negative, that's just a fact, and there are plenty of examples of good derivative works.

So yes, furries are by definition, more creative.

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Since you and Acton have basically the same comment, please see my reply on his post.

"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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There is a huge difference between fury and most other fandoms except Steampunk. This difference is 90%+ of the furry media, including fursonas and art, are original source created by a fans. Compare this to Bronies, Anime Doctor Who fans that are fans of a single original preexisting source, or derivative of the original source. Take Anime fandom for example. There is potential legal issue in Anime fandom because 99% of the media including art and cosplay are derivative work . I rarely see any original art or cosplay at an Anime con. The legal definition is “A derivative work is a new, original product that includes aspects of a preexisting, already copyrighted work.”
I can look at Anime, Brony and Furies as spectrum. One end you have Anime as 99% derivatives of a preexisting work . In the middle you have Brony fandom which contains derivatives and some original source in people who create their own ponies and cutie marks. At the other end is fury fandom the is approximately 90% is original source and the rest derivatives of a preexisting work.

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It's a bit strange if people disagree with me for a reason and then don't address the arguments I made in my essay. It makes me feel like you didn't actually read it before commenting. Firstly, I don't care about legal definitions here. This isn't a legal case.

Before I can take this derivative work seriously, you've got to first convince me why that matters.
Why is a story about a pony in equestria less creative than a story about a human in London? Why is an anthropomorphic fox more creative than an anthropomorphic Pokemon? In all the cases you take a setting or creature or whatever and use that to tell a story. What difference does it make if that base comes from the real world or someone else's imagination?

"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 have tried to write this so many times, and for days, I cannot come up with a brief and concise way to express my point. Furries have suffered persecution. One tangible piece of evidence of this dates back to 1928 when John Galsworthy said in his forward to Bambi, “I do not, as a rule, like the method which places human words in the mouths of dumb creatures...” Even though it seemed alright for Disney to make talking animal cartoons for children, it was not generally accepted that adults or even children over a certain age were allowed to like them. Peer pressure, even within the family, silenced Furry fans. Even in the Sci-Fi conventions before we had our own cons, the people who expressed themselves as Furry were seen as frightfully bizarre because here is a group of fans of someone else's work, and there happens to be maybe one person who in some way expresses their appreciation or yearning for something that didn't even have a word to describe it at the time.

To fight to express one's self in the fullest without any group to latch onto, well, yes I consider that unique and original. When the first Furry convention came into existence there was still confusion as to what to call ourselves; the attendees relation to the con was described in paragraphs not single terms. I don't think anyone knew in expressible terms what it was they sought, but somewhere between that first con and the time I found the fandom, the term Furry Lifestyler came into existence, and that is what those trailblazers sought.

For all my life, without any guides or clues, I sought what I would discover is called Furry. When I walked through those doors and found that I was not alone in how I thought and what I wanted even though I had grown up isolated from any sense of a community, well... No, this story is not unique because so many others have experienced the exact same thing, but somehow this happened. Like soulmates who are drawn to one another, we are drawn to ideas, ideals, and a community that we created from nothing but a spark from within, and this happened despite great difficulty of people trying to force us to act otherwise.

I do not know how you define creative, but we created ourselves. I do not know how you define original and unique, to the outside world we may appear to have gone from oddity to hobby, but somehow we happened. Even if the rest of the world has forgotten, that to me, is a little more than unique; it is a miracle.

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tl;dr

JUST KIDDING, JUST KIDDING!

I think Green Reaper once pointed out that I had the three longest comments by a long shot until Nuka apparently published his entire Master's thesis in the comment section one time, so ... this is short.

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Yes, furries are seen in a negative light. That's something I mention as well as being relevant for social identity theory (and Furries Among Us also has a really good essay describing the way furries are sometimes treated). But that doesn't make them more creative and a single quote is not hugely convincing, that one is especially not convincing.

It feels like you're trying too hard here. Furry wasn't always a specific fandom but the interest has been around for thousands of years. There have been many highly popular furry works, like The Jungle Book or the Dogs Playing Poker series. I think you're exaggerating the confusion as well. The furry fandom came from the funny animal fandom (a term Fred still uses occasionally) and that term comes from 1890. Yes, we later switched to using "furry" as a term but that came into use in 1986, three years before ConFurence 0. That was started by the same guys who started using the term "furry" so I don't think that it was as confused as you say. Of course one of those people is on Flayrah so maybe they would like to weigh in?

"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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Let me rephrase the above into a question: Why would we come together if we weren't sharing something unique?
My reply above points out how we didn't come together because it was easy.

To be honest, I am confused by your article; since two unique things cannot be compared, I am led to believe the meta-message of the article is "Because we are not more unique, we are not unique", and this is supported by the fact that one of your own headlines is "So, if we aren't special, then why do we keep saying that we are?" where you proceed to support this instead of contrast it.

I am upset by this article because it belittles my experience and offers me no new insights to our fandom. It often feels like anyone commenting on Furry who is not a Furry wants to put it down, and I can look past all of that because it doesn't mean anything to them, but finding similar sentiments on a Furry news site written by a Furry... Why?

I feel like you are writing our historical obituary that bleaches out all traces of our purpose of being. Furry is the most important thing in my life. What I get out of Furry I could not find in the anime fandom, the Sci-Fi fandom, gaming communities both table top and electronic. I couldn't find it in high school or college, established religions, spiritualist groups, in the company of philosophers or the company of hedonists. I could not find it anywhere else and if only I could explain what "it" was, other than merely using the word Furry, I could express to you why Furry is unique, but I am starting to think that not only I, but the English language, lacks the power to do so, so all I can do is draw a circle around these experiences and point to them and say this is why it is unique.

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Well I think that you're confusing what is being described. When you say we're sharing something unique that seems to be saying that the concept of the furry fandom is unique. (I'd say it's not because we have a long list of precursors to the fandom but that's another topic.) However, my essay was addressing whether the furry fandom was uniquely creative, that's the practice of being a furry.

Let's illustrate that with a practical example. Let's say you've got classical music and rock music. The two fandoms are conceptually unique (in this simplified example) because they do not overlap. The style of musical, instruments used and composition are different. The practice of being a fan of either is the same. No matter which one you like you will listen the music and try to play the music.

The furry fandom is not special in the sense that there is nothing about its practice that cannot be found at roughly equivalent levels elsewhere. There's no reason that should be belittling anyone. There's a reason it will feel that way and that is what I was getting at with the paragraph on social identity theory. It's about people taking a group, in this case furry, and binding their identity to that so that any slight against furry is a slight against themself. And that provides the motivation for furries to see the fandom as having unique practices despite that not being the case.

"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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Dr Stephen Reyson posits that the furry fandom is a low status group that tries to justify its existence by saying how special they are. It's not unique in that aspect. The sci-fi fandom went through that. Many of the "nerd" cultures went through that.

But why the low status? Let's talk about food for a bit. New York radio station WNYC quoted Krishnendu Ray, chair of the Nutrition and Food Studies department at New York University, on why some cuisines are more expensive than others:

If you have a group of poor immigrants coming to the country, their food can become popular, but it’s very hard to get prestige. Because prestige is related to class hierarchy. We generally don’t give prestige to poor people’s culture.

But it feels strange a fandom that would spend thousand dollars on a costume would be of "poor people". So, something's wrong with my argument, I'm not sure where.

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Actually, class and money, while related, are not the same thing; class has much to do with values and culture as it does money. To use a fictional example, when the protagonists of The Beverly Hillbillies accidentally became rich and moved to the Beverly Hills, it didn't mean they stopped being hillbillies. Their values stayed the same; furthermore, they had no desire to truly stop being "hillbillies," either. With more money, how they expressed those core values changed. That's all.

Also, it should be pointed out, though America is a land of immigrants, we've never liked our newest batch of immigrants from the beginning, and that's definitely more about race and ethnicity than money (though, yes, the fact that many immigrants to America are poor didn't help). So that's the food thing, as well.

This ... actually doesn't have much to do with furry, at all, though. Most furries belong to the same general social class and ethnicity/race as the people who hate (or at least dislike or look down on) them. If class is involved, it's probably that furries transgress their own class's "values" in some way, rather than belonging to a different class.

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I can't help but see this as a fallacious question.

The problem lies within its constituent parts. There's no context for either 'creative' or 'original' provided in regards to how the author is using them. And why? It's almost impossible to actually provide that. The dictionary definition of 'creative' is a person with capacities for imagination and originality within artistic works.

Considering that, the extra inclusion of 'original' is somewhat redundant. We only need to really understand the parts of what it means to be creative. The concept of imagination is to be able to produce something sight unseen by its literary nature. Whether to one's taste or not, evidence of this talent being present is ubiquitous.

And originality, as a component of imagination? It's an expression of creation forged by a particular artist, of a like they hadn't consciously recognised as a copy. Now, playing the game of semantics, one could argue that nothing is original is everything is inspired by something else, whether conscious or not. If we did argue that, then it renders the word 'original' moot.

To wit, furries are both creative and original.

You have used various quantities to describe these factors. From reasonable descriptors like 'especially' to the hyperbole of 'unique.' One commentator used the quantifier of 'unusually,' with which I'm inclined to agree. The creativity of the furry fandom is unusual in both its niche nature and the content it produces. Whether that is 'especially' creative, or even 'special' is another matter entirely.

The problem is is that a lot of this is playing with words and subjectivity. It's an opinion that means nothing. As such, it's not so much an actual opinion founded in any sort of logic, but more a feeling. I can't help but psychoanalyse when I notice the recurring theme of having a potent dislike for anyone or anything that identifies itself as being special. That that's inherently offensive. And I think that's the truth behind the article, here.

This isn't about whether the furry fandom has capacities for creativity, nor is it about what quantities of it they have. I've explained my position on why I think this above. It's more an almost... I'd call it a political position based upon a feeling. And I know there are those who will regularly incorrectly attribute that as an opinion.

In closing. I think the article should have been titled as thus: Opinion Piece -- I Don't Think the Furry Fandom is Special and Neither Should You.

And that, in and of itself, is an entirely different topic to the one actually proposed.

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Thank you.

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This is an analytical response I can agree with, and I could express myself, but the article is self-evidently non-analytical nor it pretends to be, or so I gather so far. It's like arguing technical proportions on an abstract canvas / nonrepresentational art. It is someone's opinion.

We agree an in-depth discussion on an abstract (loaded) quality may adequately begin by defining it: originality, creativity, beauty, goodness... It is not the case.

I will use though a utilitarian perspective, to which Stuart Mill would agree (mentioned in Rakuen Growlithe's signature): what furry fandom accomplishes exceedingly, is at making people happy.

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You've missed the point. No, I don't define creativity or originality (which don't have to mean the same thing) but I have no need to. This was not about an absolute scale of creativity but a relative one. Furries are not more creative or original than other fandoms. I made a point right at the start that I was not saying that the furry fandom wasn't creative or original, just that is not especially so in comparison to others.

Not founded in any logic? Only on feelings? Did you read it? Every point is supported with examples and the reasoning behind those examples. You might disagree with the use of those examples but you have not addressed a single point that was raised in my article. I really don't think you understood me at all because I can't see why you would say things like:

"The creativity of the furry fandom is unusual in both its niche nature and the content it produces. Whether that is 'especially' creative, or even 'special' is another matter entirely."

That other matter entirely was what I was addressing! If you're saying it's about furry being special and meaning special in the sense that it's different to other things then I'm afraid that that was the topic that was proposed. You have just completely misunderstood my intentions even though they were clearly stated.

"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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A bit of thinking over this recently; I wonder if a better way to express furry's creativity/orginality obsession is more furries value creativity/originality, which is distinct from being creative/original. I think this is an important distinction; there's nothing wrong with valuing those traits. They're pretty good traits. But thinking furries have those traits automatically is problematic, because an individual furry is not asking his- or herself if what they are doing is actually creative/original if they already think they are.

And, also, yeah, furries sometimes are really uncreative/unoriginal, too.

Creativity/originality is all about context. In the context of the Disney animated "classics", The Lion King is ridiculously original, being the first "original-in-the-non-adapted" sense in the over fifty year history of the that series of movies. On the other hand, in the context of world storytelling, it's fairly by the numbers (and I'm not even talking about the stupid Kimba controversy). Likewise, a furry artist may not have based his/her character on a pre-existing show like some brony artist, but when compared to art within furry, well, it's just another vixen in a bikini (and the fifteenth with purple instead of orange fur in this e621 search page for the keyword "fox" alone). We have our own cliches; need I remind furry readers of the omni-present in furry stories "gay fox in high school" trope? Sure, your average "gay fox in high school" story may be a bit more creative/original than your average Lion King fan fic, but, you know, way to go for the low hanging fruit, there, guys.

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need I remind furry readers of the omni-present in furry stories "gay fox in high school" trope?

Being a trope for Kyell Gold doesn't make it a trope amongst furries in general.

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Doesn't it, though?

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Just of the best furry author for the entire past decade…

We can't prove otherwise! Except for 2007, which he really didn't win.
But seriously there are lots of good authors out there now, for realsies.

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I don't know, I never cared much about this dichotomy. There really is nothing original, everything is a copy or reimagining of something made earlier. "If you wish to make a pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." When you take part in a writing contest, the requirement "it must be an original text" doesn't mean you must invent a universe which results in your text being created. It means, it must have been done by you, not by someone else, and has to be distinct enough from other texts.

Is that original enough? Who cares? I don't. Maybe people who define furry fandom as a creative / original group should care? Uncle Kage is constantly describing furry fandom as a pool of creativity. I prefer to call it a pool of enthusiasm, thrill, passion. Is that less controversial? I don't care either way. My passion for furry trumps all your petty objections. You shall be squashed by a pile of fursuiters cuddling you all over.

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And sometimes, it best resembles a pool of highly-flammable petroleum. Quite often, in fact!

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No complaints about enthusiasm. But, you also seem, like the strongest objectors, to be missing the point I made. I didn't say furry is not creative or original. I said it's uniquely or especially creative or original.

It's like if I said a Toyota Corolla is not especially heavy. It's a car, of course it's heavy. It's just not an outlier in terms of how heavy it is. Furry is not a creative outlier. It's creative but so are many other fandoms.

"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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So it's like if you said we're not blonde because there are much blonder people

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It's like saying you're not especially blonde. On the other hand, "creative" and "original" by themselves don't really mean anything without a reference point.

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No. Hair colour is a very bad comparison. It's like saying someone who is within the average range of height, even the higher end of average, is not unusually tall.

"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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Okay, I understood your point with this comparison

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Good point, on the one hand we see Zootopia fan art, maybe even a Zootopia related fursuit, along with many other tie ins to other commercial work and some of us say who cares if we violate someone's copyright. Then there are those whose whole view on the fandom is quite unique. Just watch any fursuit parade video, and tell me there isn't any one of a kind fursuits. That is impossible, like furry art and even furry comics. Most noteable Circles, which to me despite some of its critics is a fantastic piece of work. I am 100% sure if the furry element was removed it would be a published work by one of the major publishing houses and on the NYT Bestseller list.

The furry fandom is very unique, and I think a lot of furries saw that in Zootopia and why of of the reasons it was so successful. It is said some of the people behind the scenes in that film are in fact furries. I see more unique aspects of the fandom because of my interest in the fandom than most people. How many can actually say they go through roughly 1,000 videos a year. There are more one of a kind furry videos on Youtube and Dailymotion than most people even know about. The same with stories and art, I have really seen some amazing pieces, some are literally works of art. Then you have the webcomics, there are more than I could literally name. Most Notably "Housepets", and "Savestatecomics", both having very unique views, I highly recommend checking them out.

Oh sure we can say the fandom borrows from other media, that is true to some degree. But there is a greater portion in my opinion of very unique works.

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Interesting you say that Circles would do so well if the furry element were removed. There have been plenty of highly successful and classic works that had furry elements, the most recent being, of course, Zootopia but Nordguard had quite a bit of positive press. Furthermore there are those that would say if the anthropomorphic characters can be so easily removed from Circles then were they really necessary in the first place?

I am familiar with Housepets, I've been reading it for years and have been since the start. It is a very interesting comic series. However in your entire second paragraph you don't actually provide any examples of what is so unique in these furry submissions. It seems that you were calling Zootopia unique, for example, but while extremely well-done there weren't any really unique aspects. Animal characters have been done many times. The story is a well-worn one. Many of the characters are sterotypes and cliches. That doesn't detract from the work but Zootopia is an example of a very well executed film, not an amazingly original 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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About the author

Rakuen Growlitheread storiescontact (login required)

a student and Growlithe from South Africa/Austria, interested in science, anime and power metal

I'm a fur from South Africa, now living in Austria, who got into the fandom through my interest in pokemon and writing fanfiction. Outside of furry, I have spend a lot of my time in gaming (particularly Dota 2) and science.