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The Vanity Fair : What it means to us, and thoughts about it.

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Well, the much hated, feared, and anticipated article from Vanity Fair is out. As has become common knowledge, there was a reporter from the magazine at Midwest FurFest 2000, who interviewed several people in the furry fandom and spent some time at the convention.

This was posted yesterday, and was a casualty of the data loss. Here it is below for Feren's thoughts on the matter.

The reaction, much like the article, was less than positive. If you want to know where you can see the article, either surf or go buy a copy of Vanity Fair.

Why has this article turned up such a ruckus? Well, just like most types of journalism these days (Remember, Jerry Springer passes as journalism by most of today's standards), it searches for sensationalism. The more shocking it can be, the better. So, naturally, three-quarters of the article is about everything in the fandom that most of us find distasteful. Maybe one either of it is lightly poking fun, and another eighth shows something other than the "lesser" side of the fandom.

Can we honestly say the article is completely wrong in presenting this side of the fandom? Not really. They've got more than enough evidence out there, from bondage and erotic illustrations involving Disney-esque characters to anatomically correct plushies for sale on FurBid. Perhaps you've noticed people like the Burned Furs harping on the state of the fandom, or others arguing ceaselessly about all the negative aspects of the fandom in Ever wondered why there was always such focus upon the negative aspects of things?

The answer is deceptively simple.

Furry fandom, whether you like it or hate it, is simply a microcosm of today's society. Like today's society, it thrives on the aforementioned sensationalism. If it's dirty, we want to know about it. We want to become familiar with every little aspect of it so we can feel better about ourselves, elevated above it. So of course nobody can STOP pointing at the "undesirable" elements of Furry, just like most people tend to slow down and gawk at car wrecks on the highway.

What's sad is people who claim these aspects of the fandom are destroying it don't realize that they, themselves, are helping keep those negative aspects in the public view. If the Burned Furs weren't constantly believing their own press about the Furry Fandom, and stopped to think for a moment, they'd realize that by ranting about the latest 'perversion' to hit the* newsgroups, then most people wouldn't go to those newsgroups to go and stare at it. By claiming to be better than all the people they condem, folk like the Burned Furs simply bring more attention to the very thing they want to stamp out - and make themselves part of the problem in the process.

Not long ago there was an outraged cry about the negative press being generated at Portal of Evil a site that specializes in satirizing other sites on the internet. Burned Fur became so outraged about it they posted several links to the articles to show "just what sort of press was being generated by the undesirables in this fandom." The resulting referals showed up on PoE's logs and got their attention, spawning a review of their own site by PoE:

Burned Fur
10/10/00 10:19:41 AM EST
Category:Society & Culture,General
Because "Anthropomorphics fandom is being overrun by sexually dysfunctional, socially stunted and creatively bankrupt hacks and pervs," the Burned Furs have sought to recover the good name of the fandom - by yelling and screaming about those they don't like, thus publicizing them to those who otherwise would never have heard of the darker side of the fandom. Way to shoot yourself in the foot, guys.

I think this pretty clearly illustrates my point.

Those who have blown up in the last week have clearly forgotten that this isn't the first -- nor will it be the last -- negative press that the public has seen about the fandom. How about the "Daily Show" interview of Rapid T. Rabbit? Or the KMSTP coverage of ConFURence, which did a great job for our image by focusing upon the leather-clad bondage community?

But it's much easier to have a knee-jerk reaction and point fingers than it is to step back and consider for a moment: What precisely happened here?

Well, as I've mentioned before, the article was written for the general public. As such it's written to emphasise the things we find most distressing, and that the public will find (simultaneous) most disturbing and yet intriguing. So before assuming (or believing the rhetoric) that this reporter was only allowed to interview the "least desirable" elements of the fandom, be made aware that there were, in fact, several interviews with people like the Press Liason at MFF, constaff and other "positively contributing" members of the fandom. That material was simply discarded in favor of the more tantalizing and compelling dark material. It isn't solely the fault of the fandom (or these interviewed members) that this article paints such a negative picture. Part of the blame lies with the reporter, who is just trying to ensure his employer stays in business by providing "what the American people want: tantalizing portrayals of the perverts that walk amongst them."

What does this all mean to us? Well, some of it I've explained above. Certain factions in the fandom, as much as they would like to think otherwise, are just as responsible for drawing negative attention to Furry as the author of the Vanity Fair article. Sure, there are people who we wish weren't so flagrant. But it's a free society we live in, and they're welcome to preach what they like, and practice what they like in private. For the most part, I don't care what other people do. Much like annoying commercials, if I don't pay attention to it and buy into the PR it'll go away sooner or later. I try not to have knee-jerk reactions without getting all the facts and taking everything into consideration. I suggest others do the same. I try to contribute to the fandom: Buying books and art by fandom members I find tasteful and respectable. I visit online comics and "furry sites" that have gotten some good press like Kevin & Kell and, of course, Flayrah. I try to introduce friends to the positive aspects of the fandom. And, above all else, I don't tell other people what they "must" think. I let them decide, ultimately, for themselves.

What do you think?


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One side-effect that hasn't been talked much about...

The Vanity Fair article hit a lot of different press people. Now, every single two-bit journalist wants to take photos of the 'weirdos'.

Expect that our conventions will be filled with journalists looking for a 'story'. And that they'll be looking for the absolute worst of the fandom to make their story.

The subsequent fear of unknown, new people will kill off furry fandom far more than anything else that could have been done.

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This isn't the first or the worst of journalisms views of us. I have seen reporters at several major cons in years past and we'll see them again, to be sure. One Buddy I have in the fandom was almost ready to ditch furfandom altogether after reading the article, but he didn't even need me to point out how many good friends he's made over his time involved in the fandom. All the group needs in general to help the whole fandom out is for people to have a bit more pride in our diversity. This means that if it's not appropriate outside your home, It's probbly not the hottest idea to parade it around a con. Sure we all have our fondnesses, our fantasies and our desires, that's normal, and Dammit, In the USA it's still legal to pursue them, but remember that we stand for one another when the cameras are on, and I don't want to be the one that drives the nails into the coffin of furrydom by doing something odd that makes us all look like we haven't a bit of class.

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A great deal of the article, while mean-spirited in its presentation, was quite accurate. As Feren says, the homoerotic Disney art and anatomically correct plushes aren't exactly hidden from view at cons.

However, that doesn't make it responsible or well-written. Several furs, generally considered as good ambassadors for the fandom, were interviewed at length...Kage, for example. Their comments were excised in favor of such stellar journalism as a description of a crush video and an interview with a redneck who professes his desire to shoot furries.The article was a shallow, exploitive piece of yellow journalism.

When the next wave of TV reporters converge on Confurence this April for their "News of the Wierd" soundbites, do we put our best face forward in an effort to look professional, or do we hang all pretense and let the freak flags fly? Seems like a tossup at this point.

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Everyone in furry fandom has the power to make a difference how we are viewed by the public. In my opinion, the folks who use this article as an excuse to rail about how awful furry fandom is are no better than the reporter who wrote the article.
I have been telling my friends, family, and co-workers about furry fandom about furry fandom for the past seven years now with no problems. I'm going to continue telling my friends, family, and co-workers about furry fandom, because I see no reason whatsoever to stop setting a good example and expressing my viewpoint.
In the end, furry fandom is what you make of it. You don't change furry fandom's image by distancing yourself from it. You change furry fandom's image by showing people the media was wrong.

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Alas, however, sometimes telling people about the fandom isn't that easy....   in fact, for me at least, it rarely is.   I've found introducing mundanes to the fandom to be one of the hardest things to do, in terms of just figuring out a way to explain it and not just elicit blank stares.   I find it likely that most mundanes would have a hard time understanding the fandom and taking it seriously in any circumstances --  there's no analogy to the kind of community and camraderie going on at cons to be found anywhere in the mundane world.   Obviously this isn't to say that it's an entirely incomprehensible idea to them, but the population by and large probably just doesn't get it.

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I have to say this is a pretty arrogant view. This is one of the things that drives me nuts about Furries - they can be rather self-centered and egotistical.

There's no analogy to the kind of community and camraderie going on at cons to be found anywhere in the mundane world.

I highly disagree. AD&D folks, drag racers, people who keep pets.... They all have very close-knit communities, enjoy talking to one another, hanging out together at their respective meetings/get togethers... They all have a great sense of togetherness and work hard to help one another in their various endeavors.

Given my first-hand experiences in these groups, I'd say that it is not exclusively a furry trait. Do drag racers "scritch" one another? No, but that doesn't mean they're any less of a community.


"We use them for divine retribution."

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Which just goes to prove that conventions MUST

take steps to control access to the press. Always

been true, always will be.

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Which just goes to prove that conventions MUST
take steps to control access to the press. Always
been true, always will be.

This is something that's been spoken of before. But to me it raises the question, "How do you propose conventions control the press?"

"We use them for divine retribution."

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Point of fact:

Foxie Galen was interviewed at his home. Not at a convention.

The self-appointed expert on sexual fetishes who provided a large part of the article (which portion a critical reader would notice was unrelated to the fandom or the convention) was interviewed in her office. Not at a convention.

That other "interesting" section where non-conventioners were interviewed in the bar was completely out of the control of the convention.

The cons can't do anything about those sorts of things.

Remember Niven's Law: "There is no cause so noble or pure that a reporter can not find at least one whacko who will claim to be an adherent. Get used to it and get over it."

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About the author

Feren (Jason Olsen)read storiescontact (login required)

    a network engineer and Black panther from Chicago, Illinois, interested in furry literature, art, and camaros

    Sometimes network engineer. Sometimes coder. Sometimes ranting editorial writer.