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"Pseudo-furry" videos raise questions about pop culture and Furry fandom

Edited as of Tue 22 Mar 2016 - 13:57
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What's with music videos and fursuit parties?

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?

Pop art

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)

Another essay explains how Warhol was known for "shunning" originality:

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.

Furry art

Now, consider this debate about originality in furry art, started on Fur Affinity by GayHarley:

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 association with MTV. 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 original:

The album mix:


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If you take the history of corporate access to understanding of music in the past (Disco, Grunge, Alternative and Rock for example), you will notice that it soon becomes homogenized and commercialized. Then dead.

I know the fandom is a bit more complicated, which is why their clunky pathetic attempts to reach the average furry has usually been laughable. However, I do get afraid of corporations one day understanding the fandom. Cause most of these corporations are big dumb beasts. They have one agenda: Infiltrate, reproduce, repeat. I just don't want the same thing to happen to the fandom that happened to those music styles. Its taken years for those styles and similar styles to crawl back from the wreckage caused by the attempts to make a buck.

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While I do think that the corporate media are trying to milk some of the money out of the fandom (I think that has something to do with MTV's interest in us) I don't know if I'd compare a societal group to a music genre.

Music has historically gone through shifts in era, and rather rapid mutations. Basically because there's so many variance you can do with it. Someone does something new, everyone follows, someone else does something new, everyone follows.

As far as social groups, one tends to stick around more often than leave. Because while Swing music may not be hip anymore, you know those old swing kids still snail mail each other about the good old days.

Furry hasn't gone mainstream, and with our distrust of outsiders I don't think that can possibly happen.

If it's even possible to go "mainstream" today. The term "Viral" was created to term something that gets a lot of views in a short time. But after a week, forgotten by all but those that want to milk the nostalgia of yester-week.

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Haha, I don't think there is "money" in this fandom of relatively flyspeck proportions.

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Well, I'd normally say you're right, but Punk and Grunge were both a musical genre, and a societal sub-culture. Not to the extent of furry, but they both where truly sub-cultures. After the whole death of punk in the 80's and death of grunge in the 90's, they where no longer sub-cultures. The youth movement that fed them was tired of it, and moved on to bigger and better things.

I could think of nightmare scenarios all day that could fit the fandom. Its a little more complicated than music, but I definitely could see it happening.

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Grunge and punk were both counter-culture movements. The reason the original fans lost interest is once they became mainstream, they were no longer counter-culture, and they lost their purpose.

Furry fandom has counter-cultural elements, but that's not its reason for existing. So becoming mainstream is unlikely to turn off most current furries.

I actually think by making the fandom seem less oddball and scary, mainstream attention can only help. The quickest way to make people stop being afraid of something is to over-saturate the culture with it.

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"I actually think by making the fandom seem less oddball and scary, mainstream attention can only help"

I'd rather see the mainstream get more oddball and scary, and then furries won't be so pressured to conform to blandness.

Keep it wierd.

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That's kind of how I expect it to work. The range of acceptable behavior has been widening for a long time. I can remember when tattoos were disreputable and people told me I'd never get a job if I didn't cut my hair.

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[…] people told me I'd never get a job if I didn't cut my hair.

And now look what you've become - a furry! (If only it were that easy… ;-)

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I don't think my braided nose hair will catch on as a fashion trend :(

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Coincidently, there's a plain obvious fashion trend in my city: women wearing shirts that has tigers photos in them, usually a frontal angle. I say "plain obvious" because I don't go after info on such trends, but geez, I see around 10 of these shirts every day. I don't really think they're all furry... XD But that's the closest to mainstream I've seen regarding furries*.

*disconsidering my post below.

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No matter how small it seems, furry is a part of our modern culture. Furry conventions make local news, comedians like to reference the fandom, television series will sometimes have a furry episode or gag. People see it as unusual, fringe, sexed up (not trying to argue about the reality, just the public perception), and also a bit secretive. It's a provocative juxtaposition of our expectations of anthropomorphics (children's media, advertising) and very adult subjects. I think those qualities are why furry imagery appeals to musicians and artists.

Not to mention of course that anthropomorphic characters also have advantages of revealing details about the personality/job/etc via common symbolism and stereotypes of the species. From there the artist can either play them straight or subvert them.

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The most interesting thing about all this I think is that this kind of shows that while furrys are kind of wishy-washy when it comes to determining what is 'furry', they're quick to point out what is not.

This is only going to happen all the more as the entertainment industry tries to snake its way in. Some described Ms. Cyrus's dance with animal costume performers as getting 'frisky with furries'.

Now if the definition of a furry is "Someone dressed in an animal costume" that would be correct. However, I doubt the person in the costume had any dealing with the furry fandom. Furry fans wish they were paid that much... though if the cost is getting near Cyrus-- well, maybe not enough money...

In addition: I wouldn't call the animals costumers in Miley Cyrus's performance, or for that matter Tyler Swift's"We are never get back together" video are not symbolic of furry or furry fandom. Those costumes are merely symbols of childhood (animated stuffed animals).

For instance the the animal costumers that show up during the chorus of Taylor's song are a symbol of a breakup's regression to a simpler state of being. The complexity of 'adult' relationships are simplified to a more child-like and free state. (Plus it helps with the 'nyah-nyah' sounding cadence of the chorus).

The Miley symbolism was explained by Cracked .

Once again, the hardship we're dealing with is the blowback from the ambiguity of the term furry. You're calling this "Psudo-furry" because it wasn't made by a furry fan... but according to furry fans what makes something furry is that it contains anthroporphization of animals, in which case the videos you showed here cannot be called psudo, they actually are.

The problem here is that our fandom wants to have no one control what furry means, but at the same time have complete ownership over the term. In it's own way it shows the struggle of identity... you want to force people to see you in a certain way but you cannot control how other people see you.

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i just hope the furry fandom never dies

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The furry fandom will never "die." Since we first became human, people have always had a fascination with animals, and I don't think that will ever change or wane.

As for furries vs. pseudo-furries, as long as "psuedo-furries" don't try to make false or damaging claims or insinuations about the furry community itself, don't engage in harmful actions towards real animals, and give creative credit where creative credit is due, I say, welcome to the Animal House--the more, the merrier!

From there, of course people should be praised for aspiring to a higher artistic standard--so, for example, *unless they were meaning to be funny or ironic,* artists should be celebrated for not just going with bargain-basement mascot or animal costumes for their movie or music video, or for hiring professional mascots or fursuiters, instead of the office intern who just looks like he's about to fall over and die in the costume. But, bad costumes and bad performances don't *necessarily* reflect on *us* as a community, unless the artists are clearly *trying* to say something about furries in particular.

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Well, you're right in one sense. The content of furry will and pretty much almost always has been around. However, the fandom itself can "die". That's what most people don't quite understand the definition of death here.

The death I speak of is not the absence of furry content, as that would be like saying the absence of imagination. The death I speak of is over-exposure: People in part getting sick of it, warping it into a money making machine, pulling the entire reason out of it that we got into it in the first place.

That's what I speak of. If anyone thinks I'm crazy, I point you to, just about any trend that entertainment media has gotten a hold of.

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Ahhhh, I follow.

I suppose that's possible. If furrydom could shake its sketchy reputation in some areas, there'd certainly be plenty of people who'd be on board with cartoon animals, at least.

I wonder if fursuiting would be something that could develop a broader appeal, or not?

I still don't think that would "kill" the fandom, because if you like something for true and authentic reasons, you shouldn't let other people or Corporate America destroy that for you. I imagine that if furry went mainstream, furries might just become pickier or more discerning when it came to the markers of insider vs. outsider/poseur status, and you'd see a schism between the "Commercial" version and Original Recipe.

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I can see your point. But if "furry" becomes a buzz word instead of actually meaning a definable group of people, it would hurt the fandom a lot. That's my actual point. True, I don't think it would officially kill anything, but it definitely prevent people from finding it.

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It would suck to become just a buzzword, and it would be annoying if all you had to do to join the "tribe" was purchase a bunch of "stuff" from Hot Topic and Spencer Gifts.

Though, on the bright side, I suppose, this "mainstreaming" of furriness would also help to create a natural filter, and I'm actually pretty confident that the truly passionate and truly interested people would still manage to pass through it. Furries are already a bit hard to find and understand, arguably, and yet, people manage to cut through the noise to the real deal all the time. My hope is that this wouldn't change.

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True, lets hope and pray that never changes.

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People have always been on board with cartoon animals, that's why Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are household names. We are on the outskirts of society as a whole because we take our affinity of such characters that one step further, usually to a more... sensual side.

I know this is 3 years too late, but I'm starting to see some more furry stuff go into mainstream, both good and bad. Most company mascots are becoming furry-focused for those who know the deal, and companies are trying to get that large disposable income that furry groups tend to throw around, especially with cons, parties, and art commissions.

It plays up almost like how for a long time, companies were going full gay-central, trying to bring that demographic in for that DINK (double income, no kids). Furries are getting the same treatment currently, and it may take a few years for some companies to stop trying to damn hard to get our business.

Even companies who spread fads catch onto them, so for the time being, we can just look and laugh at all the failed attempts to associate us, and be grateful that others can see past all the previous bull that's been thrown around at the fandom's expense and enjoy some recognition.

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You've overlooked a very important incidence of furries in popular music videos: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's wonderful single, Higher Than The Stars. Rather than buying cheap animal costumes and hiring extras, the producers of this video reached out to various groups of "real" furries and asked them to participate in the shoot. (The suiter who initially grabs the protagonist's hand used to be a friend of mine, hence how I got the full story.) Whereas Ylvis' video uses department store animal costumes and Capital Cities' uses professional prosthetics, the suits used in this video are entirely the creation and property of the suiters themselves--a good demonstration of authenticity in a debate about what constitutes the term.

The thematic content of the song strikes a chord as well. The lyrics are about a girl falling in love with another girl and having to hide her affections from the world at large. In this way, the furries in this video are an obvious metaphor for self-acceptance; the video switches to bright, happy colors as soon as the protagonist leaves her black-and-white world of denial.

The examples you've presented in the article, as well as the MC Crumbsnatcher video, are good examples of furry visibility, but they all seem to focus around using animal suits either for shock value or to set up a narrative. This single, however, establishes "real" furries as a welcoming and accepting group in a video for a wildly popular song. I think this is the sort of visibility that has real value.

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Good catch! We had a post on it, and Red Furros interviewed band vocalist Peggy Wang.

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Plus the Wikifur article on it: :)

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I finally got around to watching this... haha, such ear candy. I'm a sucker for melancholy, ultra fey jangle pop, 80's vintage. (Like Aztec Camera, Lotus Eaters, The Colourfield, the Smiths). I don't care if it's a major rip on The Cure :) It's fun.

From wikifur the singer says: "I first discovered furries on an MTV show called "True Life: I'm a Furry." ... isn't it funny how that works. People wanted to give me so much heat for just interviewing someone from MTV, but culture doesn't happen top down. Tons of people have stories like that.

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My missing important stuff helps show a trend I think- theres too many to keep track of!

Have 5 stars :3

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I saw the video but feel it more of much to ado about noting. The media has been using cheap animal costumes for years. I can see how furries might go for it and adapt it for a skit or video, but never thought the song as overtly furry.

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I think I find it more shocking that people still make music videos these days :P

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I think it's still a prominent thing, especially given Youtube as a medium to reach an audience. Obviously MTV probably shares that shock given they gave up on that medium.

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Nothing shocking about it. The music video is still a major marketing tool. It used to be for the album, but since the advent of iTunes, its more for the single these days. You won't find the $1 mil + videos that used to be made in the 90's (GNR anyone?) but you'll still find well made videos.

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Do you know what that kind of singing is called? "scat"
Well, in this case it's fox scat

(dunno if I should take credit for that or not, ohwell)

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Does no one remember this one from Counting Crows? Funny how I only discovered it the other day . . .

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I would like to point out that Ylvis claims to not know the furry fandom until after they made the fox video and received lots of comments and mail from furries. Which is possible, consider where they are from and it's simply not as common in their country. They made the video as a joke and in no way to offend the furry fandom, which as I said before they have claimed to not know about. Ylvis is a comedy variety show and this sort of thing is common in their style.

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"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."
Ehh, maybe that's the most notorious influence in the last years, but truth is, there're evidences that point out the human interest in zoomorphism dating as much as 40,000 years ago. If that many years don't sound important enough, mind humans haven't developed concepts like housing and agriculture by that time yet.

Before I go into "pseudo-furry", I'd like to put my views regarding the definition "Furry Fandom".
I believe the definition "Furry Fandom" is correct because fandom implies being fan of something, and somehow, the furry fandom is fan of itself. This is possible because there's also a "Furry Culture". This also would explain certain aspects in the fandom like people who like furry art but aren't furry themselves. They're fan of furry content thenfore part of the furry fandom, but don't follow a furry culture.

The term "pseudo-furry" is employed then for content that falls in the category of zoomorphism and also might or might not contain some certain specific characteristics commonly found in the furry fandom (fursuits for example) but as a whole is still content that is not capable of pertaining to a furry culture, and/or not made by furries.

But then, what is the "furry" in pseudo furry?
If considered as a follower of furry culture (or commonly used in this case, a person that partakes the furry fandom), in that sense the term "pseudo-furry" would have a correct etymology and semantics.
But if the "furry" in "pseudo-furry" is related to the furry fandom or culture, it would be at least dubious but probably wrong anyway. The word would be etymologicly wrong at least. Because if certain elements are truly part of the furry fandom, you couldn't call it "fake" (pseudo) by any means.

As from the point of view of marketing, it might be the furry fandom is indeed influencing some tendencies outside the fandom. It's been exaustively exemplified on the internet that weird = famous, and since furries are "weird" it could be a publishing approuch.
Regarding fame, popularity and overuse, that's a natural tendencies for pretty much everything. The 2 videogame crisis were around the same line: Few people thru hardwork and vast knowledge made lots of money with "few" efforts and few expenses. Not-so-successful businessmen (and not-so-successful for a good reason) consider the approuch as something worth trying (after all, who doesn't want easy money?) but sadly they lack of said vast knowledge and hardwork, thenfore producing "themed-garbage". If too many people try too without responsability, the result is a market flooded with garbage, which after a crisis is painfully purged and, if said market content is good enough, renewed. The point here is more the fact of "copying" successful people without understanding the true reasons behind the success -- happens everywhere all the time; it's natural. You could also consider the point of view of quality: it has "ups and downs" "seasons".
This could happen with the furry fandom soon. But in my opinion, the furry fandom seems far more resilient than videogames market, and this one already survived 2 crisis. Again, zoomorphism is over 40,000 years old.
And let's face it, despite furry fandom having it's own culture, it is nonetheless a part of human society too. "Mainstream" and "underground" are relative concepts -- you have mainstream and underground inside the fandom, but the fandom per se is also "underground". Happens the furry fandom become more "mainstream", all you'll see is an increase of number of furries. Proportionally, the level of quality would remain the same.

And regarding furry art, it's more depending of the interpretation and abstraction of art. My view regarding art is everything that is transmiting a message by other means beyond usual communication. This would explain the main reason people do art: to send a message. This is why you scribbled when you were a kid and why cavemen did paintings on walls and made sculptures. And you also could have various degree of high and low quality art, which would be how well the message is transmited. So even if the message in a certain artwork is simple... ...If nobody get it, the artist failed.
For example, Picasso never were a good at drawing, but he was a good artist. While there's a implicit common sense that the more the details and more realistic and hard to do it is, higher is the art quality... It's all about message in the end. No message, no art.
The thing is that, if you're transmiting a message, you need to consider who's going to recieve it. Like right now I'm writting in english to english-readers read my comment. In art, if you narrow your "target audience" too much the message is going to be understood by few, but probably very well. But if you make it too broad, the more likely people will misunderstand it. Not that it intrisicly lowers art quality by become broader, but that's probably what will happen anyway.
And now you need remember that the furry fandom is a part of human society, it has it's own culture, tastes and knowledge (like the fact most people outside the fandom don't know the difference between a cheetah and a tiger, for example). A furry artwork might be broader in the sense of reaching those outside of the fandom, but naturally sounds harder to convey both instead of just doing something very "furry". Impossible? Certainly not, but why make things harder? Will it worth?

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The key point of Andy Warhol's work (and also Roy Lichtenstein's) was that he was appropriating mass-produced stuff. An artist "appropriating" another artist's unique work is another thing, although in contemporary art such "appropriation" is relatively common. (It was common in art of the past too, but in less blatant forms such as mannerism and adoption of foreign national/ethnical styles.)

The entertainment industry appropriating furry imagery is the opposite of what Warhol did, but it's an ordinary thing since entertainment has always appropriated all sort of art. Whether such exposition will be harmful to the furry fandom raises the question of what the furry identity *is* anyway... a notoriously difficult question. It will certainly bring more people.

However mainstream meadia cannot appropriate all elements of the furry fandom equally, because many of them aren't things which can be shown or even discussed on general audience media. Ever since the CSI episode of 2003 mainstream media have focused on the less outrageous visual element of the fandom - fursuits. I doubt they will ever come close to appropriating the sexual oddities of furry art, except for wacky humorous stuff like "Furry Force". And the people brought in by mainstream exposition will be mostly interested in the stuff they have seen "advertised", that is fursuits and general partying.

The trends in the furry community since this article was posted two years ago seem to confirm that. Fursuiting has benefited a lot from mainstream exposure and is now booming, but it is not yet clear whether other elements of the furry culture will benefit the same way.

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