A conversation piece about furries: 'Fursonas'
Fursonas has certainly already stirred the fandom up with its announcement. This independent documentary film made by Dominic Rodriguez was developed over 4 years from 2012 to 2015. It follows a handful of furries from different walks of life and their take on their identity and the identity of this crazy little group they find themselves within.
The film is broken up into two main parts. The first half introduces the fur fans that we'll be getting perspectives from, and the second half gets into topics that are typically the main controversies of the fandom: sex, the media, and the conflict between individual identity and complying to societal norms.
TRIGGER WARNING: If you a major fan, or personal friend, of Uncle Kage then this film may prove difficult to watch. Oh yeah, and there is a scene with dildos as well, so viewer discretion and such.
A Cast of Characters
We're first introduced to Diezel Raccoon, who when they are on screen, they make sure their identity is never revealed. Dominick uses clever obfuscating camera tricks similar to that of Wilson from Home Improvement. It was something I noticed even before being given the story about their bad experiences when they told some previous co-workers about furry, explaining the desire for their anonymity. But despite that reservation, they is very sociable within the fandom, going to cons frequently.
Skye is part of the fursuit dancing scene. The furry dancing, unfortunately isn't covered in great detail in this film as it is popular amongst those outside the fandom to spectate as well as those inside. Skye answers the same questions everyone else does and has no answers that particularly stand out. The opening where they talk about the dance scene is probably Skye's best moment in the film, and it should be as that's what Skye does!
Representing the homosexual couple we have Grix and Quad, who are gamers, rebellious and a little biased toward smokers. They're probably the staunchest critics of the controlling aspects within the fandom in the latter half of the film.
On other side we have the heterosexual couple of Fraya and Kato, who have a daughter that they raise together. Their life seems to be more low key and down to earth, and they are both extremely articulate.
Then there is Bandit, a rugged man who expresses himself in honor of his dog. This older gentleman is the most sympathetic towards Kage's positions within the film. You do get a sense they are part of the older generation of the fandom. And that very age is why I feel why he can understand why Kage is the way he is. More on that later.
The Political Nitty Gritty
Kage really isn't formally introduced until about halfway through the film, around when it gets to its more politically charged topics. It is at this time when our relationship with the media is brought to the forefront. And you can sense in many of those being interviewed a greater sense of anxiety when discussing these things. The raccoon suiter's leg develops a nervous tick as he discusses some of the incidents that have burned us in the past.
Of course the talk of media bleeds into the topic that the media most asks about, which is sex. This brings in Varka. He's not in the film too much, but I did get a chuckle when he says, "Everyone should have standards, and there needs to be certain topics that are not on the table, but people need to be comfortable with [their friends] to share what they really want." This is said right before we jump right into talking about the sticky fantasy lube he created, demonstrating its viscosity by pouring it in his hands. If that transition was done purposefully that was quite cheeky.
Let us be perfectly clear here, the producer, Dominick is not acting as a neutral party. He is very much invested in the side that represents that one should be the individual they wish to be, even at a cost. The closest he gets to an interview with Kage is by asking him questions on one of his wine streams. Dominick laughs like a maniac when the con chair says, "I want them to shut the hell up because [Chew Fox; Boomer] are not representing me!" Which for better or worse showed that the director was getting some sort of pleasure out of a response that should have been upsetting or disappointing. In other words, I would have probably hoped for a more somber reaction similar to the picture drawn of him for the flick.
My favorite part of the film as far as the debate goes was the part where Freya is reacting to the video in which Kage called Chew Fox a bitch with her mate and the film's producer watching along. Freya states that she doesn't believe someone in the public eye who's representing the good of the fandom should use that kind of language. The producer asks for Kato's take on what he thinks of Kage after seeing the video, but Kato doesn't quite get on board with what Dominick is selling. It seems to be the only scene in the film where the debate is organic and between people in the same room instead of through jump cuts. I specifically like Kato's words and he perhaps makes the most adamant defense of the con chair throughout the whole feature:
"Not to sound condescending, because I'm not here to tell you how to do your job, make sure you spend your time bringing to light those voices who can't articulate themselves, rather than bringing down someone who attempts to do it for them. Even if, perhaps, not in a way you approve of."
And I believe this is where Boomer comes into for the film. In contrast to all of the above, Boomer never really gives any opinion on Kage, even when seeing the man talk about him. He doesn't talk about fandom drama, he doesn't get caught up in any of it. He in essence, is probably the freest spirit of them all. He doesn't seem to see others as an interruption of his goal, he just goes for it.
Like Chew Fox (whom is also interviewed in the film) he has been the center of fandom controversy, but unlike Chew Fox he doesn't hold that moment of controversy as a scarlet letter. This may be because he, of all of us, from Kage to Chew Fox, is the most at ease with his identity and so doesn't point blame on others as to why some people don't accept him, because he just accepts it.
Boomer bookends this feature. He is the first and last thing we see in the film. So I think Dominick agrees with that assessment. It's the reason he put him in there. Because at the end of the movie, he's the only one who remains above the fray and he is the breath of air between the deep dives under the fandom social current. Without him, the movie wouldn't have so much been about the fandom and more about who's on what side of our squabbles.
Perhaps one day more of us can strive to be like Boomer in that way, at peace with ourselves despite the words of others.
The Missing Piece
The film will certainly be a conversation starter within the fandom. For those outside it may be a bit advanced for a furry 101 piece, it's probably closer to 201. There are a lot of fundamental things missing, such as "How did Kage get in his position within the fandom in the first place?" and "Why does he act the way he does?" Because those in the non-furry media don't know the answer to the questions, they broke it down into the simplest parts when reviewing this film. That the cockroach con-chair is somehow some power hungry dictator!
Nope, actually. He and Bandit from the film have a bit in common. They both have the same fears, but express them differently. Bandit is more reserved, where Kage can't afford to be, as the current chair of the fandom's current largest convention, he has to take his fears on the offensive. They both are afraid of community ostracizing, and what Kage fears the most is the loss of his convention, Anthrocon, over the action of others.
It'd be one thing if this was just paranoia, but it has happened before. Kage and Bandit's fears exist in the shadow of a Western furry convention that no longer exists. The ghosts of the pioneer furry convention haunts the fandom to this very day, even if many don't realize it, including many in the film it seems.
Confurence: it was the first convention the fandom ever had. And there was a lot of rumors and horror stories that float around it and its sudden decline and dissolution. Of course without much record, because the internet was still young back in the late 90s, there are conflicting stories. Was it because the con was too soft on people to do what they want despite public decency? Was it because the staff was too hard on the convention goers? Was it a combination of the two, where the hammer came down too little too late?
It wasn't too long after the Confurence's decline that the entire dark age in furry began with the media, to the point where the two events seem tied. This was exactly at the time Kage was chairing the young Anthrocon. This is the environment where his leadership style was forged. And clearly, despite some arguing that the world has changed over the past two decades, there are always fears that what happened to Confurence can happen again. Two recent issues that illustrate that it very well could that occurred at other furry conventions: Oklacon and Rainfurrest. And because of this, Kage is most certainly going to double down upon his contingencies when it comes to Anthrocon and its public relations.
As you can see the film is a good piece to strike up conversation of fandom politics. What the fandom means to every individual is different. I kind of explained this a decade ago using a Mad Lib analogy which will help in understanding group dynamic and conflict. And that's kind of the cool thing about this film, it made me reflect on the thoughts I had in the past.
We all have memories of the events in the film. Whether it be Boomer trying to change his name, or ChewFox ending up on Tyra Banks. We all had our own emotional reactions at the time that we remember, and those feelings and responses built us to what we are today. And those feelings that defined us sometimes clash with other's beliefs. Those are the foundations of a community.
If you want a film that will make you reflect on yourself and what the fandom means to many different folks, give it a spin. To me the worst part was trying to work with iTune for the first time on my Windows machine. Certainly it was a more obscene experience than anything the most imaginative furry could cook up.