Stealth vs blatant and the "Mouse Problem"; furry coverage in fictional media
As repeated media victims we furs are always on the lookout for furry references— good, bad or indifferent— on TV and elsewhere. There are two distinct styles in which our fandom is covered: bluntly by name, and more subtly. It’s easy to identify the former, but sometimes it’s more fun when they don’t use the 'F-word' to describe the group in which they are referencing in their content. In those instances, it seems more a stealthy shout-out for our animal-ears only, designed to fly over the head of anyone who doesn’t get it.
Today I wish to go over some of those moments in furry media that seem to hold general fandom idioms and how fun 'situational nuance' can be.
For instance, take the two-part season four We Bare Bears Halloween episode. In the first part, the main character, Panda buys three “Oso Adorable” small plush bears online, all perfect reproductions of themselves. “Oso” while sounding like "oh so" in English, also means “bear” in Spanish, making it a cutely clever pun. Once each bear puts a bit of his fur inside his Oso, the plushies becomes “beary special” – in that they suddenly know more about their living counterparts than the bears would prefer.
Especially “Little Panda” who announces “I like dressing up as a cat”— and then adds in a quiet whisper, “when no one is looking.”
Hmm, dressing up as an animal and hoping no one knows? Sounds like something a not-quite-ready-to-come-out-of-the-furry-closet fur would do.
The second part focuses on their human friend Chloe, a child prodigy who gets no respect from her college classmates. When Griz accidentally bites her she becomes a werebear, an anthro-ursine version of herself. Her transformation, which she sees in a mirror is depicted in a series of shots lasting several seconds, for those who are major transformation fans like myself, this is quite a gratifying scene.
As a humorous aside, I was just so happened to walk into my Furpocalypse hotel room the exact moment Cartoon Network was telecasting the scene. It took me a while to realize it was lucky timing on my part and not something my roommate had arranged for my arrival.
When Chloe's college classmates discover her furriness, rather than being shunned she instantly becomes the most popular kid in the crowd— the ultimate popufur! “Whoa, check out her ears…you have no idea how awesome you are right now Chloe!” they would cheer. While I never saw the original Teen Wolf movie, from my understanding the same thing happened to Michael J. Fox's character in that film.
The next thing you know she’s a wild and crazy party animal at the local hang-out. They even begin selling Chloe T-shirts and mugs. “Now everybody loves me and wants to party with me!” she noted. The bears arrive to check on their friend and Griz explains to them he accidentally bit her, things get even more interesting. One of her classmates runs up to Griz, saying “oh master bear? can you bite me too?” and a second adding “yeah, I want to be cool like Chloe!”. Most notably, the first guy is especially eager to go were-bear, offering his neck up to Griz: “seriously dude, like bite me right here!”
Chloe eventually goes full bear cub, no longer a child prodigy or capable of human speech. (Un)fortunately the episode was non-canon; Chloe was back to her normal human self in time for the next cartoon.
Of rodent infestation skits
Now for media mentions that make sure you know are all-capped, italicized and boldfaced FURRY!, exclamation point included. They can be of the cheap shot or “hey, this is kinda cool” variety, more of which are the latter these days, thank the furry gods. I put them in what I call the “Mouse Problem” category, in honor of the classic Monty Python sketch. If you haven’t seen this amazingly prophetic 1969 bit of Brit humor, you should check it out.
In the sketch the Pythons imagine a secret underground society of "men who want to be mice". The sketch was a satire of peoples’ curiosity about homosexuality, which had recently been decriminalized in England in 1967. After all, what could be more absurd than a bunch of people who enjoy dressing up as animals?
Don’t answer that.
The highlight of the sketch was footage from a supposedly surreptitiously filmed “mouse party” featuring a handful of folks in baggy mouse suits. The footage ends with a man dressed as a “farmer’s wife” cutting off one “mouse”’s tail with a carving knife, a la the old nursery rhyme; a little castration anxiety there, perhaps?
My point is all the would-be rodents are suited up. There’s no one there just wearing a tail or mouse ears or a Mickey Mouse T-shirt like you’d see at an actual modern-day furry gathering. This was 1969 after all, actual furry gatherings were still decades in the future.
Modern media - An over-focus from sex to suits
That was then, this is now. Despite strides, by and large the media still believe that furry fandom and fursuiting are one in the same, and that it’s mandatory to wear them when we get together. In a recent article about Furry Down Under (FurDU), it took a writer in the Australian edition of Marie Claire magazine eleven paragraphs to note with surprise less than half the attendees were suited.
My partner Furio recently turned me onto an episode of Lucifer, a supernatural/police procedural TV series I’d never heard of. Discovering a fursuit belonging to a murder victim the detective immediately tells an onlooker, “furries get a bad rap but they’re almost never sexual—most of the time, totally wholesome, if that’s what you were thinking”— which the onlooker wasn’t thinking. I’m glad she stuck up for us, but did she have to bring up, unprompted, our negative stereotype in order to deny it? I suppose the writer thought she was looking out for us, but it felt a little unnatural, and not the supernatural kind.
The detective dons the suit to attend a furry convention. Apart from a few fleeting glimpses of non-suiters way in the background, the focus is 98% on fursuiters. Even the notorious “Fur and Loathing” CSI episode -covered by Aberguine's Furries and the Media here - had quite a few non-suiters at their imaginary convention. In Lucifer, a suiter explains “Wesley”, previously presumed to be an actual person, is her “fur sona”. That's not a typo, it was two separate words if you have the closed-captions turned on. She also had described it as her “OC" (“Original Character,” in case you’re unfamiliar with that term). The episode’s writer, if not a fur herself, is definitely fur-friendly and certainly did her homework.
And then there’s Pottersville, a 2017 Christmas-themed movie so low-profile it snuck into theaters and onto video without anyone noticing.
A small-town grocer comes home early to discover his wife and Jack, the local sheriff, in rabbit and wolf fursuits. This leaves the husband utterly confusticated and insisting on believing yes, it absolutely is sexual. The wolf takes off his head, revealing himself to be Ron Perlman, an actor who clocked more than a few hours in animal drag as Vincent the anthro lion-man in the 1980’s Beauty and the Beast TV series. “I’m kind of a big deal in this town, and I don’t think it would be good if people knew I was a furry.”
Shame on you, Jack! Be loud, be proud, be furry!
A nighttime forest gathering of fursuited revelers takes place. Personally, I’d never fursuit in a dark forest myself, don’t forget what happened to that CSI raccoon! You’d think there’d be at least one non-suiter there at this gathering since the film is set in a small, economically depressed town and we all know how expensive fursuits can be.
Exposed as a furry at the forest gathering, Jack defiantly confesses his furriness, “I’m a furry, and I’m damn proud of it!” he proclaimed.
Finally! way to go, Jack!
However this praise sort of falls apart as he goes onto explain, quite incorrectly, “furries are people who just happen to like dressing up in furry clothes and rub up against each other.” Wrong, Jack! We’re people who like to wear fursuits or tails or furry t-shirt—and hug each other!
Guess while some things about the media may change, some stubbornly stick around.
Joe Strike is the author of Furry Nation: The True Story of America’s Most Misunderstood Subculture.(furrynation.com) He fursuits as “Komos,” an anthropomorphic Komodo dragon.
About the authorJoe Strike — read stories — contact (login required)
a writer and Alligator from New York, NY, interested in cartoons, cartoons and more cartoons (both animated and drawn). also sci-fi/fantasy films and detective novels
Animation journalist, longtime fur and author of Furry Nation: The True Story of America's Most Misunderstood Subculture.
I'm the real-life 'kid in a candy store' - the one my parents ran in Brooklyn until I was 13. I was marinated in the pop culture stew of comic books, Warner Bros & Fleischer cartoons on TV and kids' matinee films I saw every weekend. I've always had a love of animation and of characters like Bugs and Pepe LePew, and often wished I could join them in their world - a sign of incipient furriness right there.
I worked for years in TV promotion at Bravo and then Sci-Fi Channel before going freelance. Since then I've written about animation and sci-fi/fantasy films for mainstream publications and scripted an episode of the Nick Jr. TV series Wow Wow Wubbzy!
I blog under the name "The Miscweant" on the animation industry website awn.com. I've written the kids'/furry novel "The Incredible Hare" and host occasional audience-attended conversations with animation professionals at various NYC locations under the umbrella title "Interview with an Animator"
I didn't discover furry so much as furry discovered me via a flyer I received in 1988 out of the blue for a 'furry party' at the Philcon sci-fi convention. No one had to explain it to me - I knew exactly what I was looking at and that I belonged there. I contributed to the furry 'zine Rowrbrazzle for years & now post on Fur Affinity as "Comus". I also fursuit as the dapper but sinister Komodo dragon "Komos."
So yeah, I've been part of the fandom since its earliest days - but don't call me a 'greymuzzle' or I'll punch you in *your* snout.
Why are we publishing Trump tweets?
Fake roos, fake news!
[comment removed on request]
Nah, the farmer thought it was a Coyote...
(I should have said spoilers there... but who hasn't seen that episode here?)
"Wrong, Jack! We’re people who like to wear fursuits or tails or furry t-shirt—and hug each other!"
That's just as bad as saying all fur suit people have sex in them. This "clean must" agenda already ruined the fandom now. Can we just stop with that agenda now?
Anyway in 2018...
Hurricanes, earthquakes, actual people who harm others... wh... what about that?
Well many people have been critising the people who harm others, but unfortunately they found this tactic called "What-about-ism" to deflect.
Weird that is.
But Joe did put a comment on my article that doesn't make it seem like he's a "whitewasher" that you saw him as on that one cherry-picked quote:
If some people stopped focusing on stuff that doesn't really harm, then maybe there will be more criticism against actual bad things.
Sorry I wasn't exactly paying attention who was saying what. And I think I was also addressing anyone who's part of that "clean must" agenda. But still that statement about "hugs" attached with the "out cast" style is just cringe to me, especially since I already feel like an out cast of this fandom in general.
Just browsing e621 for 6.21 seconds would change that, art that is deviant isn't going anywhere.
What agenda? Why is saying that people like to hug each other exclusive of people who like to fuck each other?
Saying that by making others who are more sexual feel like an outcast feels like an agenda in a bad way. Especially when it's possible that saying something like "we like to hug" is like speaking to all of the fandom, and yet that gives me the sense that "we all like sex" is considered bad not because of the mere thing being wrong information, but that another thing that isn't bad is "bad".
And I also refuse to believe in the "2%" claim crap and "no more than the amount of astronaut sex" crap.
Are you saying you don't like to hug people?!
No but I actually don't want to either. Especially since I lost more faith in humanity getting better since the whole "witch hunt" crap involving people losing their job because of some mistake or more 7-10 years ago.
Relax friend, I was jes' funnin' ya,' is all, substituting one furry cliche ("we all fuck in our suits") for another ("we're the most innocent, lovable, huggiest bunch of huggers ever!"). In other words, it was not meant to be taken seriously.
Oh alright then.
Neat article. No mention of the giant ANTHROPOMORPHISM callout in the Zootopia trailer? Funny how Disney never had to label what they do in all their previous projects... while this one had marketing sent to furry lists...
About the Lucifer episode:
This was a So-Cal product, where I think "the evil media" hyper-over-sensitivity may be even higher than in the fandom's other brain center over in Pittsburgh. It's where the CSI episode etc landed most directly. The scaremongering hits almost cult-propaganda levels, where professionals who are super well suited to give sympathetic/high quality mainstream media coverage (like a writer from The Atlantic) get treated like Scientology treats heretics. Doing that is a great way to shoot yourself in the footpaw...
This TV episode was written directly in response to that, they sought out furries for their input. The final product reflects that. Like:
If it seems like the writer was looking out for us, they WERE - if it feels unnatural, it's just what furries asked for! That's an example of hyper-over-sensitivity. But the furries who were involved loved being in the show (I have a long in person interview with one on deck to flesh out...)
Pottersville I think hit this weird middle spot between not Troma movie over-the-top enough and not sincerely holiday-movie enough. I thought it was kind of fun and worth a watch once, seeing Ron Perlman do that one line was wild. It could have been so much better if it went one way or the other (you'd be extremely unhappy if they included the parts they left on the cutting room floor). Anyways, this review summed it up perfectly, the review is so worth reading for entertaining film criticism... http://www.vulture.com/2017/11/a-few-questions-about-michael-shannons-furry-chri...
I did talk about the Zootopia tease (and my totally messed up attempt to get an answer out of Byron Howard) in "Furry Nation." This piece was about things that more recently came to my attention.
I'm not familiar with the story of The Atlantic writer; where can I learn more about what happened to that particular journalist?
That was a really good part of the book!
Not to mention that Fayroe the famously blue fox made his big apearence in Pottersville (also the cohost of Furcast). People are learning more to accept us as we are. I'm furry and proud. I sponsor Furcast and XBN STUDIOS and it's quite clear I'm a furry by my choice of decals on my truck. I've never once been called out for it.
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