Review of AshCoyote's Fandom documentary - Season 1
A free to view documentary series, edited by Eric Risher and directed by Ash Kreis, was released on Kreis's Youtube channel AshCoyote. Her channel covers nonfiction topics of the furry fandom, while also doing streams of games of furry interest. Funnily since that’s the same kind of content my own channel covers it may seem strange that I’d want to promote their work, however in the non-fiction business it is important to encourage more sharing of information than less. Plus her production value is much higher.
Today we’re going to go over these seven videos. If you like these, then it you should consider throwing a few dollars toward their GoFundMe campaign to produce a full length picture about the fandom they plan on doing. It has 13 days left and is all or nothing, so they have to hit at least $20,000 to get any funding from the campaign. As of writing they don't have much more to go to reach that goal with over $18,000 raised at time of publication.
Episode 1: Introduction
We are introduced to many of those that were interviewed for this series in this segment and their take on why they are into the furry fandom. It's interesting to see the variety of situations that brought the people interviewed to the culture.
To get the elephant out of the room there is a clear issue that is apparent during these introductions. There are name cards under each person as they talk with titles signifying their roles in the fandom, which is great. But those same cards also highlight a large issue with the series. The sample set as far as diversity goes is good on the male to female ratio, but everything else seems a bit uniform. Particularly on their activities within the fandom. Everyone they interviewed here seems to be in one of three distinctive groups: a fursuiter, a fursuit maker, a Youtuber, or any combination of those three things.
The diversity issue has been something that has come up in many criticisms of the series and is something that AshCoyote has stated they wish to improve as the documentary continues. Particularly on their funded production.
Episode 2: Suits
Obviously by the title, this one goes over the fursuits, which given the plethora of suit makers and wearers gathered certainly makes this one of the series’s strongest episode on information. Syber and Ritz go over their experiences in being entrepreneur fursuit creators. They also go over the stresses, like creating something and then never seeing their work again, or the stress of running a small business and bills.
Then the suit wearers talk about their experiences as performers. They do go on to address that there are many in the fandom that don’t fursuit and that it isn’t important to everyone. Which is always good to remind the audience given the ratio of fursuit to skin in these episodes seems reversed from the normal.
Episode 3: International Furs
Given that Syberwulf ended the last episode on the note that she made fursuits for furs all around the world, going into the international community is a good transition. They introduce some new people here, and the focus does finally leave the fluff behind and get into more of the range of community in both geography and passions.
Most of the episode speaks with two individuals from Mexico. They both describe schisms within some Mexican towns surrounding the wearing of fursuits. Yvette infers that this is different in America where everyone is more accepting. However, I suspect that Yvette’s experiences with furry in America is limited to convention spaces. Her interview, judging by the door behind her, took place in the Embassy Suites hotel at Midwest Furfest in Rosemont, Illinois.
I would argue that America’s treatment of furry isn’t that much different than Kurtt’s statements about suiting in Mexico, who says the larger cities like Mexico City don’t have too much issue with it, but the smaller towns can be a bit more judgmental. So really in my mind no matter which side of the border you reside in, the acceptance factor will depend on context and geography.
It would be cool if they could expand this to more than just Mexico, and furs that are just well traveled, but to do that they’d have to reach their $40,000 stretch goal which is a bit of a tall order.
I wonder if TefPwoof, a furry from Hong Kong who wrote about a Chinese convention for us would be available for something like this? It seems like they disappeared from FurAffinity, and haven't written anything since. So probably not.
Episode 4 - Youtube
Obviously this was a very well received video on the platform and despite being the fourth episode in the series is their third most popular by views. All the other videos follow a standard episodic decent in viewership. Lots of furry Youtubers tend to be fursuiters (spoiler alert), though Beta isn't one currently, he will be one shortly.
The YouTubers go over the positives and negatives of being public facing, and how they use their community to deal with and discuss their anxieties and issues. The usage of BetaEtaDelota’s growth from cynical videos to his more uplifted views of the community as a book-end for the episode was clever.
Episode 5 - Identity
This one goes into the personal sides of dealing with difficulties and social stigmas with personal identity. This one has a good mix with those that are gay, bi, and one fierce drag queen— who is the one that bookends this segment. Once again I am noticing that there is the progression of the book-ending individual from more hesitant at the start to letting go in the end (like Beta in Episode 4).
It was interesting to hear from the women on how they deal with some issues of feeling outcast within furry groups. One artist stating that they had dealt with a customer that didn’t want to buy from her because she was a women. This kind of was surprising to me as when I’ve walked around large dealer dens and artist allies, there is a healthy sampling of women. Usually the female to male ratio is higher here than in any other groups within the community. This is enforced by Syber’s notes that many furry business are run by females.
Personally when I find it hard to socialize, I tend to throw myself into my work as well.
Episode 6 - Religion in the Fandom [Christianity]
By far the most interesting episode to me. Religion is usually one of those topics in the fandom that aren’t discussed too frequently in open air. Unfortunately those in the mainstream religious community tend to be judgmental of those who are eccentric, so many furries tend to have negative connotations when it comes to the organizations around the worship of the divine. In before Rakuen's long comment featuring Charles Hitchens!
One oddity for this episode is that the intro card on the video says “Religion” where the Youtube’s title is "Christianity". But given that other religions don’t get much coverage here such as Paganism, Islam, and the like, I can see why they changed the name post-production. But it does give it a bit of an identity crisis. Perhaps the goal of this episode was directed at the mainstream religion of the United States in particular, wanting to prove that just because you are fur doesn't mean you're godless. So they didn’t want to muddy the waters that our fandom would be just as welcoming to a Muslim as a Christian, if but in a don’t ask don’t tell kind of way.
This episode finally goes more into the art aspect of the fandom with their guest Jonathan Vair Duncan. The first person presented to have neither the word ‘fursuit’ or ‘Youtuber’ in their title. Given that furry Youtubers have a platform where they can discuss their perspectives with the world, having the documentary bring in people outside those circles, while difficult, I feel would make for an experience you can’t get just by watching other videos on the social video sharing site. This episode is the proof in the pudding that this is the case.
Though in that same vein a good chunk of the video goes over their work as an artist and may be a bit off topic in a video about religion. However, that’s the tricky thing with identity; religion and fandom activities are two part of the whole of the individual in question and you have to have both together. Showing their artwork tied them with the fandom, so that when they talked about their trials and use of religion to overcome their mortal faults it gives Jonathan a rounder identity.
By the way, I’m sure Jonathan is very glad he dodged the bullet on not accepting the Blizzard job since Activision merged with it. Haven’t heard much good about the employment situations at large gaming studios lately.
This is the strongest episode of the series to me, as it is not a topic that is covered frequently. It gives something you won’t find most other places while maintaining respect of people in the in-group and out-group. Hopefully if they expand on this they could find those of more varying faiths in the future.
Speaking of which.
Episode 7: The Future
The conclusion talks about the future of the fandom, particularly questioning their guests on what some of the things that furries as a community can do better. One of the big underlying questions is discussed on how you control a community to not inflict reputation damage or harm, but also not over-regulate so that creativity and unusual identities can shine. How does one strike that difficult balance? The guests have different takes that run in opposition to each other about how hard or soft you go on slights.
Not too much to comment here. These are items I cover too much as it is.