'Rolling Stone' asks if Furries will go mainstream, but are they already?
I was browsing my Google news feed, as people who read non-fiction writing tend to, and low and behold, a news article from Rolling Stone came up entitled Will Furries Ever Go Mainstream? The reporter reviews his experiences while attending Midwest FurFest last December.
It’s a good piece that poses the question of whether our fan club, that has grown to the size it has in Rosemont, will garner mainstream attention - or acceptance. It's also long, and coming from me you know that’s saying something.
Like most coverage deemed “positive”, they do seem to marginalize the adult aspects of sexual expression in the fandom pretty quickly by saying that it was not the “main aspect of the fandom”. However, like most clever furs they snuck in a risqué quote about foxes:
dozens of six-foot alligators, snakes, lizards, and other assorted reptiles scramble to pose for a group photo.
On the floor, about three dozen foxes lie on top of each other in a “fur pile,” orange-and-white limbs and bellies knotted together on the ground.
I see what you did there Rolling Stone. You should be proudly ashamed.
But back to the concept of going mainstream. It isn’t a new question within the fandom which can bring excitement or concern depending on who you ask. We claimed it was happening when Disney used the word “anthropomorphic” to describe the world of Zootopia.
However, I would like to claim that, yes, we are entering the mainstream, whether we like it or not. I even have evidence that we may already be there.
Feeding the feeds – Google targets the furries
— Zilch (@zilchfox) January 8, 2020
What is this evidence? One solid piece can be found by reading the first sentence of this article.
Over the course of the past year or so, articles about furries have been appearing in my news feeds. Sometimes they are even my own articles, thanks to GreenReaper’s efforts to have Flayrah articles seen as a news source a few years back.
But this alone wasn’t enough evidence. I had set ‘furry’ as a newsgroup in Google’s old more customizable feed, so I already had outed myself to them. Plus, I’m someone who specifically goes looking for non-fiction about the furry fandom, which is a niche within a niche. Therefore, I could not take my personal feed as evidence that Google results for me was content that was algorithmically targeted instead of my own fault.
However, a furry artist named ZilchFox responded to the Rolling Stone article showing up in their feed with a tweet showing they were seeing the same thing. This reveals that Google isn’t just targeting people who held up a sign asking for furries in their newsfeed.
So, if you are a furry, you’ve probably noted that you are getting articles that deal with the fandom. I would propose if we’re on the radar of the world’s largest search engine enough to have a keyword dedicated in the algorithm to target us, they have seen it as something worth targeting.
Of course, maybe that alone is not evidence. Perhaps if they someday are actually able to provide ads to us that fit our demographic rather than an ad for a new pair of shoes that just so happen to be the ones we just bought, we can talk turkey. I doubt any fur wants to corner the market on that specific shoe and buy them in excess - just saying, Google.
Fursuit Dance competitions will now be televised?
Tha...that's a furry pic.twitter.com/J7LQqIhWTR
— Rivalo (@RivaloWolf) January 8, 2020
As I was writing this, it was pointed out that a new show is being proposed that took inspiration from the Masked Singer. From my understanding, in that show celebrities dress up in costumes and perform a song on stage. The judges have to guess who it is behind the mask. Usually these costumes are animal costumes. One infamous segment passed about the fandom was one performer in a rottweiler costume that had people in gimp pup-hoods for an accompaniment. Of course those “marginally thirsty” people in the fandom were quick to leash onto that one.
Anyway, this new show, which seems to involve Ellen Degeneres, takes that idea and makes the costumed participant dance instead. How this premise would make any sense I have no idea. I mean, dance is something anyone can do, and adapt. How are you going to guess as to who is under the mask simply by how they move their body? If they start moon-walking and pop-locking, are we going to guess that Michael Jackson rose from the grave? That would be quite a thriller I suppose.
Or perhaps I’m just too out of touch to be part of anything mainstream.
But the fact is that dancing in animal costumes and competitions around them are now a major staple of most furry conventions. After a humble start at Furry Weekend Atlanta, these contests have continued to grow in demand and draw in large crowds - so much that they, liked the Masked Singer, have already had spin-offs such as Floor Wars.
The traditional dance contest usually comprises of judges reviewing the dance after one fursona or dance group performs; the newer Floor Wars is also a contest but done in a more informal a free flowing manner and more head to head. This separates a practiced and rehearsed dance competition from the more free style and improvised style of dance that would be more common in clubs since you don't have control of the music you are dancing to. It's similar to the difference between being a stand-up comedian with rehearsed material and doing improv comedy.
Inked Magazine - Riding on the Coattails
So how does one determine whether they are leaving an impact enough in culture and people around them enough to be mainstream? One of the ways you can measure this is by emulation. Is there someone out there riding your coat-tails?
For Rolling Stone, for instance, as soon as they published this piece, other publishers felt they needed to get on a bus being generated by the interest this article was creating. Inked, a magazine dealing with tattoos, responded to the Rolling Stone feature by printing their own article. They didn’t hide the fact that they were inspired by their furry piece as they reference it quite quickly.
— Camera Coyote (@AshCoyote) January 12, 2020
Now to be absolutely fair you could say this article is doing the same, but… just shut up!
There is a difference, while I believe this one has some relevant items to say (otherwise why would I write it?), their article was clearly trying desperately to find something to tie our fandom with their target audience. So they noted in this article, entitled The Hidden Art of Tattooing Fursuits, that tattooing of fursuits was a big question and conundrum among fursuit consumers.
Now most fursuit designers may be scratching their heads and note that you don’t actually ink the fursuit. It’s certainly not the biggest of problems that many people are talking about, or even in the top ten of issues. To emulate a tattoo you would either integrate different color fur for the markings, or use some kind of dye to recolor the fur in those spots. No needles required. To be fair to Inked they do note this, however their subtitle calling it a conundrum makes it seem a bigger deal than the body of the article presents.
I guess that's just written media for you, mainstream or no.
Their evidence that this is a 'conundrum' is perhaps the most amusing thing. Two links: one to a LiveJournal post from 2005 and another to a Fur Affinity Forums thread from 2008 where someone is talking about trying to add tattoos to their already designed fursuit and people offering advice on it. I mean, if you’re going to make a claim that something is a common inquiry, you should at least trace out a pattern of this rather than referencing two posts that are 12 years old or more. Especially if you’re going to suggest it may be a career opportunity for tattoo designers at the end your article.
You can’t really make a tattoo of any significance using two points as far as I’m aware, so you can’t do this with a news article either. Sure you could do it, but it’s going to not be seen as very intricately designed.
This is how you know that Rolling Stone is still quite mainstream and relevant. Would Inked have been inspired to make their article if not for the fear of missing out when they saw Rolling Stone's piece? That means Inked is after furry clicks, right? If that is the case, they missed an opportunity.
Instead of thinking about furries as being equal to fursuiters, an all-to-common issue in media, they could have discovered that many furs don’t have a costume upon further research. They could have taken advantage of the fact that this article was going to draw in furry readers by selling them on the idea of getting a tattoo of their fursona. You could even present that as cooler and cheaper than a fursuit, right?
Hey, we have skin too. That’s all I’m saying. Not all of us have costumes and not all articles about us have to revolve around those fuzzy outfits. We love art and we love to express ourselves through our fursonas; why not combine the two and put it on our body? Make your fursona a part of you— literally. The tattoo designer demographic would be far better-served trying to draw furries into their own market rather diving into costume design.
And as a final note as to why fursuiting in particular has become quite mainstream, other than the fact that it’s all the press talks about when discussing the fandom even to their detriment, is the fact that there are knock off and counterfeit fursuit dealers. Relevant to Rolling Stone in particular, since they were a music magazine last I checked, was one such individual who found themselves amongst the swindled.
Insane Clown Posse’s lead man Violent J was just trying to buy a fluffy animal costume for their daughter, Ruby. He ended up getting crooked out of hundreds of dollars as he bought them from the website DHGate. In a video breakdown and rant, the duo go over the webpage’s promises compared to the final bobblehead-like product they actually received.
Clearly the swindlers and crooks out there see a market that is large enough to be worth exploiting, and if that doesn’t make something mainstream, I don’t know what does. Like Inked, DHGate are riding on the fur coated tails of the furries. But unlike Inked, whose article isn’t going to take money from your pocket, DHGate is far more exploitative. Not even trying to do anything original, instead they're pretending to be more creative than they actually are, deceiving their audience into buying cheaply-made costumes with designs lifted from existing fursonas and costumes.
When fame results in things like this, I’m starting to see why some have proposed that being mainstream is overrated. But perhaps, I can just tell myself, this really means that it’s just fursuiting that is mainstream, and not necessarily the entirety of the furry fandom.