The Fandom Documentary: Review
The Fandom is certainly not the first documentary to be done by furries about our own fandom. Over the past decade a handful have been made. Sometimes they focus on a particular incident surrounding an individual such as Rukus. Or perhaps they talk about the group in a way that may be more useful for political discussion within the community rather than introducing us and where we came from such as Fursonas.
I can say that if you were to want to introduce someone to the concept of what the foundations of the community are and its growth in the modern era, then this would be the one you would want to show. It covers our history in the same vein that Joe Strike’s Furry Nation did in book form.
Its release comes at a very appropriate time as the world has been set on pause, so it is a great time to reflect on where we came from and where we are going. This certainly appears to be the goal of this film as it explores the growth of our communal spaces in the world from the 70s to today. You can help support their efforts by buying a copy here.
This strong suit of the film is that it has good footage from times long forgotten. It also uses animation to support the story telling that had no supporting footage, such as from some of Mark and Rod’s childhood memories. It does tell a cohesive story of furry’s growth from its early days to its modern iterations, though at times it can get a bit jumpy in its attempts to include others. There’s a lot of ground to cover and the fandom is quite chaotic after all.
Given this is a trip from the origin to the present there isn’t a strong book-ending to the film. It’s more a journey that moves forward without reflecting too much at the end. Other films, such as Rukus had a good strong finish with an unexpected bookend that showed excellent animation production value and left a lasting impression, for example. The ending for this film, in contrast, just kind of sneaks up and pounces on a sentimental note of furs proposing to one another, followed by an end card. Because of this, I would say the start is stronger with a hook and animation in the beginning that inspires curiosity, but the rapid closure did not stick in my head a day after viewing.
The main throughline of the presentation is Mark and Rodney’s experience with starting Confurence, the issues along the way, to its ultimate closure. There are some subplots regarding other gatherings and leaders such as Kage and Anthrocon, along with Denfur which is led by Bubbles.
While there is some time given to art and fursuit designers, the convention gatherings and their trials in dealing with maintaining their operations in a volatile world seems to hold most of the screen time. Since these gatherings try to bring in all these diverse elements it’s not a terrible thread to walk down, but know that’s what the main focus ended up being. I note that artistic and individual expression is placed at the center of the piece, and held more of an intermission quality to me than a main theme.
One of the biggest triumphs over the full length feature rather than the prior YouTube series is the fact that most participants lacked a fursuit. Fursuiting and creation was covered but it didn’t take up an unreasonable percentage. Because of this it has helped alleviate one of the modern media stereotypes that the fandom completely revolved around the costuming aspect. Not sure if the producer took the critique on my review of their YouTube mini-series to heart, or if that was just the direction that was taken, but showing the humans discussing our history in this group in fact humanizes us.
When it comes to the performance of fursuiting, without the written word or the pictures used to stimulate the imagination used to craft the costumes, those costumes could not exist. They’re a fun and major part of the community, but they are certainly not the foundation. The film shows that this foundation grew from the soil of the realm of fiction making furry an offshoot of the fandoms of imagination presented at the start of the film.
Not to diminish that fursuiting in any degree, the leaves and fruits of the tree are important in sustaining the roots as much as the roots are for sustaining the fruits and leaves. The only way the tree keeps healthy is if those parts work in symbiosis.
A Canned Confurence
This documentary was able to have the leaders of the first furry convention discuss how this gathering, Confurence, had ended up being liquidated. While rumors about its deviant behavior were thrown about as the underlying issue, Rod and Mark state that it was more due to an uneasy transition of power of one chair to another.
The lesson here is an important one to those that currently run some of our largest conventions. You cannot subject one person to run an organization and have them over-extended and expect said organization to last past their tenure. The resignation of the founding chair caused a system shock and the person who replaced them was not prepared for at best, or maliciously wanted to bury the gathering at worst. The prior leadership seems to present that it was the latter, and the one they gave the power to had ulterior motives.
As leadership grows older and more strained, they need to ensure that they have done their best to teach their descendents so they are mentally and physically ready. Not only is it important to do this to help replace the current event organizers, but to ensure that those individuals replacing them have the attendee’s interests at heart and not their own.
This is why we need a non-fiction guide on convention running written by those who have taken the efforts to learn the lessons the hard way. Otherwise what happened at Confurence can happen again easily, even to some of our largest gatherings.
The need for further non-fiction to ensure a more stable future
The fact that Kage spoke of the issues that Anthrocon had with budgeting in its founding years in this film is a good start. If that message had gotten out there sooner and the data of the fiscal pitfalls of opening a convention had been written down for observation, then perhaps Capital City Fur Con could have avoided having leadership that dealt with the sticker shock in such a crass and deceitful way. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.
On a side note, this goes for leadership in human government as well. While the United States is dealing with social unrest at the moment over the lack of leadership from our government in these trying times, it will bring forth those that will step in and mend the issues people care about. Authoritarian style leadership such as is found in Russia and China at this time, while hiding their own people’s grievances well from the world at large utilizing the public’s fear and cult of personalities, will find that when their own “leaders for life” pass on that the power vacuum created will more than likely consume their country in a much more brazen fashion than what is in the United States today. As the followers of Xi and Putin claw for the seats of power those leaders held with an iron fist, the empires they spent a lifetime maintaining could easily start to unravel.
It’s why I think Midwest Furfest with its chair round table will stand the test of time, while Anthrocon may be in long term trouble if steps are not taken. Given that MFF had lost their co-founder in 2017, and despite this their gathering has continued to grow without too much of a hitch, is a testament to this. As far as Anthrocon goes, twenty years is a long time to run something and their leadership should probably get someone to have a run at the helm while the captain is still alive to give pointers.
At the very least take the time afforded to us by COVID-19 to write up documentation that our future leaders could utilize. Sure, not everyone will read it, but it will make it easier when someone contacts Kage or another convention runner for advice to have a manual that a person could read for themselves. And if they can’t be bothered to do reading or research, then they will get out of their gathering what they put into it.
Certainly writing up these guidelines couldn’t make things worse.
This is why documentaries like this are important. When you know where things have been, you can more actively put more focus on how to improve the community and their gatherings instead of wasting time on relearning harsh lessons from the past. It would be the most obscene of tragedies if this didn’t get nominated for the Non-Fiction category for the Ursa Majors for 2020 because of the lack of interest in making nominations for the category as happened for the 2019 awards.
Nonfiction is important, even if the fandom has historically shown its indifference to it. I look forward to reviewing future documentaries as they continue to bring their unique perspectives and stories to the table.
About the authorSonious (Tantroo McNally) — read stories — contact (login required)
a project coordinator and Kangaroo from CheektRoowaga, NY, interested in video games, current events, politics, writing and finance
2,650 were waiting when the premiere was launched on YouTube.
4,700 seems to be about the average viewership at the halfway point, had to run to do something else at that point.
Saw it. Can't recommend it. It's well done except for the constant liberal ideology being thrown at you by the director of the project. E.g. furry is queer, being a woman CEO is a source of pride, not wanting sexual content in public areas ties you to alt-right, the word "LGBTQIA+" is displayed with a straight face... Etc. I give it a 6/10.
Especially pleasant the contributions by Mark Merlino / Rod O'Reily / Joe Strike, and the fursuit makers Acai / DHC. I wish their interviews hadn't been colored by the director's POV.
Dang, she could have gotten that 10/10 if it wasn't for those... *check notes*...women CEOs!
While it's true that not all of Furry is 'queer' in the modern (LGBT+) sense of the word, I wouldn't hesitate to argue that, using the other, older definition of queer -- 'extremely eccentric' -- the Furry fandom is, yes, pretty damn queer, inherently so, and there's nothing whatsoever wrong with that!
There is *already* a mainstream, non-queer-in-both-senses version of Furry: it's called Disney. People are welcome to praise and enjoy the Mouse, but Furries are perfectly entitled to create a non-G-rated Furry, however 'queer' (in either or both senses) it may be.
Okay, I'm going to have to take exception to the Disney thing, even if I have recently said myself that "no Disney, no furry fandom", because I admitted then it is entirely reductive and misses a lot of context and nuance.
For instance, there's the whole Warner Bros./Looney Tunes thing, after all!
Remember too, Disney wasn't the source of all those classic cartoons by Disney if I'm remembering correctly. They have basically used a lot of it from several works from different authors from the public domain from what I thought I heard. It's not like anthropomorphic creatures were created by Disney, just further expressed. Disney likely only helped with furry.
Indeed; and distribution is also not production. Animalypics was commissioned by NBC - and only ended up with Warner Bros. because Lisburger stitched it together, even though NBC cancelled their own distribution halfway through. You could call it an extended preview - and it explains why Summer Games has more of a story feel to it. Many of the works we have enjoyed over the years come from surprisingly small studios.
With the distribution power of the Internet it's hard to imagine a time when you had to convince someone it was worth showing your work. (Admittedly, getting people to pay for its creation or distribution has always been more of a challenge, but at least now free distribution and modest monetisation is possible for most.)
It's never too late to seize the means of production.
Well this one oughta go on the poster!
Funny to hear that from someone tied to the alt-right. Several people you named have been discussing your nasty secret
As a person who lives outside the USA and have been in the furry fandom since the early 90s i would say that this documentary is more or less about furries and the furry fandom in the USA. The start is ok but the part about the modern day fandom an its problems,extremism,etc. That only seems to be an issue in america, as the fandom in the rest of the world does not have such issues.
The only time i noticed anything resembling that was few years ago at eurofurence when cheetah had a speech in the conbook and gave out the "nazi furs fuck off" stickers in the con book, which backfired completely as he instantly got a big backlash from most of the attendees for that and quickly removed everything.
As for the sexual part, the fandom has always been extremely sexual, even though most try to deny and hide it, especially when dealing with "outsiders" which most of the time makes the situation even worse.
I agree with your POV, I would say we european furries are mostly dumbfounded by the amount of ideological apologetics that come our way from the west to a fandom that has nothing to do with any of this. We're a bunch of nerds who love cartoon animals and have fun. Gender issues, political issues, don't have a direct bearing on the fandom.
I too was appalled when Cheetah made political statements in the convention's material in 2018. Luckily he did nothing of that sort the following year.
It's fine if some furries feel queer about their furry passion. A documentary can explore this and any number of things in an informative fashion. The documentary goes beyond a reliable portrayal of interviewees though, by coloring everything with a US liberal mindset repeatedly.
Joe Strike's book Furry Nation did a great job of portraying particular views without preaching to the choir.
And yet the person replying to you is banned from the Eurofurence chats for having such issues
Other countries do have their own issues to contend with. Anti-immigrant and race issues occur in basically any country if that country has borders to enter, people can enter them. Given that there will be people who look upon those people with suspicion or 'as outsiders'.
The U.S. didn't create that. Such issues are in ancient texts on the regular. Including one famous example of the using the word Shibboleth as a form of dialect detection.
Also, you kind of can't 'remove' a statement from a printed con book after its been printed. You can retract with a future statement. I'm aware of no such retraction that was made by the Eurofurence staff in question so if you can provide a link to it that would be useful. To "remove everything" would require them to go and rip out a page from each printed book.
When it comes to documentaries you have to look at them for what they are instead of what they are not. The document will only have finite space and time to cover their aspects. We have tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people in this fandom, an hour thirty minutes will only get you so far.
That's why furs from other countries, if they wish, should share their stories by producing their own works. Because they'll probably be better able to tell their stories than having some Yankee come in to do it for them.
The EF staff did exactly what the majority of attendees were asking for, which was for the con to stop having a political stance. They stopped actively giving out 'anti-nazi' badges or referencing the conbook's political speech unless pressed. A public retraction, an apology, further discussions or references to the subject matter, would be beating a dead horse. Attendees don't need a chairman using the convention as a platform for "LGBTQIA+", nor anti-"LGBTQIA+", nor Christian evangelism, nor endorsements/disavowals of the state of Israel. It's a cartoon animals gathering. Carry it out and let people be whatever they wanna be in civility.
I realize the author of this documentary is MtF, probably surrounded by people whose diversity is more about skin color / gender choice than profoundly diverging life perspectives. It's fine, it's a fine job. It's clearly her work. As long as you see the obvious color of her tinted glasses it's okay. Could be worse. Length-wise is perfect, not too long, not too short.
To set the record straight:
We did not stop having a political stance, which is that we protect our artists, attendees and staff from groups that do not respect their right to exist. We also will not cease having a stance against groups that try to sabotage the fandom and its events.
There was only some quibble regarding the ribbons or the editorial. In fact, we have been positively surprised by the small amount of criticism it drew, and most of what we got was specifically about the (censored) F-word on the ribbon, not the message.
The Board of Directors unanimously decided to hand out the ribbons. This was supported by an overwhelming majority of the core staff of Eurofurence. The ribbons were donated to us by an anonymous person, not a single cent of attendance fee was used.
Unless asked, registration staff decided to stop handing out ribbons. This happened after a few but insistent attendees demanded to debate the registration team, blocking the desks and delaying registration for those waiting in line. Thereafter, others even stuck ribbons to hotel furniture. Granted, we should have anticipated that.
While the editorial was penned by Cheetah, the other two members of the Eurofurence Board of Directors approved it, feedback from team directors was sought, and it went through various cycles of proof reading. It was and is widely backed by core staffers of the convention.
A PDF of the conbook can be found here, unchanged: http://archive.eurofurence.org/conbooks/EF_24_Conbook.pdf
Eurofurence Community Communications
Kind of what I had figured, thanks for confirming.
The way i remember eurofurence that year is that people were mainly outraged about 2 things:
1. Eurofurence making a political stance and claiming there are problems which don't really exist in the fandom.
2. That the stickers were ordered and paid by eurofurence (the money in the end comes from attendance fees). Which they quickly made clear that they were donated for free and after that it was no longer a problem.
Later a few attendees were wearing modified stickers where they cut off parts of it "furs fuck" or "naci furs" which i guess was satire, but someone did complain about the latter on the eurofurence chat ending with dhary replying: "we are not the opinion police".
But people were mostly complaining about it online and only a few actually went to talk to the organizers.
A seemingly accurate telling of the incident with no revisionism.
Thank you for doing something GREAT!
I attended ConFurence 6-9 and had a good time. There were definite flaws in organization, staffing, and overall planning. It tended to serve more as a negative example to conventions that came after as far as things not to do. We had to start somewhere though.
I did feel the Burned Furs got far more time in this documentary than they deserved. They never had that many people and didn't last very long. They were like a fart in the wind, unpleasant briefly and then gone without a trace. Most of those in the group were assholes in general, so while loud, they didn't have any real influence. Groups that define themselves using negatives (what they are not) usually don't last very long.
This documentary by Ash Coyote is an example of what is explained within itself, "sex sells", but more accurately, "controversy sells". Market rewards it. We saw a different take with 'Furries' (2016) by Eric Risher, with 1/5 of Ash' budget, almost devoid of controversy to a fault. Being a competently made 30-minute documentary, it felt longer, and it could be considered boring for how tame it is.
In regards to the CSI episode I take the same approach Morgan Freeman takes with racism. You wanna end racism? Stop talking about it. You wanna make the CSI episode irrelevant? Stop mentioning it.
But of course, without the drama there is no emotional connection, less involvement, so the CSI episode will continue to be mentioned long after people remember what CSI even is, and Burned furs will be mentioned even if they did almost nothing, and Foxler will forever be narrated as a fascist menace even if he's just being retarded in a stupid-looking costume.
So are you just saying the n-word in chat rooms so people will remember you? Is that what you're saying?
Man, that's kind of giving up on yourself in my opinion.
To me, it may take longer to be remembered without using the crutch of controversy, but if one is to be remembered, it's far more worth it in the end.
Which is funnily enough the same approach Visa takes with Morgan Freeman.
I laughed my ass off at the CSI episode. Consider the central premise would mean the dude in the Raccoon suit had a tongue long enough to lick somebody with the head still on. He'd have had to have been part anteater.
That is funny.
My odd remembrance was the kangaroo that was on the cat walk before Sexy Kitty and I was like. Man, why couldn't they have questioned that one.
But he'd probably have a name like Randy Kangy or something silly like that.
Okay, so they did change the YouTube thumbnail.
I thought they had, and I was a bit curious, especially seeing at least our comment section's grumblings vis-a-vis fursuits vs. art, as to why. I mean, it's probably they just decided they liked the skiltaire better, but maybe a subtle refocusing of attention.
A lot of documentaries on the furry fandom sidestep Mark and Rod's efforts to make the furry fandom inclusive, supportive and welcoming to everyone. I'm glad to see one that finally gives them the chance to tell the story the way it should be told. Although I've been a furry since the late 90s, it wasn't until I met Mark in 2004 that I really understood where the fandom came from and what it means to be a part of it. Mark is one of the few truly good people in the world, always kind and caring and a great story teller with an imagination that is beyond belief. Roleplaying with his character Sy along with Selenia, Firepaws and several other skiltaire helped me through a difficult period in my life where there were times there wasn't much else to brighten my day. Although we've grown apart, I will always be grateful to all of them for being caring, patient and supportive when I was struggling to make it.
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