A Hidden Obsession: Exploration of Furries
by Laura Mooney, Arts Editor
With Halloween just around the corner, most people are wracking their brains to find the ideal costume for whichever event they plan to be attending. While most people only have to deal with dressing up on one day a year, there is an entire subculture dedicated to wearing elaborate costumes on a sometimes daily basis. Furries, for example, are a unique branch of Geekdom who are interested in anthropomorphic animals; animals which exhibit human characteristics and emotions. This genre is still relatively new, but plenty of information has been gathered to gain a good insight into this group of people for whom Halloween comes more than once a year.
The Furry subculture was said to have begun at small sci-fi conventions in the early 1980s, but for the more dedicated fans it has been an ongoing argument as to when the genre actually came into being. Some even argue that Furries go back to as early as the 1960s and 1970s, with the release of novels and movies like Disney’s Robin Hood and Watership Down paving the way for anthropomorphic creatures to gain a fan base. These days however, while movies and novels still have a place in Furry fandom, the members are more often creating creatures from their own imaginings. Many of the hand drawn creations contain human elements, ranging from the simplest additions, such as an upright fox in human clothing, all the way to animals drawn with muscles and other human attributes.
When asked what the draw to Furries is, most people would not have an answer. Ask a Furry and they will have a million reasons to explain why this fandom is the best. In a documentary entitled Furries: An Inside Look, filmmakers explore the world of the Furry, and what exactly it is that draws people in. The majority of the Furries interviewed for the film all had the same response. It was the way in which the animals mirrored human emotions, and finally being able to connect to a creature that for so long no one has been able to understand. Even if it is just your basic housecat, giving it anthropomorphic qualities enhances one’s relationship to the animal, bringing it to a whole new level. Now you could interact and be real friends with your pets instead of only having them as silent companions.
Many of those interviewed for the documentary said they fell into the Furry universe completely by accident. They were the average kids who grew up watching cartoons like Sonic the Hedgehog and playing games like Starfox, both of which feature anthropomorphic animals. From there it became an interest in the artistry, and many began doing research on the Internet about art of this variety. Many of the Furries found the fandom through a website called DeviantArt, where users can upload their own drawings on a public forum. For many Furries this was the gateway into the underworld of the Furry fandom, and was their first experience with the genre.
Soon, Furries began using the subculture and the anthropomorphized animals as a way of expressing an alternate persona. By creating a “Fursona,” the artist emulates the qualities they believe they have, or they create one that embodies the qualities they wish they had. They can choose to be whichever animal they feel most connected to, while also choosing a more realistic animal appearance or going with a stylized, very human-like creature. The artist has complete control over what they want their Fursona to look like and how they want it to act, making the Furry culture one of the most unique and individual subcultures out there.
Of course the Furries are not alone in this world and hold yearly conventions all over North America, where over 5000 Furries from all over the world gather to celebrate their strange love. The conventions provide a place for understanding and open-minded Furries to get together and dress up as their Fursonas in a completely accepting and non- judgemental environment. Interestingly, Dr. Samuel Conway, the CEO of Anthrocon, the largest organized Furry convention in the world, is a graduate from Dartmouth who has his PHD in chemistry and became interested in the Furry subculture in the early 1990s. This just goes to show how widespread the fandom has become over the years, and that it does not discriminate against anyone who may be interested in the genre. The conventions also often feature Furry comedians, and special guests who are all members of the Furry community themselves, enhancing the experience even more for those who attend.
The Furry fandom does not come without its hardships. Many of the members experience bullying due to their interest, sometimes even having these closed-minded people attempt to crash the conventions simply because it is something different that they do not understand. In daily life, not many Furries express their Fursonas and instead choose to hide it. Those who choose to integrate it into their daily lives have experienced relentless bullying because they chose to wear a tail or a set of animal ears out in public. Many misconceptions about the Furry subculture that have presented themselves over the years only add to the negative view that is associated with Furries. Many automatically assume that to be a Furry means to be sexually interested in the anthropomorphic animals they create. However, according to one poll about the interests of Furries, only a small fraction of the members expressed any sexual interest in the Furry creatures, and of that it was only a mild sexual interest – nothing extreme.
So even though the Furry subculture may have their questionable characters, for the most part they are just a group of people like any other, who simply show their appreciation for the creativity put into animals with human qualities. These people are all very talented artists and who clearly have immense imaginations that should be celebrated and explored even further. For those Furries who have not yet integrated their Furry lifestyle into their everyday lives, Halloween provides the perfect opportunity to get dressed up in their best Fursona costume, and wear it proudly for the world to see.