Watts (chipotle) wrote,

More evil furry musings

I did get a response to my musings on the "Dignified Furs" list, but--after a lot of false starts--I decided not to respond to it. Today, though, after someone else showed up on the mailing list to pose the question, "Can [furry fandom] be respected by 'regular people?'" I broke down and responded with the thoughts I've been coalescing over the last few days.

The thing is, these are the sorts of questions I think I was asking a few years ago. I had this pleasant pipe dream that furry was going to be the next big thing. Then, of course, furry started getting "noticed," and it wasn't quite the press that people like me had naively hoped for. So lots of us fell into navel-gazing about what went wrong, picking somewhat obsessively over both real and imagined missteps taken by con organizers or webmasters or artists or whoever. And it's easy to fall back into this mode with each new passing unkind article--or even absurdly small things. Earlier today I used the tracking page Cargo mentioned that shows people friending and unfriending your LiveJournal account, and noticed that a friend-of-a-friend type unfriended me the day after my last post. Things that make you go "hmm."

But don't get me wrong here--I'm all for navel-gazing. Something I still hold is that furry fandom collectively lacks an appreciation of critical thinking, that we still tend to focus too much on subject matter than quality. The problem, I realized, is that ultimately the question that's been batted about all these years by so many of furry's internal critics and self-appointed guardians is, "How can we make furry acceptable to the mainstream?"

How indeed. If we go back to the original comics and art and stories and look at why furry got started under that name to start with, what do we find? It wasn't about lifestyles and spirituality and people having sex in animal costumes, certainly. It was originally about making a space for creators to share art and comics and stories they were producing that the mainstream wasn't interested in.If funny animals had been considered "respectable" by the comics industry in the late '70s, Ken Fletcher and Reed Waller wouldn't have started "Vootie." And a comic Waller ran in Vootie was arguably the defining point of creation that separated furry from funny animal--an explicit, gory two-page spread with a feral catwoman challenging the audience to explain why cartoon animals had to always be funny. Waller's comic led to "Omaha the Cat Dancer." That's about the time that the name "furry" started being bandied about, and comics like "Usagi Yojimbo" and "Albedo" came about. But even though they weren't sex titles, Albedo's slogan was still "More than just funny animals"--the gauntlet was being thrown down. These titles proudly proclaimed themselves the bleeding edge of a group that was already too fringe for the mainstream. As much Carl Barks as there might be in furry's creation, there's at least as much Robert Crumb and Vaughn Bode.

So if furry is, when push comes to shove, an underground, counterculture movement, it's not supposed to be "respectable" to "regular" people, and the reason why doesn't have anything to do with fat guys in cat suits on MTV. After three or four decades of titles, Robert Crumb still isn't someone your average superhero comic buyer has heard of, let alone your average housewife in Peoria. And as influential as Bode has been in both comics and pop art, there's very little of his stuff you'd show mom. (Unless your mother was part of the '60s counterculture herself, in which case, rock on, dude.)If a furry artist makes it big and doesn't hide their connection to the fandom--and believe me, I'd love that to happen--we know damn well that artist is going to be described as "breaking out of" or, at best, "transcending" her weird little cultish subgenre. Even so, furry, like anything else underground, may end up influencing pop culture in the future in ways we can't easily predict.In the end of the message, I asked the guy: what makes artwork respectable? To me, if someone doesn't find this "respectable," there's not much point in my wasting time arguing with them. Maybe it isn't mainstream and won't appeal to regular people. But you know? Jerry Springer is mainstream, and appeals to a lot of regular people. With all due respect to Jerry, I think Goldenwolf's a better influence.

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