The geek may very well be inheriting the earth right as we speak, going by box office receipts and cultural trends, but there are still many pockets of fandom that are a long, long way from mainstream acceptance. Dominic Rodriguez’s documentary, Fursonas, expanded from his earlier short film, sheds light on one of them, and the topic is right there in the title.
A “fursona” is an animal identity taken on by a “furry” – someone who is into dressing up as anthropomorphic animal. Furries are pretty much the bottom of the nerd totem pole, looked down upon and derided by even the sweatiest of Magic the Gathering players, but Rodriguez attempts to show us the human faces behind the cartoon masks. There’s the guy who discovered his predilection in a flash of insight when he performed as a football mascot, the woman who wonders if her daughter will follow her into furry fandom, the guy obsessed with the early ’80s family TV show Here’s Boomer, and more.
And yeah, there are the people who are into the furry scene for sexual purposes, and that’s where the squick factor may kick in for viewers whose experiences of outre sexuality don’t go much beyond Fifty Shades of Grey. There is a lot of kink in the furry community, but the abstract knowledge of that fact may not stop your eyebrows from raising when you see the handiwork of sex toy manufacturer, Bad Dragon, who helps make furries “fully equipped” for after hours activities.
Where the film gets bogged down is in its investigations of the often fractious internal politics of the furry world, which seem to centre on the figure of Uncle Kage, runner of furry convention AnthroCon and self-appointed arbiter of the furry community and its interactions with the media. Kage is extremely protective of furry-doms image to the point of socially shunning furries who go against his wishes (our man Boomer earns his ire for a variety of reasons). What perhaps should have been a brief side excursion takes up far too much time, and for the uninitiated it’s pretty impenetrable stuff.
Which brings us to the key question: who is Fursonas for? Members of the furry community surely don’t need the Furry 101 explanations of the film’s first half (although a little balanced representation is a good thing) , while non-furries may be baffled or even bored by the minutiae of their social jostling. It’s definitely worth your time – if nothing else it’s a good litmus test of how accepting you really are – but its thesis is obscure and it’s perhaps not the definitive statement it could have been.