Length: 1 hour 28 minutes
THE FANDOM dives headfirst in the imaginative world of “FURRIES,” the often-misunderstood internet subculture of fans of the anthropomorphic arts. Using a bountiful collection of archival tapes and images, this documentary traces the evolution of the furry fandom from its roots in the 1970s to the expansive, international community it has become today. Join a host of charming characters (including the grandparents of the fandom itself) on this heart-warming journey through the decades; witness the many triumphs and challenges that shaped “furry” into the most unique fandom of all time.
You may remember me interviewing Ash Coyote back in 2019. We talked about her YouTube channel and the different topics she covered, ranging from trans content to furry fandom stuff. Now, she has a new, full-length documentary out titled The Fandom.
The Fandom is, as you might guess, based on the furry fandom. Now, what makes this interesting is that it doesn’t take the same approach that many outlets have when covering the topic. This is, no doubt, largely due to the documentary being made by furries rather than simply being about furries. As such, this had a clear message that was very different from the more common one that is presented. And yes, the overall message is a positive one:
“We learn to read from anthropomorphic animals. We learn right from wrong from anthropomorphic animals. But most people don’t notice it. Furry fans are the people who notice that we do this and think that there’s something really special about that.”
Right from the onset, we can see that Ash wants to show what being a furry actually means. This isn’t about rolling out the same old memes and misconceptions as truth, it’s about showing what people don’t normally see. And that begins with a fascinating history lesson, tracing the foundations of the furry fandom back to the 1970s.
Ash interviewed some of the early members of the community, specifically the couple Rod O’Riley and Mark Merlino, who initially bonded over the latter’s drawings of antennae toting weasels. The pair shared a love of anime too, and Rod went on to join Mark’s anime fan club, which was itself the first such club in America. From there, we learn how the group led to the eventual coining of the term ‘furry’ in the 1980s and the expansion from room parties and convention stalls into full-blown furry cons.
I won’t go into more detail as to how things grew, but believe me, it is really fascinating to see the genesis of the fandom presented in this way. If you have ever wondered where furries came from, this is a wonderful look at the way things began. We also get to hear from several prominent members of the current fandom, such as DenFur chair Bubbles, and the excellent storyteller Samuel Conway, aka Uncle Kage. Each person we see on camera has a tale to tell about how they came to find the fandom and what it has meant for them through the years, and it’s all treated with nothing but respect.
Throughout the different stories we hear, we get to see how inclusive the fandom has always been too, especially when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. That itself is not often spoken about in the more sensationalised portrayals we see in mainstream media, and it was nice to see it addressed here. The fandom as a whole has always been this way too, with a large proportion of furries identifying as something other than heterosexual.
At the same time though, this is not a one-sided tale. Over the years, the furry fandom has been the subject of more than a few controversies. Some of them were entirely fabricated by news articles, of course, but others have been, sadly, true reflections of certain individuals and groups within the community. What surprised me is that Ash and her team did not shy away from a lot of this.
The documentary touched on the ‘Burned Furs’ group, for example. This was a movement that originally existed from 1998 to 2001 and was intolerant of almost everything. By that I mean, homosexuality, Christianity, fetishists and more were all in their crosshairs. It mentions the terrible behaviour exhibited at certain events too, which has historically caused a lot of harm to the public perception of furries.
Perhaps most interesting though is that the documentary doesn’t shy away from mentioning the sexual side of the fandom. While far from the focus of the film – the discussion really does make up only a small part of the overall footage – this represents a major shift. Oftentimes, erotic art and so on has been avoided as conversation pieces, largely due to the mainstream media solely focussing on this side of things and attempting to weaponise it as a signifier that furry is simply another word for ‘sexual deviant’. Here, we learn how this facet arose, and how it relates to the fandom as a whole. A few interviewees talk openly about their view on it, and it’s out across in a very balanced way.
Now, does all of this mean that the documentary is perfect? That will depend on your viewpoint as it pertains to what isn’t spoken about. It doesn’t cover a lot of the more recent (and rather large) controversies for example. Nor does it dedicate a large amount of time to specific fursuiters or builders, or go into detail about the flourishing furry writing community. The film also doesn’t talk a lot about furries outside the USA.
The thing is though, I don’t think any of this was the point of the documentary. This wasn’t about showing everything that’s happening now, but rather touching on a bit of everything from the beginning to present. It’s built as a history lesson with a goal of saying, “Hey, we’re not perfect, but there are a lot more positives to us than you think.” With that in mind, and taking into account things like budget and time constraints, I think the documentary did a great job of achieving what it set out to do.
So, overall, is this worth watching? Absolutely. Ash has taken great care with this, and the result is a wonderfully put together history driven look at an often-misrepresented fandom. By not shying away from the negatives, she has created something far more balanced than any mainstream piece over the years. Best of all, it’s littered with great stories and convention clips, both old and new.
If you have ever wondered where furries came from, or simply have a passing interest in the rise of fandoms in general, this is for you. If like me, you’re a member of the community, this is an important piece too because it traces our interests from the beginning to the present. This is a fascinating hour and a half of viewing, and in my opinion, Ash and her team deserve a lot of praise for what they have achieved here. I have no hesitation in giving it the full 5 out of 5.
Watch it for free here: