Welcome to the Club

by Simo

This past Friday, something called "Logo" did a so-called "documentary" entitled What? I Think I'm an Animal. You can see the damn thing on You Tube:

Just from the title, you can see what's coming from a dozen parsecs away.

This "documentary" is supposed to be about Otherkin/Therians. Naturally, it misses the mark completely (WHUDDA SURPRISE!). They, of course, confuse Otherkin/Therians with Furries. I can assure you, most Furries don't wear fursuits. Even fewer Otherkin/Therians wear them, and when they do, it's most frequently as Furries. Otherwise, fursuiting has nothing to do with being Otherkin/Therian.

This is just what we, and I mean Furries and Otherkin, don't need: this conflation of two distinct groups. It's already bad enough as it is, and there are all too many Otherkin who hate Furries for this very reason. They don't see themselves as having anything to do with Furdom; they don't like the assumption that they are Furries. There is enough misunderstanding on both sides, thank you so very much.

It is just about what you'd expect: look at the freaks. There are late teens and early twenty somethings living with their parents (only one is said to have a job). Ass burgers! Weird sex! Angsting! It's all here. Who didn't see that coming?

The problems begin right away: "An increasing number of people believe they are more animal than human". Really? See? Fluoride in the water really is a bad idea after all! This implies poseurs and wannabes. Otherwise, how could the number of such people be increasing? Being an Otherkin isn't something, like a fandom, that you can join and drop at your pleasure. Ask them: they will tell you. If there's one thing real Otherkin/Therians dislike, it's a poseur.

However, this program gives the impression that Furries and Otherkin are one and the same. It's filled with scenes that were obviously filmed at cons and furmeets. To be sure, there is some overlap, goes with the territory, but for the most part, these are two very separate things. As for how Otherkin feel about it, this sums it up pretty well.

So, yeah, Otherkin: welcome to the club. There is no limit to the cringe worthy "documentaries" about Furdom. I can recall just two times the media featured Furdom that didn't turn into an absolute freak show: Animal Magnetism (SF Bay Guardian; human interest story) and All the Rage in the US (Financial Times). As for the rest, it's all Oh! Em! Gee! Lookitdemfreaks! Kanishtaa Naijuuk gets quite upset over the Logo schlockumentary. Better get used to it: we've been dealing with this bullshit for fifteen years now; you're just getting started.

With What? I Think I'm an Animal you see these Otherkin making all the same mistakes all too many Furries have been making all along: they thought they were doing something good for their community. They took at face value the bill of goods Logo sold them; there were some forty hours of video taken, and most of the explanations got cut out, leaving only the most freaky aspects in place to titillate a PaL that can't resist watching freaky people doing freaky, out of the mainstream, things. Yes, even if something starts out seeming OK, it can take nasty turns. That was certainly the case with that Vanity Fair article: Pleasures of the Fur. None of those interviewed for that article had any idea that Vanity Fair would connect Furdom with crush fetishists. How could they?

The point, one that I make over and over, is that you need to be damned careful when it comes to dealing with the press. You may think you're getting your message across, but you can't count on that. You may think you're doing good for your fellow fandom affiliates (or your subculture) but are your good intentions enough? You can ask Chew Fox and Tom Cat how that worked out when they went on the Tyra Banks show. Perhaps Caleb, Matthew, and their friends are feeling the same way right about now.

Before you start running your yap in front of reporters and cameras, before you answer that e-mail requesting your participation in some TV show, you need to be DAMNED careful to make sure you know with whom you will be dealing. For better or worse (most often the latter) you will be setting yourself up as the public face of your fandom, your community. You have to be very sure that this is the face you want the public to see. You need to consider how this will affect others with whom you share affiliation. Look at how every episode of What? begins: Ridiculous! Necessary? Outrageous! Repulsive! Yada, yada, yada. That, right there, should have given Caleb and all the rest a damned good idea as to what was in store for them. The same way that past episodes of the Tyra Banks show should have clued in Chew Fox and Tom Cat, and they should have stayed the hell away.

By far, the safest thing to do is to not blab to the press in the first place. If you're at a con, and are approached, kindly refer the nosy reporter to the con's press liaison office. THEN SHUT THE FUCK UP! That's all you need to do. Chances are, that reporter has no damned business being at your con in the first place. If you are accosted outside the con venue, the only words that should come out of your mouth are "no comment", then move away. If you receive an e-mail from some outfit like Logo, send it to the trash directory unanswered. It isn't your job to help them pump up their ratings by exposing the PaL to the latest freak show. Tyra Banks and Logo have zero interest in helping to promote the proper understanding of your fandom/community/subculture: zip, zilch, nada, nil. They are after showing the PaL freaky people doing freaky things. They're not interested in how your charity auction is doing good; they're not interested in depicting what it's like being Otherkin. They don't give a rat's ass if the PaL understands or not, and they don't care that they may be making others targets for harassment, both IRL or on the 'Net.

Once again: Media Relations for the Furry. Otherkin, Therians, Weres, Bronies take note. This applies as much to you as it does to us.

Blab to the press at your own peril. If you must insist, be ready for nasty surprises. More likely than not, you won't be disappointed.