The furry fandom is unique from other fandoms for many reasons. One of the most prominent reasons, however, is its largely independent and decentralized nature: in comparison to other fandoms (e.g., science fiction, fantasy) where content is driven primarily by a few large, professional sources (e.g., movie studios, publishing companies), the furry fandom’s content is almost entirely user-generated. Nearly every furry has a unique fursona, many furries commission art from, or are themselves, independent artists, and while some shows/large studios are the source of some of the fandom’s content (e.g., Pokémon, My Little Pony, Disney movies), they do not comprise the bulk of the fandom’s content.
As a result of this fan-driven, independent-artist culture, we wondered whether this would have an effect on the relationship between content creators (artists) and furries. For example, in the sci-fi fandom, it is much more difficult for fans to insist what shows like Dr. Who, Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica should do, given how little influence they have over the professional studios that produce the shows. In contrast, for small, independent artists, who are far more readily approachable at conventions or accessible online, it may be the case that furries feel a greater sense of entitlement toward them. In fact, one survey of artists revealed that 95% agreed that furries were moderately to excessively demanding of them.1 To more systematically test furry entitlement, we used an entitlement questionnaire, which assesses the extent to which members of a fandom agree that they are entitled to special treatment from artists (e.g., they should be met in person, they should take my suggestions, they should always reply to my e- mails). The extent to which participants agreed with each item was indicated using a 7-point scale (1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree).
When compared to members of other fandoms (convention-going anime fans, online anime fans, fantasy sport fans), furries scored the highest with regard to entitlement (see figure below.) 2 These data support the hypothesis that the relatively smaller size of the furry fandom and the approachability of content creators may lead to a greater sense of entitlement among fans, though this mechanism needs to be specifically tested in future studies.
The table below includes a summary of the seven questions on the fan entitlement questionnaire. The questions were given to two separate samples of participants. In 2014, the questions were asked of furries attending Anthrocon (the “Furries think” category). In 2015, artists at Anthrocon were asked how they personally felt about each of the issues (“Artists believe”), and were also asked to estimate how the average furry scored on each item (“Furry Estimate”). The right-most column indicates what percent of furries scored as high as artists predicted; if artists were perfectly accurate, this would be 50% (indicating that half of furries were as bad as the artist’s estimate of the average furry).
Artist and Furry Ratings of Entitlement among Furries3
|Item||Artists Believe||Furry Estimate||Furries Think||
% “As Bad”
|Meet fans in person||5.12||5.40||3.69||14.7|
|Go above and beyond||3.60||5.50||3.03||8.1|
|Email me back||5.77||6.63||4.45||15.7|
|Special treatment for devotion||3.41||5.27||2.22||7.8|
|Listen to fans||4.30||5.83||3.84||14.2|
|Let them know work is sub-par||3.97||4.42||3.43||47.7|
|Deserve special treatment||2.36||5.06||1.75||4.7|
While artists themselves score below the midpoint on many of these items, furries actually score even lower than artists on every item, and score far lower than artists’ estimates. For all but one item (let them know their work is sub-par), artists vastly overestimated how entitled furries felt. One possibility for these findings is based on a phenomenon called the availability heuristic: when estimating how frequently something occurs, people’s estimates are significantly impacted by very poignant, extreme events that stand out in their memory. As such, if an artist is trying to estimate how entitled furries are, examples of particularly entitled commissioners (who are, as we can see, statistically rare) may spring to mind first, entirely because they are unusual. This might lead artists to overestimate how entitled most furries are. Alternatively, it’s possible that furries, being biased to see themselves in a positive manner, are underestimating the extent to which they behave in entitled ways, which would account for why artists may be experiencing entitled behaviour from them that they are otherwise unaware of. Future research needs to be done to test the extent to which both (or neither) of these mechanisms explain these results.