Over the years, furries have often said to us that the public’s perception of the fandom and representation of the fandom in media leaves much to be desired. Early depictions of furries that cast them as sexual deviants, such as the infamous CSI episode (2003), Fur and Loathing, Vanity Fair article (2001), Pleasures of the Fur, the TV show 1000 Ways to Die (2009), etc., had a perceived detrimental impact on the public’s impression of the fandom.
Our research indicates that these assessments by furries were, unfortunately, founded (see Roberts et al., 2016, Not All Fantasies are Created Equal).
As part of our Anthrocon 2018 study, we asked participants two questions to see if they perceived any change in the representation of furries in the media (Likert: 1= Strongly Disagree, 4 = Neutral, 7 = Strongly Agree):
“In your opinion, the fandom’s reputation (in the public) is more favorable now (seen more positively) than it was five years ago”
“In your opinion, the media coverage of furries (news) is less favorable now (seen more negatively) than it was five years ago.”
We intentionally asked these two questions so that higher scores on the first question and lower second question would indicate that there was an assessment of improvement in the way that furries felt they were being perceived by the broader public. This is one of many ways of assessing the reliability of the findings, as it allows us to test for response patterns where people are simply checking high scores without reading the questions.
We had collected most of that data at the convention (n = 1039) with a small amount of data captured as “overflow” online (n = 95). For this analysis, we selected only the people who identified as furries. Overall, the online sample reported that they believed that the fandom’s reputation had improved (M=5.88, SD=1.21) and that the media coverage of the fandom was not less favorable (M=2.85, SD=1.54) meaning that it was more favorable. The convention sample was similar in finding the reputation of the fandom was improving (M=5.76, SD=1.15) and negative reporting declining (M=2.94, SD=1.45). Note that these scores fall above and below the midpoint of the scale, which would represent no change (neutral = 4).
This provides preliminary evidence that the respondents who attend Anthrocon see an improvement in the way the furry community is perceived. The generalizability of these results is, of course, limited by the sample, and our team will replicate these measures in one of our future online studies.