Sep 22 2010 2:34pm

Bad Kitty: A Meditation on Cat People

This is not a confession, nor a boast, just a statement of fact: I have not seen Avatar.

I try not to judge movies without having seen them. I always get annoyed when (as a rule) religious or conservative groups protest movies they haven’t bothered to see. But I have very mixed feelings about James Cameron’s work. I loved Terminator and Terminator 2, though in both, especially the sequel, much of the dialogue makes me squirm a bit. Aliens, a movie I enjoyed when it came out, doesn’t hold up well. In fact, I’d say it’s my least favorite of the Alien movies (not including the AVP spinoffs). The Abyss? Meh. Titanic is rubbish. Titanic really made me reevaluate Cameron’s canon and cast a pall over most of it.

When I saw the trailer for Avatar, I groaned. When the Stephen Lang hardcore military douche says, without irony, “You’re not in Kansas any more” I winced and knew it wasn’t for me. Anyone who uses that line in a movie now should be stripped of his WGA membership. Or at the very least heavily fined. Same goes for “We’ve got company,” “I’m getting’ too old for this shit” and “Don’t you die on me!” (I’ll forgive the final one if the person saying it is trapped beneath a gravely ill enormously obese person).

That’s not why I haven’t seen it, though.

The biggest crime of Avatar is the alien cat people. Yeah, I know what you’re saying: “But they’re not cats! They the Na’vi.” Yeah, yeah, talk to the hand. Or the paw. They’re ten-foot-tall elongated cats and much as I appreciate real kitties, cat-headed fantasy folk are, well, ucch.

I blame the late-80s TV nighttime soap, Beauty and the Beast. Now don’t get me wrong: I loves me some Ron Perlman, but the whole Lion-O with the soul-of-a-poet thing was kind of gross. And the ladies ate it up. Well, some ladies. I remember being at a sci-fi convention circa 1990 and encountering a table manned—I mean womaned—by three truly bewitching specimens (including one with a full sideshow-quality beard). They were purveyors of fan-fic (not to be confused with slash-fic, which is a whole other column’s worth of yikes). The ringleader proudly touted her recent Beauty and the Beast/Tattinger’s cross-universe novella. Ai-yi-yi. There was also some bad fan art on display featuring, yes, cat-headed people.

Over the years—for professional reasons—I’ve attended more than a few San Diego Comic Cons. In the gallery sections where attendees enter pieces for the art contest there are always a lion’s share (ha?) of cat-headed fantasy paintings. The pride of the show, if you will. Okay, I’ll stop.

To me, the long, lithe, tacky, Na’vi put me in mind of Reed Waller and Kate Worley’s anthropomorphic porn/soap comic book series, Omaha the Cat Dancer. In fact, they made me worry that the reality of an Omaha movie might not be far off. Now, I don’t feel this way about cartoon felines. Fritz the Cat, Sylvester, Top Cat (to name but a few), those are all fine because they’re not human bodies with cat noggins. Fritz might be dirty but it’s not trying to be erotic. There’s a whole substrate of anthropomorphic animal porn that just boggles my mind.

The Island of Dr. Moreau works because the humanimals are supposed to be creepy, but all these other things operate on the assumption that viewers are finding these freaks hot (and many do, I reckon). I shudder to imagine what the slash/fan erotica for Avatar is like (I really don’t want to go down that rabbit hole, if I may mix metaphors). And that’s really the nub of my beef: Avatar is the mainstreaming of Furries and Furries, while hilarious as joke fodder, are creepy as hell. I say this not as some closet Larry Craig-style in-the-closet (or would that be in-the-pet-carrier?) Furry. I wouldn’t mind Furries so much if they didn’t get all defensive when people, you know, jeered at them. Like mocking a guy (or girl) who gets his/her rocks off dressed as a cartoon cheetah is somehow tantamount to racism or homophobia.

Well, a few weeks ago it all came to a [cat] head.

There’s a recent French commercial for Orangina that features a realistically rendered CGI cat-person splashing on Orangina as aftershave (why this critter is shaving its face in the first place is a mystery). It’s got an athletic male human body and a male human partner. Okay, then. Gay bestiality to sell a soft drink. Sure, why not? Orangina has a series of incredibly creepy commercials in this vein. One starts with a humanoid bear putting the moves on a human-bodied doe on a swing and climaxes in a bottle-spurting orgy of writhing animal-people. In another a hyena-woman and her human companions enjoy some schadenfreude as another woman breaks her heel as she passes them outside a café. How catty. Or whatever that would be. Thanks, CGI. Thanks a lot. Okay, Avatar, the joke’s on me.

Bob Fingerman is the award-winning creator of such critically acclaimed graphic novels as Beg the Question, White Like She and Recess Pieces, as well as the novel Bottomfeeder. In Bottomfeeder, Fingerman took on the vampire genre, tossing away the typical gothic and romantic trappings in favor of portraying the down to earth story of a working class Queens-bred vampire. In Recess Pieces he whipped up a bloody maelstrom of adorable moppets and the living dead set within the confines of a school. He wrote the script for Dark Horse’s Zombie World: Winter’s Dregs. His most recent graphic novel was From the Ashes, a “speculative memoir” set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of New York City. His newest novel, Pariah, came out August 2010, from Tor, and is crammed full of zombies. He also has a story in the eagerly anticipated The Living Dead 2 anthology.

Stefan Jones
1. Stefan Jones
I enjoyed Avatar, but wouldn't call myself a big fan of it. I payed $4.00 to see it in 2-D, which seemed about right.

That said: The Na'vi are not cat people. Not in the least. Pointy ears and tail, yeah. But not cats. Nope.

I don't care for cat people much either. I also think vampires and zombies are overused and tiresome. Neener-neener.
Jon Rosebaugh
2. inklesspen
Summarized: "Someone else's fetish doesn't interest me! It's disgusting and I can't imagine why they don't have the good grace to be ashamed of it!"

Which is, I guess, a valid viewpoint, but not one I expected to be getting space on
John Massey
3. subwoofer
Oh look- a puppy!

rob mcCathy
4. roblewmac
I'm just glad to hear somebody somewhere say "I just did'nt feel like watching a movie that did'nt look like I was going to enjoy"
james loyd
5. gaijin
Danny Glover is allowed to say "I'm gettin' too old..." but nobody else.
Stefan Jones
6. xzacklee
The facts are:
1. As Stefan says, pointy ears and tail.
2. Hiss when cornered.
3. The only other "cat" on Pandorum has a unique bond with the Na'vi.
4. They are graceful and athletic.
5. They are based on something from earth (as anything in sci-fi is)
Therefore, we can comfortably assume that they are said "cat-people".
Michelle Mulford
7. DervishJ
Well, Bob, I am a closeted furry. I am also bisexual. I've gotten harsh comments about both of these groups, and both kinds of comments hurt about the same.

It baffles me that you think we shouldn't 'get defensive' about mockery. I don't think you are mocking anyone in this article, but outright mockery is nasty and cruel. It doesn't matter what the subject is, and it especially hurts when it's about something as intrinsic as sexuality.

I get that you think furries are creepy, and that they are into bestiality (I disagree about that last one, by the way). I even get why you might write out a whole article exploring your feelings. What I don't get is why thought it was okay to publish something that boils down to, "Furries are gross, and the existance of anything that vaguely hints at furry-dom offends me."

So, yeah, this is me 'getting defensive.' I don't think I'll change your mind, I just wanted to say that I don't think mocking people is okay, no matter who they are, or what they're doing.

By labeling people as 'freaks,' I think you become less humane than any furry I've ever met.

(The first three paragraphs were funny, though.)
John Massey
8. subwoofer
Umm... what was that dear? Gotta go?

Stefan Jones
9. Russ Allbery
Nice to see that is finding brave and incisive columnists to go out on controversial limbs and take provocative positions like making fun of furries. My hat's off to you sir: I have never seen such opinions expressed in public before, and the world has been made a better place by your stunningly original observations.

Perhaps for an encore you'd like to write a column about how gay male sex is icky and gross, but lesbians are kind of hot, particularly if they're actually bi?
Stefan Jones
10. Magentawolf
I'm with inklesspen here, I think...

Now, I'm not a rabid (Hah, see what I did there?) defender of furries, but in the mainstream we're just harmless people that enjoy a particular style of art, animation, or literature.

But, back to the point, I've yet to see Avatar mainly because the plot has simply been better done in other movies.
Stefan Jones
11. elzarcho
I always get annoyed when (as a rule) atheist or liberal groups criticize books they haven't read or metaphysics they haven't studied. Oh, and also when they start articles that aren't about religion or politics by calling members of their audience closed-minded. I didn't go see Avatar because it looked really really stupid, not because it was filled to the gills with dull freshman-year liberal cliches.
Stefan Jones
12. Magentawolf
Oh, and I will have to protest your inclusion of "We've got company!", however. That's far too much of a classic line to simply throw away.
Michelle Mulford
13. DervishJ
Oh, yeah, I know that Tor can put up whatever it wants, and that they don't necessarily agree with the author's views; blah, blah, blah.

I just don't remember seeing an article previously whose entire point was to say rude things about other people.

As for Avatar, I'm still at an age where I enjoy pretty pictures and explosions. Avatar is gorgeous. And yeah, the plot's been done better, but it still works. Sigourney Weaver's character is pretty cool, too.
Stefan Jones
14. goodfellow_puck
I agree with Dervish--and that is to say: I don't find cat-people or furries appealing to me, but I can understand why others do, and I don't believe making fun of a fairly large fantasy sub-community is a good idea for Not to mention unnecessarily mean. I even hate Avatar, but the post totally derailed from the furry-bashing onwards.

Also, what is the point in making fun of a woman with a beard? Shockingly, many women have varying degrees of facial hair, they just don't typically offend you with it. Those with full beards may have a genetic condition, or simply be trans/non "normative". Good on them for not giving a crap what you think of their bodies.
Tex Anne
15. TexAnne
"three truly bewitching specimens (including one with a full sideshow-quality beard)"

Sexism 101, dude. Women do not exist so that you can lust after them. Get off my screen until you learn some manners.
16. dreamsandspec
Honestly, I'm just wondering why you're so concerned about how other people "gets his/her rocks off" when it doesn't at all involve you. (If you find it "erotic" and "creepy" or just not to your liking just head on elsewhere. I assure you that doing so is painless.) Also, I'm amazed that you can fit in somany quasi- to full-blown insults at so many groups in so few paragraphs: those who write fanfiction, slash fanfiction, furries, women . . . hell, probably more if I actually searched for them.

Perhaps consider the fact these are people you view as "joke fodder" if you need an explanation for why no one seems to be enjoying your article.
Jonah Feldman
17. relogical
So to sum up...

Avatar has Na'vi. Regardless of all evidence to the contrary, Na'vi are cat-people.

And that's terrible.
Stefan Jones
18. Lenovo
I don't have much to do with anything Furry related but even I found this article to be crass, ignorant and mean spirited. Bob, judging by the long-winded biography tailgating this article, I suspect you have some sort of superiority complex.

Whatever harmless sexual and/or emotional satisfaction people get beyond closed doors should not be subject to mockery the likes of which you're doling out here. Why are you even paying attention? Walk away if it bothers you. It's certainly not hurting you. You seem to have a prediciliction for the dead and undead. Should we poke you with the necrophilia stick for awhile, see what supressed kinks you have and mock them openly them on the tubes?
Nancy Lebovitz
19. NancyLebovitz
Unfortunately, I have the perfect quote from a human-headed cartoon character, so I'm joining the dogpile-- "It's hard on a face when it gets laughed in."

In other news, the big scene of aliens riding on gaudy flying lizards was everything I've ever wanted from fantasy art. It's kind of a shame that the aliens being feline meant you wouldn't have been able to enjoy it.
Stefan Jones
20. Smiling Man
Many will hate this, but so be it.

An old explanation for unusual sexual behavior such as homosexuality, BDSM, fetishes, etc is that it's a retreat from "real" relationships which are male/female, and are less about sex that a host of other things. With homosexuality, you're having a relationship with "yourself" and with fetishes you reduce the other to an object, such as "feet", an item of clothing, and so on. This allows the person to avoid getting to know another person intimately, and they're reduced to an object.

That's where the old charge of "objectifying" women comes from. Some people just look at women for breasts, etc and not as a total person. Ex: If she doesn't have boobs, she's worthless. Women do this to men as well, only it tends to be about money such as, "He's a businessman" or "Dentist" and that's all that matters. Ex: If he's poor, he must be a loser.

The furries trend, which is frequently mixed with homosexual behavior, is likely about creating massive distance from the pressures of being human. Humans are seen as very dangerous, in some idiosyncratic way, but cartoonlike people aren't. So, the sexual and loving focus gets turned toward something easier to deal with, like a living stuffed animal.

If you look at the Beauty and the Beast photo, would the same show have been appealing with some extremely harsh looking male? Could Ron Pearlman have pulled the role off with no makeup? I say no, and that's because "ugly" people are laughed at in the media and in public for being romantic. Only by comparing a harsh looking person to an animal, are they somehow ok. Women will say, "I married a big Teddy Bear," instead of a fat guy. A "Teddy Bear" is cute, while a "fat guy" is a health risk who has given up and charged since you met him.

In Avatar, the "animal people" were very "black" in speech and behavior. It is my belief, based on observation and conversation, that most White and Asian do not like blacks due to appearance, speech quality, and attitude and behavior. Thus, the film turned blacks into "furries" so that the audience doesn't hate them. Some mild proof here is that most people don't go an see "black movies" which is what Avatar would be.

Although the author didn't say it, I believe his objections to animal people may have to do with the dehumanizing effect that it has on people. The images teach people that actual humans aren't good enough. That in turn may spread a kind of perversion.

Please feel free to emotionally explode over what I've written, then settle down and think about it.
Thomas Jeffries
21. thomstel
Let's recap:

"I try not to judge movies without having seen them, but let me tell you about this one that I'm going to judge without having seen it."

"I'm going to passive-aggressively phrase all sorts of lovingly-crafted statements to offend various groups (women w/facial hair, slashfic writers, Comic Con attendees, furries), and toss a dollop of cat-related puns into the mix."

"I'm going to act bewildered by someone taking offense to the fact that their lifestyle/value system is under attack. They should darn well know how stupid they look for liking anthromorphic cats, and that they'll be butt of jokes until they die or give it up."

"Here's a random comment about something that pertains to cat-people. Surprise: I don't like it."

Methinks the author could have spent a little more time on something else, and that something else would have been more productive.
Mike Conley
22. NomadUK
Please feel free to emotionally explode over what I've written, then settle down and think about it.

Um, no, thanks anyway.
[da ve]
23. slickhop
@OP: Wish I hadn't read this. If interested in my opinions, something along the lines of @2, @15 & @21.
@22: Cosign.
james loyd
24. gaijin
This is a great example of free speech at work. This is what it was intended to be. You're free to express your opinion, but so is everyone who may disagree with you.

A lot of offense has been taken. So what? As a Christian, I frequently come across comments here that I could find offensive if I chose to. I don't. Some people assume all Christians are backwards and ignorant. That's their opinion and they have the right to state it. I don't get angry so much as, well, tired. I sigh and see if they're making a valid point and backing it up. If not, I go read something else. No sense in spewing vitriol; "telling this guy he's an idiot will really change his mind about me."

Can't we all just converge around the indisputable facts that Avatar is visually stunning, but the plot (or lack thereof) is essentially just a remake of Dances with Wolves?
Noneo Yourbusiness
25. Longtimefan
I am going with the article being a hilarous spoof of how shallow people can be.

"In the ’90s he decided to focus on comics, doing a stint on the The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,"

Just incase no one went to see more about Mr. Fingerman.

Apparently if they had been amphibians instead of felines he may have been in a more generous mood. :)

To be completely honest I have not seen Avatar but for no other reason than I was just not interested. I cannot really pinpoint why but it just was not the Fantasy movie I was looking for. It never occured to me they were "cat people".

However the movie Cat People is really neat. :)
Kate Shaw
26. KateShaw
Maybe furries "get all defensive" because they're tired of being the butt of the same old jokes. Making fun of furries was old, like, in 2005. And however icky you think they are, accusing them of beastiality is neither cool nor accurate.

Oh, and I hated Avatar--not because of the giant cat people (I didn't actually notice they were cat people, probably because I was too distracted by things popping into the foreground to demand the 3D! Special! Effects! get noticed), but because it was a remarkably stupid movie. I was hoping this post was going to be a hatefest for a movie I didn't like. Instead, it was just a hatefest.
Jon Rosebaugh
27. inklesspen
KateShaw@26: You don't have to be a furry to think this article was in poor taste.
Stefan Jones
28. Jenn P.
Wow, Smiling Man, what a lovely Freud'esque challange you dropped on the end there. So, essentially, if someone disagrees with you they're being emotional? Irrational? Hysterical? Don't get me wrong, I am amused and ironically, I think that you have a good point or two mixed in with the rest of your comment.

Ways in which to avoid emotinal responses in the future (but, who are we kidding you wanted somebody to say something, with those little digs that bookended your comment). Admit that by "old explanation" you really mean out dated and/or disproven excuses for marginalizing and condemning groups of people who behave differently than what the majority considers normal.

Homosexuality is a natural, though rare, inclination. It's been present throughout all of human history and it is present within other species. I think its time we got over it.

BDSM is about control and an exchange of power. If there are elements of dehumanization it is because both parties are deriving some sort of satisfaction from it. True sadism and true masochism are different from S/M because of this power exchange. BDSM can be as real and meaningful, or not, as any sexual encounter. That being said, not all BDSM is about sex.

On fetishism and objectification, you make a valid point. But, there is a difference between being really into your partners feet, or feet in general and objectifying a person. Especially, in terms of the objectification that is so prevalent in our society today.

You were spot on about the treatment of race and appearance, but call it what it is. Superficiality and Racism. American audiences (white audiences) have been trained to fear black and/or foreign characters. Its part racism and part natural fear of things unknown. These fears have been fostered for generations, until it has become almost invisible. Unless you are willing to open your eyes and really pay attention. I have to say that the situation is, well maybe the word improving is too strong, but as a whole the minorities are gaining sway - i.e. money - and the media is starting to pay attention to the ignored or marginalized populations.

The furrie community - its condescending to call it a phase - isn't specifically tied to the GLBT community, but as another maligned group there is a sense of comradery. Meaning, aren't they queer, too? If you spend a great deal of your life being made fun of by others for being gay, or ugly, or in some other way found lacking then wouldn't you gravitate to those who understand what that feels like? I will say one thing about furries, they are a strong community. Not just some nameless, friendless nobodies in cyberspace.

What the Na'vi appearance does is reflect the fact that humans already find other humans lacking, not create this sentiment. Black people or African Americans or Latin americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans aren't seen as good enough or sympathetic enough. Some proof here, most white people won't go see black movies. Other black people do.

On another note, Ron Pearlman is attractive. Rugged and manly. I'd totes hit that... (Yes, objectification... I'm a weak, weak human.)

Bob Fingerman, what was the point of your "article"? Just pure meaness and spite? There are better, far more mature ways of expressing yourself... even if you don't like furries, or bearded women. Please, get off your privileged horse.

Tor dot com, honestly? This is what you want your readers to take away from this site? I don't believe in censorship, but I do think that there needs to be a "No Asshole" claus attached to freedom of expression.
Stefan Jones
29. John Andrew Walsh
C'mon, Bob - will you go so far as to agree that Neytiri is hotter than the average "cat lady" you meet on the Upper West Side? The one with the ratty cardigan and all the overdue library books?
Stefan Jones
30. Teka Lynn
Sorry, I'll be off with the other bearded women reading furry slashfic.

Seriously, dude, I get the "Not my kink" thing, but was there a particular reason to write an entire article about it?
Stefan Jones
31. TheSmilingMan

Your response is emotional mixed with rational reasoning.

There's no proof that homosexuality or any other unusual sexual behavior is natural and not learned, and vice versa. To say there is proof is emotional reasoning. However, we do know that "furries" practice a complex set of behaviors that rely on having been exposed to certain media images, having those reinforced in certain ways unique to the person, and so on. It must take years of conditioning to arrive at a state where dressing as a stuffed animal is sexually appealing. This obvious example provides clues to how other sexual behaviors are formed.

Anyway, the negative side of being a furry, a foot fetishist, a homosexual etc, is that one is prejudiced and limited in one's view of humanity. It's exactly the same as the man or woman who only sees the opposite sex as boobs or a wallet. That's the sad truth about many human attitudes that get shifted to a single focus.

The reason I said that people would flip out is because what I'm saying is true, and people hate that. As much as I love science fiction/Fantasy, I realize that many enjoy it because it's an escape from reality and these same people hate being exposed to honest dialogue.

Like the author of the article I hated Avatar because I thought it was an extremely prejudiced film objectifying minorities, and whites alike. That's quite an achievement!
Jon Rosebaugh
32. inklesspen
The reason I said that people would flip out is because what I'm saying is true, and people hate that.

Or, people could be flipping out because you are insane. It always pays to consider both options.
David Bullock
33. davidjbullock
Tor reduced to trolling in order to get hits?

Noneo Yourbusiness
34. Longtimefan
@ 31

apparently you are smiling because you like to instagate shit and then watch people react.

The most damaging thing about your posts is that they are limited and sweeping generalizations about a series of unrelated activities based on your opinions about sexual behavior you do not particpate in.

While I am not going to defend or attack any thing here I am going to say that your arguments are not very well structured and only encourage people with stunted opinions to believe they do not need to understand any other behaviors futher than distaining them.

Honestly I am not certain this series of comments was what Tor or the writer had intended. It has definately devolved and has not really found a way to redeem itself.

Why do I keep commenting? Bored today.
Ron Griggs
35. RonGriggs
Smurfy-cats. That's the common teen term for the N'avi, from my observations of them. Make of it what you will.
Chris Hawks
36. SaltManZ
A thread about "cat-people", and no mention of C. J. Cherryh's brilliant Chanur books? For shame.
Stefan Jones
37. Neon Sequitur
Nice of the author to let us all know right up front that he has no idea what he's talking about, so we can mock his drivel without feeling guilty about it.

Write some more, pal. It's not like we'll run out of derision for uninformed prejudice.
Michael Burke
38. Ludon

I didn't expect anything like this when I started reading this article. While I'm not sure if Bob Fingerman's intent was to instigate a spirited discussion or if this piece was just to vent some steam, I do know that his article alone would not have been worth my responding to. It was the discussion within the comments that inspired me.

First I want to say that I'm a firm believer that rights are always paired with responsibilities. Tor Dot Com has the right to run this site as they see fit and so far I've seen nothing to suggest that they have ignored their responisbility to insure that things don't get out of hand.

Bob Fingerman has been given the right to post articles here and while one could dig for other responsibilities, the two that I'll address here are that 1- he has the responsibility to ensure that his statement does not break any rules or laws and 2 - that he must respect the rights of others to respond and disagree. While he may have flirted with violations of the Terms Of Use, I should point out that he has not attempted to suppress any argument against his expressed views.

We have been given the right to respond to the articles posted here and we have the same responsibilities as those held by Mr. Fingerman. Up to comment #36 (the latest on my screen as I'm writing this) those responsibilities seem to have been upheld.

I see this thread as Free Speech at its best. I, like many, disagree with much about the original article, and I disagree with some things posted in the comments, but I want to defend Mr. Fingerman's right to express his views. This is the responsibility tied the most to the Freedom Of Speech and it is the one most often ignored or outright dismissed. The responsibility to defend another person's right to Free Speech even if that person's view is in every way opposed to your own.

I'm making this statement because I can feel the possibility that this thread could evolve to a call to remove Mr. Fingerman from this site. I'm saying this from the frustration of seeing people over the years being forced out of office or out of a career by the public's out-cry over the person's "crime" of expressing an unpopular view. I'm saying this in the hope of avoiding actions which I view as more offensive than the simple expression of unpopular views. If his article is in conflict with the Terms Of Use, then Tor Dot Com will have to decide what to do. Otherwise, I'm for continuing this interesting discussion.

I may come back and respond to individual comments later, but for now I just needed to say this.
Michael Green
39. greenazoth
"Like mocking a guy (or girl) who gets his/her rocks off dressed as a cartoon cheetah is somehow tantamount to racism or homophobia."

Um, I kind of think it is, actually.

What about drag? Is that cool? Is mocking men who wear woman's clothes "tantamount to racism or homophobia?"

How about something a little less extreme, say a fellow who dresses "flamboyantly?" You know, people do the limp wrist thing and talk in a lisp behind his back (and occassionally to his face if they're real bastards). Good for "joke fodder."

I think that might be "tantamount to racism or homophobia."

When you write stuff like this, you add to the idea that Furries are somehow a safe target.

I don't think there should be any safe targets.

Now, this is the part where there'd normally be the "you shouldn't take from this that I'm a Furry" DISCLAIMER.

But you know what? That always strikes me as being slightly like saying "yeah, I'm grossed out too, don't lump me in with that crowd just because I defended them." So I'll leave the matter of my Furriness (or my Cattiness) up to your able imagination.

Oh, and the thing about the bearded lady? The less-than-subtle implication that fan-fic Furry lovers are un-sexable by your manly self? Very classy.

Well, I need a bath. Whether that's going to involve licking of any kind . . .
James Hogan
40. Sonofthunder
Longtimefan @34, it may not have been what Tor intended...but it certainly should have been expected! I saw this article last night, before it had any comments and just thought to myself..."Whoa. Staying out of that one." I was actually quite shocked it was put up.

All I can say is...I haven't seen Avatar either.
Tomas Andersson
41. Tirpen
For shame Tor. For shame.

I really didn't think this site would sink so low as to publish uninformed bashings of sexual deviations. I just lost a lot of respect for this site.
Ian Gazzotti
42. Atrus
There is so much ignorance and generalization in this article that for a moment I wondered if this was really Tor or if I had stumbled on Pontifex or an Onion parody.

Ok, so, first? None of my furry friends watched Avatar because the Na'vi are furry (furry? more like smurfs). They watched Avatar because of the 3D and the explodey-wodey. Like, you know, everyone else.

Second? Furry (or slash/fanfic writer, or whatever) is like "sci-fi fan" or "Tor reader": a spectrum, not a monolithic block. We're not all fursuiters, we don't all look at porn, we don't all transfer our fantasy fetish to our real life bedrooms, we don't all live in our (bearded) mother's basement. Not that there's anything wrong with any, or all, of that* but try to imagine that we're not all identical, please?

* I know you differ, but let's imagine for a minute that you could *gasp* possibly be wrong
Stefan Jones
43. shireling
I did see Avatar, and I thought it was great.
Nancy Lebovitz
44. NancyLebovitz
Jenn P. @ 28: What do you make of the movie's clear position that the white/American/corporate/military approach
is clearly Not Good Enough? In fact, is Not Good At All? It's an
applause point when the main character leaves his past behind him to become a Na'avi.

Smiling Man, if you have no sympathy for weird people, aren't you losing contact with a large part of the human race?
Stefan Jones
45. Agreement
gaijin... I totally agree...the CG was fantastic and the movie was fun to watch even if the plot was another version of several movies
Estara Swanberg
46. Estara
Oh, very nice, Thomspel. That's how I read this, too.

I guess we can't argue with results though: 46 commenters. Still, I'll know to avoid the name of the blog poster now, so I feel this was worth reading for that reason.

I get enough pat judgement and throw-away lines in my daily life, I don't need it in my entertainment.
Stefan Jones
47. goodfellow_puck
For those readers that haven't felt the need to look it up, Mr. Bob Fingerman has responded to your "concerns" via his website (

"Today brought back memories, though. A piece I wrote went up on, today, about my aversion to Avatar and its elongated blue cat-like native critters, the Na’vi. I wryly posited that I regarded Avatar as a mainstreaming of the Furries, those people for whom dressing up as curvaceous cartoon animals is an erotic experience. I thought it was funny, but clearly I was wrong. I’d offended, big time. The fur flew. It was a dog-pile of censure.
Years ago, when I first got on the ‘Net—back in probably 1993 or ’94—my buddy John introduced me to the Furries. My gateway Furry was called AJ Skunk (you never forget your first). I thought it was a joke, but John assured me, “Oh no, this is a real thing. And he’s not alone.” I was gobsmacked and found it hilarious and fascinating that this was a lifestyle people would pursue (or would that be fursue? And don’t give me shit about the bad pun; they call their gatherings ConFurences.).
So, anyway, my Tor item brought the thunder. I had offended the sensibilities of this not officially classified special interest group. Thing is, that wasn’t my intent. In my own wiseass way I’d been quite naïve. I thought it was just a droll (humor being subjective) puff piece that turned out to be neither droll, nor puffy enough. Seeing the comments (which were, I must say, articulate and mostly fairly reasonable, given the subject matter) part of me thought, “Oh, get over it. Really? Really? This is what sets you people off?” Another part felt genuinely bad about offending. It was like I’d stepped into their clubhouse and taken a shit right in the center of the floor. The third part, the dark side, wanted to egg it on. Throw down.
But I didn’t. This is my response. The response is: never respond. Walk it off. Take a breath. Write a one-off essay about the self-destructive urge to participate and get on with your life."
Stefan Jones
48. zombieskin
that's a lot of hate for a mediocre action movie with pretty impressive visuals. yup, they made the dudes cat people, like a million other sci-fi fables. i bet there's a lot of kids that ain't seen, or been introduced, to cat-people movies, so it's new to them, and old to jaded geeks - pretty simple. the artwork was brilliant, and the movie was fun; their entertainment entertained me: success.

did you actually think that making fun of a piece of art AND of people with diverse sexual preferences was a good idea? i'd be embarrassed to post something like this, it's not funny, it's prejudiced. there ARE funny things about furries, just like there's funny things about everything. you are not funny in this article. you seem to be preaching to a choir of similar-minded individuals, which i sincerely hope isn't the case, but i'm pretty sure is.

anyone who thinks they can tell, point out, ridicule and judge what other human beings do with their lives can go fuck themselves, and revel in the Idiocracy they so very want for everyone. i choose to point my finger at bigger shit, and not fire philippic from a t-shirt cannon into the crowd about why Avatar didn't make me cum like it promised me in my imagination, and the sci-fi forums.

by the way, fucktard, we're apes, remember? we have weird monkey heads, and there's an unfathomable amount of art with ape faces being the subject matter, and there's even ape comedians, ape porn, you name it. judge the cats, be my guest, and then 20 years from now, when half your body's been replaced with synthetic parts, and your genes have been altered to eradicate disease, you can thank the people that took the time to IMPROVE the world, rather than to make a concerted effort to impose their prejudiced will against it. i'm sure at that point in time, though, you'll be wresting with the dilemma as to how to overcome your own self-loathing, so that you can bring yourself to have synthetic-human on synthetic-human sex without vomiting in revulsion at the premise.

you bought yourself an instant unsubscribe, Neanderthal, but i had to take the time to write this. hopefully it'll cancel out your irresponsible, impotent rage and prejudices. this post was masturbatory, and you've made the world a little dumber for it. congratulations.
Stefan Jones
49. goodfellow_puck
If you want to respond to his "non-response" then PLEASE go to his website where comments are allowed! Not only is his response there, but his continuing "sneering" at the subject in the comments!

So, my response to his:

- It does not appear that you have taken any of the responses seriously or with any thought, because you think #1 We're all just furries so who cares and #2 Furries are from some "not officially classified special interest group" so they live in some creepy cave for freaks some where.

WOW. I can't believe someone who's been working in the art and writing world for so long is so enormously ignorant. Here's the thing: we are not all furries, but that doesn't mean we don't understand it, because we're SCI-FI and FANTASY fans. There's some pretty crazy shit in there that we love, and other people can't understand, but it's OKAY. On the flip, I'm sure there are more furries (or people who enjoy anthro entertainment) in this than have identified themselves, because they AREN'T just some little group of bearded women.

- You are responding, not walking away at all. I don't know why you think that's what you're doing, when you're just continuing to be insulting.

- My advice? ACTUALLY READ the comments and don't just dismiss them out of hand because you think behind each one is someone freaky. We're telling you you're being a JERK to women and to a large selection of sci-fi/fantasy fans. This does not need a fur-suit to understand. The proper response is not to walk away, but to say, "I'm sorry. I was uninformed before and just made assumptions on what little I knew. Now I understand better."
Brook Freeman
50. longstrider
This post deserves a reponse directly to the overseeing editor, but when I go to the Who's Who at I can't find the correct editor. Who is the editor for blog posts, or senior editor for I see a fiction editor (PNH), creative director (Irene), moderator (Torie), comics and short fiction editor (Liz), community manager (Bridget), production manager (Megan), and production assistant (Chris) but no blogger/reviews/rewatch/editorial editor or senior editor. I have a serious concern about the decision to publish a piece like this, who should I direct it to?
Stefan Jones
51. goodfellow_puck
My guess would be the mod, but anyone you contacted would probably get it to the right person.

That being said, I don't think you should ask for it's removal. It's a good show of how the community feels about an article like this, and proof of what kind of views Mr. Fingerman has.
Stefan Jones
52. TheSmilingMan
I'm laughing at all of the attempts to shut down Fingerman, shame Tor, and so on. As I mentioned, Avatar is about taking black people, making them into cuteish animal people, and then using them as a platform to say that people suck. That's wronf on so many levels I could spend the day writing about it. However, the filmmakers get to make a billion dollars off of it and poor Fingerman gets blasted for a couple of negative views on the subject.

That makes sense in our bizarro world.

Also, the whole furries things has amusingly blown up here. In my experience, if a man says openly, "I only want women with large natural breasts," or "I think that girls that don't have blue eyes are ugly," he's going to get a lot of negative feedback, and maybe people will grow to hate him. But, if a person say "I only find others acceptable when they dress like a stuff animal," they're defended to the death.

Someone should write a scinece fiction book about this stuff...oh wait...
Bob Fingerman
53. Bob_Fingerman
Okay, folks, here's my mea culpa. To me it was just a piece of snark. It was never my intention to offend or alienate anyone. Humor is the most subjective thing in the world and, as comics say, I've found the level of the room. Furries, et al, I apologize.
Michelle Mulford
54. DervishJ
@53 Thank you. You didn't have to say this - as others have pointed out, you have every right to free speech.We still disagree on the subject of snark, but oh well.

For what it's worth, I hope that you keep writing for
Stefan Jones
55. zombieskin

@38 - what the fuck? seriously, defending freedom of speech is one thing, but a COMPANY, as a GROUP, deciding to publish this stuff is quite another. i'm seeing a lot of redirection and defense, and no accountability. it's prejudice.

i see a lot of "ok, i guess my HUMOUR wasn't funny", and NO "i guess my SEXISM and PREJUDICES weren't taken well". i AM giving you shit about your bad puns, because they're in extremely bad taste. you can change the words, and try to spin the article as "wry", but it isn't, and if you're not willing to come out of the closet and say EXACTLY what you fucked up, then you're still a bigot, dude. you can't defend the defenseless. get on with your life? no. stop treating the people that are posting their justified outrage here like children and imbeciles, and say that you RETRACT the fucking comments in the article. that ain't hard. i'm not in journalism, and i know what that word means. then again, doesn't seem to support responsible journalism either, but if i see no retraction, then i have to believe that supports bigotry. it's that simple.

@53 the level of the room seems to be strongly against open discrimination. again, since you still don't get it, the problem isn't with how unfunny your article is, it's how you're ostracizing several groups and types of human beings for being different than yourself, bottom line. Retract. The. Fucking. Article.
Stefan Jones
56. zombieskin
also, smilingman, i really don't want the weed you're smoking, but i think you hate white people, small boobs, furries, and the brown-eyed.

if it makes someone happy, and doesn't hurt anyone, does that really bug everyone enough to raise up on a platform of hate? it's like this article was written after a weekend bender and a Mad Men marathon.

no one gives a fuck about anything here, other than the fact that some unacceptable things were published about people undeservedly - furries are still people, smilingman, easy there, we'll get off your lawn - and no one at seems as embarrassed as they should. mea culpa for what, SPECIFICALLY, Fingerman?
Stefan Jones
57. TheSmilingMan

There's a good book by a psychologist named, Beck, called Prisoners of Hate, and I suggest you check it out. The book is from a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy perspective, which in short is the idea that beliefs direct human behavior. The main subject of the book is how no one really thinks that what they're doing is wrong.

In fact many cultures and subcultures call negative dehumanizing, or even murderous, actions, beliefs, etc good. They do that because most humans can't tolerate feeling badly about what they do, so they must transform it into a good thing. That becomes a "virus" and then infects people who hear the double talk, and before you know it, they're doing negative things and feeling great. For more info, see most of the world religions.

What I wrote above is the explanation for propaganda, and some of that is made intentionally, and some by crazy people accidentally. It's where you take a message that you want to promote, that's not popular or is negative, and cover it in fake humor, action, adventure, or some other appealing form. I've noted, in the US, that whenever Republicans gain power and flood of comedy, disaster movies, etc will follow. This same type of tactic was used in WWII movies on all sides. In reality, most people are pretty equal and that makes people not want to kill each other, so you have to make the other side seem like monsters or people with one note personalities.

So, my point is that everyone THINKS they're just having fun, when in fact that "fun" might be destructive. It might be destructive to the people doing it, or to others. That's why all of us, to leave ethical lives, must examine what we do and the potential propaganda we're exposed to in the media. Thus, complainers and cracks can be super valuable, and should never be silenced.

I just have to mention Avatar again. First, google "Magical Negro" (Native Americans get the same treatment) and you'll find that it's seemingly positive character, but really it's extremely prejudiced. It gives blacks superpowers, and of course there's no need to worry about those who have powers. That's a way to dismiss someone, while maintaining positive feelings about them. I believe that's more heinous than outright hate, which is at least honest. In Avatar, blacks not only get the Magical Negro treatment, but have their appearance made "cute" via the cat thing, because generally speaking, I don't think most humans find blacks to be cute. So, the propaganda of Avatar was some stuff about "white people being evil and The Environment" from super white rich people, delivered via their bizarre versions of black people.

My question is: how does that weirdness filter into the minds of the public? What messages translate into beliefs? It's easy to say that it's just "entertainment" but that's exactly how propaganda is supposed to be perceived.
Stefan Jones
58. goodfellow_puck
Pretty sure a lot of people are aware of the "Magical Negro/Native" racist phenom. That's just one of the many reasons Avatar sucks ass, but that is surprisingly NOT what this article is about.

If you're trying to use that article as an analogy to furries, then I am baffled. Roleplaying as an animal is harmful to animals? OKAY.

Keep 'em rolling dude. You are mighty entertaining. Especially when people take your crazy seriously.
Stefan Jones
59. goodfellow_puck
("Article" meaning the phenom you want us to google.)
Stefan Jones
60. zombieskin
smilingman, good points in there... i don't agree with it all, mainly if Avatar falls into the category your putting it into, but i haven't looked into it deeply enough, because i don't see it that way. i'm not saying i disagree, though, just saying i don't feel remotely informed enough to comment on anything regarding black people and their history, so i'll digress from that point. i'm a big fan of CBT throughout history (war, religion...humanity), so thanks for the book rec, love that stuff.

i think the existence of alternative lifestyles should be allowed, and examined, always, because that's where understanding comes from. i'm sure there's no one reason why people like certain things, like being furries, which means we can't assume that all are subject to deviant behaviour, or have personal issues... some people might just be bored with the "church-approved" sexual norms, and decided to spice things up with imagination - doesn't sound so bad, in that light, right? or, in the case of it being a coping mechanism for some; some people might have serious mental (only as opposed to physical) problems, and this lets them socialize with people comfortably, analogous to how pot can make cancer treatments seem less harrowing. sure, pot's tricking the body's "natural" tendencies to revile the pleasant warmth of chemotherapy drugs sluicing through their systems, but it's a trick that does good. furry-ness, from a higher altitude, is probably helping many, and allowing others to be happy with their time on this earth. that's how i see it. i have also never been harmed, nor do i know of anyone who has been harmed by a furry. just sayin'.

i do appreciate your standpoint, i really do, because you seem to be trying to help (and i personally think you are, now that it's more clear to me), but not considering that being a furry - and i apologize, i'm only vaguely familiar with the lifestyle, so i may be getting the grammar wrong - might be good for many, many people, is doing them a disservice.

i still think needs to retract this thing, all said. holy hell, i can't believe they haven't already, or even that it had to be pointed out. i'm only hanging out to see where the story ends, and for the refreshingly non-internet-y discussion.
Stefan Jones
61. TheSmilingMan

Firstly, I doubt that many of the younger audience of Avatar knows what the Magical Negro trope is, and I sure the same goes for many adults. It's something people interested in writing are more likely to have read about.

Anyway, I stated a couple of times that I think the subtext of the article is about dehumanization. People dehumanize others and turn them into objects, and what's more clear that the "Furry" thing as an example of that. If that is what "furries" are doing, then it may less of a "fun" lifestyle than it appears.

Overall, the article was in no way just about "furries" but about a weird trend, and Fingerman gave many examples, to "animalize" people. It's just as bizarre as the people who tend to overly humanize animals, which is frequently joked about in an instructive manner.
Stefan Jones
62. Pops Gustav
Hee hee! This is the best, longest ONION article I've ever read!
Stefan Jones
63. Mikey Brandon
Yo! what have you moaners n'; groaners done with your lives? Fingerman is one of the illest draftsmen walking the globe, today. Bitchin' writer, too.

yeah, I knoooow that has nothing to do with his above mini-artcile... but I felt like sharin'.

oh, and... sorry.

Furries... eeew! They freeeeeeak my ass out.

(I meant "tail")

P.S. Avatar sucked.
Ian Gazzotti
64. Atrus
@57 It's fun that you mention world religions, since your comment could very well pass for a sermon in some churches. "You see, they seem to be having fun, but they're WRONG. We must condemn their fun for our own good!"
Stefan Jones
65. Gerry__Quinn
The only problem with 'Omaha the Cat Dancer', as far as I can see, is that she is not remotely sexy - at least in the image reproduced here. Not for me anyway. The more cat-lady porn the merrier, as far as I am concerned - but not Omaha please!
Stefan Jones
66. M-O-W
(thesmilingman)@57 You do realize this could just as well be applied to this blog post?

@61 Strong disagree about "and turn them into objects" in context of furries. This is not the dehumanization you are looking for.
Stefan Jones
69. Peter G.
Bob Fingerman-- your post wasn't bad because it was aimed at furries. At least you gave defensible reasons why you don't like furries. Your post was bad because you criticized Avatar, James Cameron, Beauty and the Beast, three fans of that show, and Omaha the Cat Dancer all without giving any legitimate reasons at all-- and your criticisms were mean-spirited.

I also noticed a lot of mean-spirited criticism of Robert Heinlein in the special section for commentary related to the recent publication by Tor of William H. Patterson Jr.'s Heinlein biography. That struck me as frankly bizarre-- it couldn't have helped the sales of the book.

I think someone from Tor needs to do a better job of brand management here. It's great to have a popular website-- and generally, this site really deserves the attention it's been getting, especially for all the great fiction being posted here-- but it doesn't take much negative publicity to offset a lot of good publicity.

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Madeline Ferwerda
71. MadelineF
Hey, puck, thanks for the link to Fingerman's post on this, and thanks for bearding the lion in his den.

There are just an endless supply of people on the internet who have never stepped out of their own comfy little rooms surrounded by people who are just like them. He thinks this is vitriol? He's never been to Daily Kos or Five Thirty Eight or Little Green Footballs. Never been to The Angry Black Woman or Making Light or the Whatever.

Which explains why he continues to fail to understand that the issue isn't a joke that fell flat, it's that the basis of the joke was "I get to mock women with moustaches and other people at the bottom of the social heirarchy!"

He's just a fool, and an ignoramus; one of an endless number. It's not even angry-making, it's just a pathetic waste.
Stefan Jones
72. RobertWBoyd
I would have liked Avatar better if they had looked more like marmosets.
Stefan Jones
73. Raymond Tate
With all due respect, there is one cat person that should be respected. Tigra.


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