People like dressing up as animals online. Is this a natural progression in our heterogeneous world, or an identity crisis?
In a hybrid world built on the seamless merge of the physical and the virtual, where do we place ourselves? The richness and complexities of contemporary society introduce much pliability to the identities of its members. Today, we are exposed to an abundance of physical and technological resources and seem to be searching for an existence in the middle. We have noticed that there is a desire to express new forms of identities which are inspired by the endless possibilities that came with the merge of the digital and the physical world. One example of this expansion of characters is people who are transforming themselves into animals. Over the last few years it started to become visible to us on the edges of the internet, and we believe in the upcoming seasons we will bear witness to its visibility in fashion and popular culture.
Human interest in anthropomorphism is nothing new – it's visible in mythology and prehistoric artworks that illustrate human-animal combinations. The most popular examples would be the mermaid (half human, half fish), centaur (half human, half horse), pan (half goat, half human) and the quarterback of the beasts, the devil (half goat, half human). Yet in our times, where each and every one of us who is able to hold a mouse or swipe a screen is an image maker, the virtue of creating a therianthropic creature is no longer reserved to storytellers.
For those who have no photoshop skills, nor have time to get a costume, YouTube tutorials offer the quickest transformations. The expression “doe-eyed girl” no longer exists only in a figurative sense. If Bambi isn’t your thing, makeup is readily available for a variety of species including pandas, puppies, kittens, unicorns, foxes and leopards.
Is it for the best selfie, the best profile picture – or the next dimension in the identity crisis? Think furry fandom, fawn girl makeup hype, these home made 3d shifts, LARP animals, and a variety of fetishisms. Furries identify more with animals than their human form, and are able to better express themselves through their “fursonas”. Conventions are held internationally where members of this subculture gather to discuss art, literature, and optimal ways to exist in this human-dominated world. We suffer the side effects of internet-anonymity and hit TV shows like American Dad that result in our associations of furries with BDSM practices. While a percentage of this subculture does engage in sexual practices – or “yiff,” as is called by furries – many argue that this side is overemphasized. Most furries simply admire the animal kingdom and the opportunity it brings to be more open and free.
Having said that, animal role-playing such as puppy and pony play exists in BDSM culture, where participants assume a dominant or submissive role; potential ponies can even get extra creative with their shoe choices. Our favorite YouTube persona goes under the pseudonym stompcrushlove and here you can see his infatuation to inflatable animals while being dressed like one. Also there is Mark from California who loves and cares for 15 inflatable animals. Mark believes that the larger the inflatable animal, the more there is to love. Those interested in the furrier variety of animal can look into plushophilia and have their needs satisfied by stuffed animals.
And of course between the fetish, the furry, and the doe-eyed girl makeup tutorial, there is an entire scale of set of semi animal-semi-human Flickr users like, manimorphic, hawhawjames, badger spirit and masked pup, who express their shifting needs through self-made and quite eerie make-up/implants/outfits. We no longer feel the need to have fur-less skin, human ears, or relationships with only the two-legged. Why is it that we – humans, who have claimed to be unique, and above the rest of earth’s creatures – are suddenly transforming into our furry friends? Are we creating a new kind of nature out of necessity? Have we grown exhausted of our interconnectedness and seek the simplicity and freedom exhibited in the animal kingdom? Have we – who have been granted the gift of questioning our existence and purpose in life – suddenly gotten over this only-one-physical-body lifestyle? Or is it simply that we have grown internet-weary and are searching for ways to reconnect with nature?