We've been immensely fortunate here on In Defense Of to meet and speak with members of the geek community and various fanbases who use their passions, creativity, and sheer numbers to enact positive changes in the world. From online gamers fundraising for Save the Children, to artists and illustrators auctioning their work for refugee aid, to fan groups volunteering time and resources to political and social activism; it's clear that our fanatical passions bring us together, and when we stand together, we stand stronger.
It came as no surprise to us that, while attending a Doctor Who convention this year, we met a group of people who exemplify the crossroad between fan appreciation and philanthropy -- or to steal a term from their organization's founder, "fanthropy". Their virtual running events have hundreds upon thousands of participants, and each event is specifically targeted to channel donated funds to a charity uniquely connected to the fandom involved.
One conversation later, and we immediately saw the benefit of sharing their vision, efforts, and tremendous successes with the IDO listening community. We hope to connect with many more such innovators and catalysts for positive change in the years ahead.
We're joined this time in-studio by Brian Biggs, founder of the Whovian Running Club, Hogwarts Running Club, and Chilton Running Club, to chat about geek altruism and fandom-inspired fundraising efforts.
BONUS SEGMENT: We're adding a section to the start of every IDO installment to celebrate and signal boost the positive news from our greater fandom circles, because we can always use some o' that feel-good in today's world. This session, there's absolutely nothing better to talk about than the global success of the Wonder Woman cinematic release -- and we spend a few minutes cheering the triumphs, the empowerment for fangirls and enlightenment for fanboys, and our unabashed love of Patty Jenkins.
The adage states that art imitates life. True to the stage, the novel, the canvas, the screen, we see the influences of events and subjects of societal importance relative to the time each creative work is crafted. Often, the influence is worn as clear as a scarlet letter, as a clear and unequivocal statement from creator to audience about their observations of the world of that time, and the people within it. Other times, the impact of cultural impression, social nature and mindset are more nuanced, but can be identified by a more objective eye.
If Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird can exemplify the lens of art focusing upon a point in humanity's behaviors, state of mind, triumphs and tragedies, is there anything that says the same could not be true for the comic book and graphic novel medium? Can superhero stories really teach us anything about ourselves as a community, a nation, a species?
From the use of anthropomorphic cartoon characters to sell war bonds and other government propaganda in the early 20th century, to the image of a certain futuristic rebel-princess-turned-general with fist raised in defiance of a modern-day political regime, it is an established practice to utilize a welcome, familiar, and widely understood cultural icon of fiction as the rallying or motivating point for a very real and serious grassroots effort. What makes this sort of juxtaposition so effective? Are there behavioral or psychological explanations for why the very thought of a film's theme, a literary character, or a representative logo of an organization entirely fictitious in origin can inspire us to support a cause, or raise our voices for (or against) a movement in our own nation, state, or neighborhood?
Joined by public broadcast producer Andy Hicks, we look into the origins, efficacy, and potential pitfalls of using geek or pop culture icons as the means to gather support or advocacy for another effort, be it social, environmental, political, or any other goal not directly related to the reference to begin with.
Hoist the Rebel flag, earn points for your house, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
We've made it abundantly clear how thrilled we are to witness the progression of fandom topics from the sidelines, to an era of "geek chic", to widespread mainstream adoption. Watercooler conversations now involve such subjects as the Marvel cinematic universe and 'Game of Thrones' as often as politics or sports (well, almost as often), and you can drop references to Star Wars, or even quote a line from a Harry Potter book at a party without getting side-eyed.
If this is the new age of geek assimilation, that should mean that the "old guard" of people in those fandoms should relish the new blood, increased interest, and new energy that the expanding fan-bases see, right? Well, not exactly. Why is it that the casual fan can still be made to feel marginalized, or even discouraged from the fandom because they're not as deeply invested as the hardcore or "superfans"?
By its simplest definition, anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to nonhuman objects or entities. With roots going back over 30 years, the concept of anthropomorphic characters as a fan-based portrayal, or the furry fandom, in more modern parlance, is a substantially sized and diverse group that gathers worldwide in their own convention settings, as well as online forums, social network groups, and other in-person and virtual meetings.
Like many fandoms we've covered in the past year and a half on In Defense Of, there is a close and very active community within the furry fandom, one that extends beyond their social gatherings, into music, literature, and the arts, charitable fundraising, and nonprofit organizations. Broadcast media has had a tendency to pick and choose what aspects of the fandom are reflected, but when fuller research is done, it becomes clear that like any science fiction or comic convention, sports fanatics or other group of enthusiasts, the community rallies together for conversation and enjoyment of their common interests, and in this case, those interests often center on a brief escape into a fictional character, acting out for a while, and enjoying watching others immersed in the same.
This episode, we're joined by furry community member and convention attendee Nate, as well as Dr. Samuel Conway, chairman and showrunner of one of North America's largest and longest-running furry conventions, AnthroCon. With their contributions to the conversation, we get a fuller understanding of the furry fandom and the upbeat and fun-loving community that has grown at the heart of it.
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