By Paul Gaita
Editor's note: View photos of the Plushies and Furries art display at the Egyptian in the NSFW slideshow.
Sexual subcultures just ain't the hot button topic they used to be. Once strictly relegated to the musty back rooms of adults-only establishments or RE/Search publications, in the last few years cable television documentaries, bottom feeder talk shows and mainstream dramatic series have all devoted airtime to nearly every flora and fauna of bedroom exoticism. Even the hopelessly square CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has hinged episodes around everything from S&M to plushies and furries – which also happens to be both the title and focus of an engrossing 2001 documentary by photographer and filmmaker Rick Castro that screens tonight as part of a special “Fetish Film Night” at the American Cinematheque.
As with any sexual underground, the plushie and furry movements are complex, with arcane subsets and severe lines drawn between them, and deeply rooted in formative fixations – namely, animals, whether stuffed, living or anthropomorphized – that blossomed over time into nostalgic, romantic and even erotic longing. For the plushie, that yearning is paid tribute by worship of inanimate animal representations, like stuffed animals, while furries carry their torch for both real animals and fantasy creatures. Occasionally, that affection will blossom into the most indelible image of the furry world: the fursuit, an elaborate, human-sized animal costume that allows the wearer to, if you'll pardon the pun, set loose their inner beast. In a world where adult babies and food enthusiasts are considered the height of hilarity, and Nevada brothel workers are depicted as sassy gals-next-door, the sight of a adult tricked out as a lion in hockey gear (and whanging his stick like Link Wray), as seen in Plushies and Furries, loses none of its unique and arresting quality.
But what separates Castro's 30-minute documentary from any of the aforementioned outlets is its lack of any whiff of carny-like exploitation; while shows like Entourage and endless Discovery Channel specials focus on the gawking, hey-rube perspective of the outsider peering into this world, P&F is wholly non-judgemental, allowing its subjects to wax about their passions without bias or (even worse) pity. Castro's previous projects, which range from the acclaimed 1996 documentary Hustler White to photographic explorations of both the bondage and high fashion scenes, allow him to maintain the proper balance between fascination and documentation; it also goes without saying that he's able to tap into the reservoir of sexiness that runs beneath these zoological obsessions, no matter how foreign it may seem to mundanes (that's you and I, in P&F parlance). You may never view a trip to Toys 'R' Us the same after viewing Plushies and Furries.
Castro himself will be in attendance for tonight's show, and will moderate a discussion after the screening; you can also expect some devoted fans and followers to arrive in full furry attire, so dress accordingly. Stay tuned this weekend for photos from the screening.
(Photo from rickcastro.com)
“Fetish Film Night” @ Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Blvd.
Fri., December 12, 7:30pm
Price: $10 general, $9 students & seniors 65+, (18+ only)