On Wilfred, FX’s Elijah Wood comedy adapted from the Australian original, the titular character is a dog — to everyone except Ryan (Wood), the near-suicidal neighbor who agrees to dog-sit him. To Ryan, Wilfred appears as a walking, shit-talking, hung-over man in a rumpled dog suit. Wilfred exhibits both human and animal behaviors: He watches a Matt Damon movie, then indulges in the urge to dig holes and pee freely around the yard. He gives Ryan some legit life advice (between beers and bong hits), and he also humps stuffed animals. This all raises a number of questions, obviously: How crazy is Ryan? If Wilfred is a dog, who’s smoking the other half of those joints? And if he isn’t a dog, then is Wilfred a furry, a person who puts on a costume, attends conventions, and perhaps gets down in a fur suit? To investigate this last question, Vulture spoke with Kilcodo, a practicing furry — her avatar is a lemur — and a professional fur-suit-maker, about Wilfred, the aesthetics of the dog suit, and how it’s Ryan who’s really the furry.
Can we start with your definition of a furry?
Furry is an interest. When people ask me, I like to compare it to people’s interest in comic books, or anime. It’s people who like anthropomorphic animals, and cartoons, and costuming. It breaks off into a lot of smaller groups within the fandom, because it’s kind of an enormous thing right now. [Editor’s note: Kilcodo added that the furry interest, for a majority of the community, isn’t a sexual thing; for more explanation and general furry philosophy, check out her excellent Rumpus interview.]
How do you pursue your furry interest?
I’m a cartoonist first, but I actually make a living making animal costumes for furries.
Do furries act more like animals or humans?
It differs from person, because some people take it very seriously. You do have certain people who are shamanistic, and they believe in animal totems, and they really identify with the animal they choose as an avatar.
Wait, what’s an animal totem?
There are people out there that will identify as a wolf or a dragon and they’ll try to apply those qualities that they perceive to be wolflike or dragonlike to their lives, but that’s only a personal philosophy. Some people are kind of just like me, where I’m just like “this is fun,” and this is just a way for me to be creative.
So is Wilfred a furry?
I think that for people who don’t know what furries are, they could see the character of Wilfred as a furry, because he looks like a man in an animal costume. But from the show’s canon, it seems like he’s a dog who looks like a human. So it’s kind of the reverse of that, which is pretty interesting. I actually think that the person in the show who seems to be influenced by the idea of a human-mix is the character of Ryan, because it seems like Wilfred is influencing Ryan to be more animal-like. And Ryan’s the one who needs to be a furry. He’s the one who needs that in order to get out of his slump, because he needs to get in touch with his animal side in order to stop being such a schlub.
Ryan would be a dog, then, if he were an actual furry?
I think that’s what the show’s saying. The show’s really ambiguous about whether Wilfred is a hallucination or a sort-of physical representation of another personality Ryan might have. There are points where he’s stoned and he’s like, “Am I you, are you me?” So I suppose he has this perverted dog living inside of him that needs to be released.
Does the fact that he sees Wilfred as a dog kind of make him a furry already, at least psychologically?
When I did my interview with Amy for the Rumpus, she did this journal about it afterwards that mentioned something about how when I was in the costume, she felt more inclined to touch me. And she said it broke down a lot of social barriers. So because Ryan is so depressed, and he’s obviously so unhappy and he holds himself back from living, I think the show’s trying to show that he needs to become more “animal-like” in order to free himself from these borders in his life that are making him so unhappy.
Is that an experience that you have when you’re in the costume? Do you identify with that?
I do, because people do react to you differently when you’re in a cute, fluffy animal costume. People do put their walls down and want to interact with you.
How insulated is the experience? There are conventions, but when you’re in the suit, do you interact with people who aren’t?
Oh yeah, the fur-suiting is actually something that you mostly do for other people. There’s a lot of fur-suiters that do charity work or will visit people in hospitals. There’s a lot of people that go to pride parades or performances. And you can have friends that you go fur-suiting with and you’ll be in a group together, but mostly you’re entertaining the people who are the audience, or the groups of people standing around taking photos, who are curious. That’s really the whole point.
For the conventions and the organized activities, is there a specific definition of furry? Would a Wilfred suit get you in?
Oh, totally, a lot of furries don’t wear costumes. It just depends a lot on how you prefer to manifest your interest. A lot of people will wear little pieces of art to show their character. You choose an avatar to identify with, so some people wear badges that have a little picture of their character on it. Or some people will wear a tail and ear set, or a collar.
Since you’re an expert, could you rate Wilfred’s suit?
[Laughs.] Personally, it’s a little ratty looking. And the whole human-face thing is not my bag. It’s obviously well-tailored, but I personally don’t think it qualifies as a furry in a traditional sense, because fur suits are more like wearable pieces of art that are a lot more expressive and detailed.
I wonder if they’d ever do something in the show where they actually go to the convention?
I don’t think the people made the show with the intention of Wilfred being a furry, but you know that people see it and it’s the first thing they think of. It would be interesting; I think Ryan has the most potential for getting something out of it.