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Bronies, Trekkies, Cosplay, AGSM, Furries and Otherkin. Just a bit of fun or another reality? With help from Arthur of the Britons, Lulu, Ylvis and Mud!!

Date posted: Friday 24th April 2015

Arthur Daily
3Arthur Daley

It was 1978 and I was a student speech therapist at the Central School of Speech and Drama, North London. It was not uncommon to see actors on the drama course walking around the building or local street dressed and acting in role, (I’ll never forget the time we were sitting an exam and looked up to see a student leaping across the rooftop with a cutlass between his teeth.) So it didn’t strike me in the least bit odd to see a man dressed as an ancient Briton riding his horse up the Finchley Road. I just assumed it was a local method actor limbering up for a part in Arthur of the Britons.

But it turned out that this guy was not in role, but was convinced he was the real thing. Every morning our hero, known locally as ‘Arthur’ or ‘Arthur Daily’ would do a tour of the local greengrocers, filling up a large wooden hand cart with leftover greens for his horse. Arthur was an imposing figure, and one day I found myself standing behind him in the queue for my fruit and veg. His clothes looked (and smelled) authentic. I tried to engage him in conversation. “I like your horse,” was my opening gambit, to which Arthur responded with a menacing look, as he flung an early Anglo-Saxon oath in my general direction. After our friend had stormed out with his spare veg, the shopkeeper took me to one side. “Don’t try and talk to him. The poor bloke lives in West Hampstead and actually thinks he’s an ancient Briton. I hope he and his missus never have kids.” The incident didn’t have a profound effect on me: I just saw it as being part of the general weirdness that I expected to find while living in London.

In my first year after qualifying, I was working in a local community clinic. One of the health visitors asked me to come on a home visit to a family where mum was suffering from agoraphobia, and both the thee-year old daughter and toddler son were showing signs of language delay.

The father had recently begun following the teachings of an Indian guru. One of the rituals, mum explained to me, was that the whole family should, at least once a day, dress all in white and sit around a large bowl of water, bathing their feet. Mum was quite open about what she felt about the situation: “I don’t mind washing our feet together. The children think it‘s fun. But I can’t handle all the other things that my husband imposes on us. I think he’s ill. I’ve become depressed, to the point that I can’t enjoy my children.”

Now this did have a profound effect on me. Here was a father who had undergone a transformative experience that had made him change his outlook on life, and his behaviour. That was fine for him as an individual, but it was not OK for the rest of family, and was making everyone so unhappy that it was influencing the children’s development. It made me think of Arthur.

A few years later I attended a residential training course where, God knows why, as an ‘icebreaker’ we had to sit in a circle and share with the group what animal we most identified with. I was one of the few men on the course, and as a joke told everyone I often saw myself as a large stallion. At the coffee break I found myself sitting on my own. At lunch I was still getting the cold shoulder, until I was joined by a very nice young psychotherapist. ”Cheer up,” she counselled,” I often feel I have a lot in common with either a black widow spider or, on a good day, a praying mantis.” We got to know each other quite well but, for obvious reasons, I was very careful that our relationship didn’t go beyond being ‘Very Good Friends’.

A decade later I had retrained as a teacher and was on a course called ‘Towards Deputy Headship.’ The course was run by a local head teacher who described some of his staff as being ‘passive aggressive.’ Apparently he was a massive fan of Star Trek. He attended all the conventions, had all the merchandize and after a hard day’s headteaching would often hop into his Star Trek outfit and sit in front of the video watching classic Trek episodes. He wasn’t in a relationship, though was ‘getting to know’ a lady he’d met at a convention who referred to herself as ‘Lieutenant Uhura’. There’s no harm in that, you might think. But sometimes his enthusiasm for all things Star Trek had an impact on those around him. One World Book Day, for example, our intrepid Head, (Let’s call him ‘James Kirk’ or ‘Jim’ as he preferred to be known), decided that the Year Sixes were going to transform the hall into the USS Enterprise and all the staff were going to dress up as the cast of Star Trek. None of the staff wanted to play ball, apart from the caretaker, who spent the day being chased around the playground or terrifying the children in nursery, dressed in a Klingon outfit. There’s a fine line between enjoying role-play and allowing your fantasy to leak into real life, and ‘Jim’ had crossed that line.

Enter The Bronies, AKA ‘Bro of The Ponies’; i.e. men who like to dress up as their favourite My Little Pony character. What is it all about? Is it just youngsters having harmless fun (like the crowd of young women in Belfast I saw dressed up as fairies on a hen night). Or is there something slightly creepy about it? Watch this clip about the annual PonyCon convention and then make up your own mind.

 4  5

Bronies: harmless fun or WTF?*

(*‘This is making me slightly uncomfortable’)

It’s fun to belong to a club, where you can get together with a group of like-minded people who share the same interest: vintage MGs , Harley Davidsons, even going round taking snaps of obscure parts of the UK so that every square inch of our fair isle has been photographed. But sometimes these ‘special interests’ can become obsessions and take over, and reality becomes distorted. Being a member of The Sealed Knot which involves re-enacting great battles from British history, does not automatically mean you are going to go for a swift half down The King’s Head dressed as a Roundhead (but it just might if your hold on reality is a bit wobbly.)


Sealed Knotters

But where do you stand on Cosplay? Is it just harmless fun where millions of Japanese youngsters, and increasing numbers of teens across the world, dress up as their favourite cartoon characters and get together to make friends, show off their costumes and have a laugh together?

 7  8

Cosplay: now that’s what I call ‘stretching your skill set’

And have you come across AGSM (American Girl Stop Motion)? Is that just great fun, and a vehicle for teenage girls to hone their filmmaking and scriptwriting ‘skill set’? Or is it all about teens who haven’t grown up and who have developed a sophisticated outlet for what is, essentially, an urge to hide in their bedrooms playing with their dollies? Again, you decide.

And what about Furries? These are, in essence, people who like to dress up as large cuddly cartoon animals. They do it in their own homes, with costumes they have designed themselves, or bought at great expense. They might get together with a few other Furries and even attend conventions, where they have a lot of fun together, but remain anonymous (if a little hot and sweaty) inside their suits. For some Furries, it allows them to make contact with other humans who might otherwise feel uncomfortable about communicating. Unless, that is, you are ‘Sieris the Stalion’ (sic) from Brighton’ who wrote the following in response to an item on the BBC News website:

‘Personally I love being a fur as it allows me to express my personality in a way that is not possible in mainstream society. As such it is incredibly liberating and has taught me a lot about myself and others, as well as rekindling my interest in art. I would also like to add that I have also learnt from my character and incorporated some of his positive aspects into my own personality and thus make me a richer person overall. Although he may not be real he lives in me and I believe I’m a better person for it.’ I’m pretty sure that Sieris would have sat next to me after that disastrous icebreaker experience.

Ylvis: May the Furs be with you.

And finally there are the Otherkin. As far as I understand it, Otherkin see themselves as partially or wholly non-human. They might believe that they are in reality an animal, while many identify themselves as a mythical creature (angels, demons, dragons, elves, fairies, sprite and aliens are popular).

Let’s leave them with a quote from Wikipedia:

Outside viewers may have varying opinions about people who identify as Otherkin, ranging from considering them animal-human relationship pioneers, to psychologically dysfunctional. Reactions often range from disbelief to aggressive antagonism, especially online’


Otherkin: An ‘animal-human relationship pioneer?’ I’m not saying anything

Lulu, I’m a Tiger: an anthem for Otherkin?

Mud, 1974: Tiger Feet. Now I understand!

What am I trying to say? The Furries and the Cosplayers and the American Dollies are having fun, but may also attract certain vulnerable teens and adults (possible with social communication difficulties). But if everyone has fun and there’s no exploitation, then I guess it’s not so much different from spending your weekends pretending to kill Cavaliers with a pikestaff or dressing up as an engine driver and being a volunteer on the local steam railway. It’s a role that you play and it serves a social function. But if you believe that you are an Ancient Briton and live out your ancient lifestyle in modern-day London, then your family, and especially your children, are going to have a problem, because Daddy has crossed the line between fantasy and reality.

What about this lot? Otherkin? Furries? People who are losing their grip on reality? Or just typical British youngsters trying to recreate the worst excesses of their parents in the 1970s? You decide.

I really love your tiger light!

Take very great care out there!


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