“Hey all you cool cats and kittens” is a phrase that is currently sweeping the globe, complete with memes and Tiktoks. Why? Because of the new Netflix special, ‘Tiger King’. (Be warned, insane spoilers ahead.)
The docuseries follows the turbulent lives of prominent big cat owners in the USA; namely the life of one Joe Exotic (Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage.)
It is hard to know where to begin an article on such a series of twisted events.
Following up from a highlight in a Louis Thereoux documentary, Joe Exotic came back bigger than ever. And, as some would say, crazier than ever. This episodic masterpiece begins slowly, gently easing the audience into one of the most dramatic rivalries of the age.
Another key player, Carole Baskin is a so-called animal rights activist with an addled history who has it out for the beloved reality TV star Joe Exotic. At first the audience is completely on Baskin’s side – until they find out that she probably fed her millionaire husband to their pet tigers. Talk about marriage problems.
If a missing husband, a gay country singing king and lawsuits were not enough to pique your interest, then what about a cult and a murder for hire plot? No? What about the possibility of seventy two years in jail for our king?
There’s no end to the plot twists in the newest viral trend. In the end however, the most important thing to take away from all of it is this: the animals are the ones that lost. While Baskin’s methods were questionable, as is her past, at least she was trying to have laws passed to ban the private ownership of exotic animals.
‘Tiger King’ is unique, there is no doubt about it. However it becomes easy to get lost in the footage of Joe Exotic shooting a sex doll dressed like Carole and forget that there are more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild.
Did I lure you into this article with false pretences? Absolutely. Yes, Joe Exotic managed to marry at least three men who were straight – at the same time. Yes, his friend, the mystical Doc Antle runs what is essentially a cult in a zoo. And yes, Joe was investigated by the federal government because he basically paid to have Carole Baskin killed, whether he was framed or not.
Sure, maybe Joe was the reason Carole woke up one morning to a mail box full of snakes and maybe one of Joe’s husbands left him for a woman; but as hilarious as all that is, it should not be what we take away from this documentary.
Joe Exotic, as well as a small band of other private owners (Carole most likely included), sold and bred hundreds of exotic animals and shipped them all over America – which is illegal by the way. Tigers were shot and buried when they were no longer small enough to be played with in malls. Lives were threatened and private ownership of wild animals was romanticised.
I don’t personally feel sorry for Joe, sitting in a cage of his own. I feel sorry for the mother of his late ex-husband Travis, who accidentally shot himself in Joe’s TV studio. I feel sorry for all the animals that were constantly exploited by these people for money and to boost their Tinder profiles. I feel sorry for the tiger cubs who were stuffed into suitcases and smuggled into a hotel, just so that someone could get laid.
Right now the legacy of ‘Tiger King’ is Facebook profile headers and the number one spot on Netflix. I admit that the series was a lighthearted break from everything that has been going on but there is a bigger picture here: and I’m not just talking about the one in which Joe is holding up a horse penis.
This man and the others like him do not deserve our attention. People should not be asking Trump to pardon Joe, but to instead do something about all the tigers running around in his country
The memes are funny but animals are legitimately suffering. It says something about us as human beings that we have become so desensitised to real issues that we find memes of Carole Baskin and her little bike more important than the fact that there are people slaughtering tigers for money. And are we all just seriously going to ignore the whole cult situation going on?
I am not claiming to be on an enlightened brain wave. I enjoyed the series so much that I watched it all over again the next day. It was only when I sat down to write a review on the show that I realised that hundreds of wild animals are still being kept in the back gardens of overcompensating people who want to feel powerful.
It is perfectly okay to enjoy the show, just be mindful of the underlying issue there. Something has to be done for all the exotic animals that are being kept in diapers and paraded around as photo props in malls. Laugh at the insane story of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin but keep your eyes on the skinny wild animals in the cages behind them.
Featured image credit: Deadline