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Image / Editorial

I finally binge-watched Tiger King and I have many, many thoughts


by Grace McGettigan
03rd Apr 2020
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Seven episodes later, my head is reeling with thoughts about Tiger King


Everyone kept telling me to watch it. “Grace, it’s crazy, you have to see it,” they’d say. “It’s bananas, but in a good way”.

I resisted for a while for fear it would upset me. I’m the type of person who cries more when an animal dies than when a human does. Knowing that Netflix’s Tiger King involved scenes of caged animals and animal abuse, I wasn’t sure if my sensitive disposition could handle it.

And then quarantine happened. Coronavirus struck and I had nothing to do but stay in my room and watch Netflix. Every time I logged in, Tiger King was ranked ‘number one – most-watched in Ireland’. I decided to bite the bullet and press play. A few short hours later, I had binge-watched the entire thing. People weren’t lying when they said it was mad.

Tiger King

Throughout seven turbulent episodes, Tiger King documents the behind-the-scenes reality of America’s big cat owners. Joe Exotic (real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage), operates a big cat park in Oklahoma, where he charges people to see and pet tiger cubs. When the cubs grow up, they are moved to cages where they are bred to give birth to more cubs… and so the cycle continues.

Joe’s business venture (which grew in popularity following his discovery of social media), earns him thousands of dollars. But like any business, he has competition, and he wants to take that competition out.

Enter “that b*tch” Carole Baskin, a Florida woman with her own big cat park. Throughout Tiger King, we see Joe and Carole’s rivalry heat up (and then some). Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something else happens to make you go, “what the…?” Here are some of the many thoughts I had while watching the Netflix hit:

Carole ‘hypocrite’ Baskin. 

I understand why Carole Baskin hates Joe Exotic. His misogyny is sickening and his treatment of animals is worse. But, while she’s giving out about him keeping tigers in a cage, does she realise that she too is keeping tigers in a cage? Pot. Kettle. Black.

Joe’s eyebrow ring is attempting to escape.

The flight-risk eyebrow ring is just one of the zoo owner’s many piercings, including a Prince Albert in his nether regions.

Saff went back to work after how long?! 

Saff, who is one of Joe’s zookeepers, had his arm mauled by a tiger after putting it through a cage. Surgeons said they could repair the damage with two years of complex surgeries, or else it would have to be amputated. Saff chose amputation and returned to work just five days after the incident. He blamed himself for what happened and didn’t want to cause a fuss by dragging things out (surgically or legally). Anyone else would have taken Joe to court.

Sardine oil, eh, Carole? 

For someone who absolutely did not kill her husband and/or feed his body to a tiger, Carole Baskin sure knows a lot about how to turn people into tasty tiger snacks.

Is… is that really Joe singing?

Aside from all of the animal abuse and gun-fire, what really elevates Tiger King to Crazyville is the fact that Joe Exotic’s side-hustle is country singing. It’s like that episode of Friends when Phoebe’s Smelly Cat music video featured a voice-over woman. I just don’t know whether it’s really him or not.

Whoever burned down the alligator studio can go to hell. 

In 2015, seven alligators and one crocodile were killed in an arson attack at Joe’s GW Zoo. It is still unknown who started the studio fire (with some people suspecting Joe himself), but whoever it was, they did so intentionally. I hope karma catches up with them.

Wait, so neither of Joe’s husbands are gay?

First I had to Google whether or not polygamy was legal in the state of Oklahoma (it’s not) when Joe married both John Finlay and Travis Maldonado in a three-way ceremony. But then to find out neither of these men is actually gay, and that they only married Joe because he supplied them with drugs? Mind-blowing. I almost feel sorry for Joe that his relationship was a lie.

How are they getting away with this?

This is a question I asked myself a lot during Tiger King. Not only are the tiger cubs being taken from their mothers far too early (causing distress to both mom and babies), but they’re being forced to live in cramped, muddy cages with hardly enough food. It’s horrifying.

What’s worse, Joe Exotic isn’t the only culprit. To see Jeff Lowe squeezing live tigers into suitcases, wheeling them through a hotel lobby so that they can be petted by women in a hotel suite makes me sick.

They’re all as bad as each other. 

Doc Antle, Allen Glover, Jeff Lowe and James Garretson are all as bad as each other. Not only do they treat animals appallingly (and/or stand by while someone else treats them appallingly), but they’re also only concerned about money and boosting their own egos. Who are they to criticise Joe and Carole?

Why is he on a jetski? 

James Garretson taking a break from his interview to ride a jetski to Eye Of The Tiger was possibly one of the weirdest cut-scenes I’ve ever watched. What was the point of that montage, Netflix? What was the point?

Surely there’s going to be a ‘Part 2’?

There are too many questions left unanswered. What names has Joe given to PETA and the FBI? Where is Carole’s husband, Don Lewis? Who burned down the alligator studio? Where are all of the tigers now, and are they okay?

My head is still reeling after seven episodes of Tiger King, yet still, I need more. Hopefully we won’t have long to wait.

Feature photo: Tiger King, Netflix


Read more: 5 of the best new Netflix documentaries to watch in April

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