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Image / Living / Culture

Tiger King 2: ‘A toxic TV mess that gives airtime to the deluded’


By Amanda Cassidy
21st Nov 2021
Tiger King 2: ‘A toxic TV mess that gives airtime to the deluded’

Spoiler Alert

We just can’t help ourselves, can we? Present company included, of course. The sequel to the lucrative Tiger King obsession rumbles on, with a Netflix drop of the audacious characters we rubbernecked all through series 1.

And it’s a total mess.

Welcome to the slow car-crash of all that’s wrong with glorifying those willing to do anything for their 15 minutes of fame.

Tiger King 2 continues where the first season left off, examining the turbulent world of private zoos and the…colourful people who are involved.

Arguably the flamboyant Tiger King became a ratings hit in the early days of lockdown (remember back when it was two weeks to flatten the curve?) because there wasn’t much else going on.

The world tuned into the story of the country-music wannabe star slash eccentric exotic animal zookeeper Joe Maldonado-Passage aka Joe Exotic.  He ended up in jail on charges of animal abuse and a murder-for-hire plot to kill his arch rival in the Big Cat world, Carole Baskin.

Plot-twist – Carole’s former husband Don Lewis who went missing a few years back is now rumoured to have been killed and fed to lions. Or he’s alive having absconded to Costa Rica with his 15-year-old girlfriend.

The documentary uncovers disturbing testimony about money laundering, mafia connections, bribes, threats and the illegal sale of wild animals.

Still with me?

Exploitation

There’s no denying that the series was entertaining if somewhat horrific. But the treatment of animals and outrageous behaviour of some of the ‘cast’ were standout, I’d-rather-forget moments and that often gets lost.

But, as the Boston Globe put it, part two of the show is not true crime so much as truly a crime.

The problems is that this is exploitation masquerading as entertainment. It is creating a platform for us to rubberneck those who are prepared to do anything for attention. 

Seeming to double-down on the shady nature of those involved in the exotic animal industry, the documentary makers interview Joe Exotic who has now been in prison for almost three years, the grieving daughters of Don Lewis and even a psychic investigator who cries when he discovers an empty packet of chicken.

Another person who testified against Joe Exotic is filmed riding his jet ski in slow motion and Carole Baskin takes part in Dancing with the Stars to the song ‘Eye of the Tiger’.

The problems is that this is exploitation masquerading as entertainment. It is creating a platform for us to rubberneck those who are prepared to do anything for attention – a reward for outrageous misbehaviour.

They are the dancing monkeys and we’re firing the shots at the ground.

Sociology

Part two of the series of Tiger King tries desperately to get a presidential pardon for the troubled Joe Exotic but to no avail. The ‘new revelations’ uncovered in the second series may indeed result in a second trial, but it shows that most involved are prepared to change their story on a whim.

It also highlights the abhorrent mistreatment of these beautiful animals – something that shouldn’t be rewarded.

This isn’t the story of an exotic zoo or conservationalism. It isn’t true crime or a mystery to solve. It isn’t the story of who killed Carol’s second husband or if Joe will get out of jail.

This is a fascinating, can’t-look-away study in social science – a documentary about the very worst parts of humanity – faux-patriotism, misogyny, double-crossing, greed, animal exploitation and mistreatment. It’s about rewarding those who’ve jumped on the bandwagon of this circus. It’s the glorification of the most despicable of human behaviour.

Tiger King 2 is about the ethically challenged seeking out fame and fortune in a bizarre series of scenes each more questionable than the next.

Yes, it is addictive and dare we say, even entertaining, despite the tragedy of such epic human short fallings.

But the niggling feeling of consuming such toxic tripe can’t fail but leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Image via Netflix