Review: The Tiger King and I

Film editor Lucy Lillystone gives her thoughts on Netflix hit Tiger King and the after show special.

Lucy Lillystone
18th April 2020
Credit: Netflix, IMDb
Hey all you cool cats and kittens, Lucy Lillystone here (Carole Baskin's a bit busy feeding her husband to the tigers) to tell you all about the new Tiger King episode...

No, in all seriousness, Tiger King has become viral recently on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok... you name it, the docuseries has become a meme that we're taking full advantage of to entertain us during the current pandemic and provide some lighthearted fun. From Tik Tok dances of CAROLE BASKIN, killed her, husband, WHACKED 'EM (please google this if you don't understand this reference, it is iconic) to dressing up as Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin themselves, the docuseries is an internet sensation.

If you don't already know of the docuseries (how - do you live under a rock?) or haven't had the chance to watch it yet, Tiger King tells the story of a wild animal trade through the narrative of Joseph "Joe Exotic" Maldonado-Passage and his business partners, nemeses and three heterosexual husbands. It explores mullets, animal abuse, cultish manipulation, leopard print and of course the narrative of did Carole Baskin really feed her husband to the tigers?

And with the success of the series, the producers decided to make an extra episode in which Joel McHale video-calls from the comfort of his home some of the main figures in the show including Saffery and the tiger attack that resulted in his arm being amputated, Reinke, Dial and Cowie.

Credit: Netflix, IMDb

However, for me, this extra episode was unnecessary and highly disappointing. Joel spends too much time on jokes and not enough time asking the real questions, like where did Jeff Lowe's money come from or what it was like being married to Exotic. Joel also spends a lot of time speculating over who would play the people in the show if the docuseries ever became a movie which the many threads of Twitter are more than enough.

The extra episode is also missing the main figures - Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin and Doc Antle. To be completely honest, I was bored watching the episode and I truly wish they wouldn't make a movie as from the looks of this bonus content, it really would not be needed or necessary despite the hype surrounding the series currently.

The serious morals and ethical issues are pushed aside in favour of the humour of Joe attempting to kill Baskin and the comic songs

And while Tiger King is funny and the memes do provide entertainment, in my opinion, the show fails to succeed in highlighting the abuse of these wild cats. While we get the abusive scenes, the end message of the amount of tigers that are in captivity in relation to those in the wild, free to roam and live, the abusive sexual relationships, drugs, guns, embezzlement, attempted murder, smuggling, exploitation and abuse feels tacked on and unimportant. The serious morals and ethical issues are pushed aside in favour of the humour of Joe attempting to kill Baskin and the comic songs (I won't lie though, I saw a tiger is extremely catchy). While the show does cauterise disgust and repulse, it is in passing and before you know it you're laughing again, sending memes to your friends and for that, I think the popularity of the show has dissipated the true message surrounding the abuse and exploitation of these cats.

Credit: Netflix, YouTube

There is also the question of whether Tiger King is biased toward certain people. And usually, when it comes to a docuseries, you tend to align yourself with one figure in the show. However, Tiger King is different in that from start to finish, I didn't really like any of them. Both Baskin and Exotic are as bad as each other as are the people who surround them. While they both think they're helping these animals, they're both as abusive as each other. I will never forget the scene of the monkey wanting to escape the cage and Exotic telling us when the monkey was put with the other monkey, they went straight to each other to hug. It's heartbreaking to watch and listen to.

Ultimately, I recommend watching Tiger King if only to keep up with the internet. It will provide the entertainment at the time and probably well after once you start singing and watching Tik Toks. Although, don't bother with the extra episode - it will send you to sleep. But, remember, these animals don't deserve the abuse they receive in this show and do not condone the behaviour of Exotic and Baskin, despite the humour they provide.

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AUTHOR: Lucy Lillystone
English Language and Literature graduate, writer and Film Editor 2019/20. Passionate about film, TV and books. 99.9% of my articles are me crying, emotional over my love for my favourite characters. Twitter: @lucylillystone_

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