Of course I watched it. And I laughed really hard. Tiger King is the best mockumentary since Spinal Tap. All mockumentaries rely on filming the Dunning-Kruger Effect, the gap between someone’s perceived competence and their actual competence. All the principle characters are not in on the Joke:
Joe Exotic is a lunatic, a narcissist, a man who uses tigers to become famous. He’s also dumber than a sack of hammers, and his own worst enemy.
Doc Antle is every fat kid who figured out that girls like fluffy animals, and thought that would make him a sex god. He’s also possibly dumber than Joe, who at least knew the documentary was about him.
Tim Stark is a pustule of incoherent rural rage at the duplicity and tyranny of the ruling class. He knows who his enemies are, yet somehow puts himself in the path of their fist. One sympathizes, and one shakes his head.
Jeff Lowe is a snake, a void in the place of a man, a shuffling skeleton held together by his Redneck Emo wardrobe. He talks a mean game – you almost never see him incompetent on camera – but is ultimately a grifter, with a grifter’s indifference, and a grifter’s cruelty.
And Finally, That Bitch Carole Baskin is the fakest human being to ever walk the planet. She presents herself as Innocence Abused, and has the personality of a sock monkey. And yet, as her dweeb husband relates at the end of the first season, she is moving from victory to victory. She rises as the rest fall. They lose and she wins. This is not an accident. She has the right allies (The United States Government and PETA), and the right enemies, who are all dumber than her.
People dislike her because people like zoos, and they like zookeepers. They don’t like PETA, a bunch of connected vegan weenies who want to shame us into not having turkey at Thanksgiving. Baskin is on their side. Baskin is the soporific voice of the Do-Gooders who all collectively despise us. Joe Exotic might be a Tiger-killing degenerate meth-head, but he doesn’t sneer at us because we want to play with a tiger cub.
Before I go any further, let us stipulate that we shouldn’t be doing that. Tigers in captivity is not a thing that should be happening. Tigers are apex predators – more dangerous to humans than lions – and we should generally keep clear of them. We cannot keep them in captivity without exploiting them or being harmed by them. There shouldn’t be any in continental America. They don’t belong here.
And yet, who can fail to admire someone willing to demonstrate his power over nature in this way? To cage a tiger is to cage the world’s power to destroy us. And while that’s unwise, even blasphemous in a way, there’s something to it, something very human.
There’s a twist at the end of the last episode, which is all well and good, but the real twist of the real mystery got dropped halfway through. The Mystery, of course is “Did T.B. Carole Baskin kill her husband?”, and you will not get any new answers on the disappearance of Don Lewis from this season. You will only get new questions. But the reveal came when someone claiming to have been Don Lewis’ guide/driver casually mentions that he heard from his “contact in the CIA” that Lewis was under federal investigation.
Folks, there is no Don Lewis. Don Lewis is a ghost. He’s a spook, or spook-adjacent. He knew people who knew people. He was running money to Central America. He ain’t never gonna be found.
I don’t know if Baskin killed him, but she knows something she’s not telling. And the fact of her own alliance with the Government means she’s never gonna tell what she knows, no matter how many Internet Sherlocks sperg all over it. She dares not risk her own potential violations of law coming to the surface, to say nothing of getting Epsteined (“Did Don Lewis know Epstein?” is a question you will find yourself asking).
In any case, to watch this is to participate in a different kind of circus, one in which the show animals have a slightly higher level of consent (it is impossible to not feel pity for Don Lewis’ daughters). The tigers might get out of captivity; these clowns never will.