If you have ears, eyes, or a Netflix subscription someone has already told you that you need to watch Tiger King.
For the record, they’re right. But I’m not going to repeat the thousands of calls to action across Twitter, Reddit, and the rest of the Internet because I don’t have to.
You should watch “Tiger King,” yes, but you shouldn’t do it because it’s a fascinating look into the world of exotic animal collection. Don’t watch it because the characters are insane or because animals are mistreated or because the world is screaming about it.
Watch it to utilize your imagination.
This sounds like a crazy concept but “Tiger King” is a thought exercise. Whether or not you’ve seen the show, think of the craziest lie you can about anything. Then apply it to Joe Exotic. You’ll find two things:
First, it kind of fits. It’s not true, but it could be. If you told someone that amazingly crazy lie about any Tiger King character, they’d probably believe you. Go ahead and try it if you’d like. I texted my partner and told them Joe Exotic was camming from prison and they said, “Yeah, I’m not surprised by that.”
Secondly, it makes the world fall away around you. It’s the reality television effect; when your lie inevitably fits, you realize you are now watching something so incredibly strange and distant from your own life that nothing happening in your life could possibly seem crazy anymore.
Picture your life at Xavier University. Maybe you wake up in the morning, go to the Caf for breakfast, go to classes, study with friends, and then go to sleep.
Picture your life quarantined wherever you might be, where you do the same things but from inside your home.
Now imagine your life as a private zoo owner. Imagine waking up in the morning and hoping that none of your employees are bitten by an actual tiger. Imagine filming a diss-video about a rival big cat owner. Imagine eating dinner with a journalist and threatening to murder another human being because they don’t like how you handle your tigers.
Quarantining seems a little bit less crazy afterward.
I’m not saying that the life of Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, or Dr. Antle is glamorous. It is decidedly not. But I’m willing to bet that it is so far from your own life it will make something seem normal by comparison.
I can’t review Tiger King like a normal piece of art because right now, it doesn’t function like a normal piece of art. It is a parallel universe, a world of obscenity, mystery, wild animals, polyamory, and all-around unfamiliarity. It is a window into something that seems a little crazier than moving back into your parents’ house during college.
We can’t distract ourselves from the world around us forever, but it’s not always a bad thing to take yourself away from the stress of our new normalcy. Tiger King is a piece of absurdist Americana and, during a crazy time, its craziness helps us put our new lives into perspective.
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