(FAIR WARNING: Spoilers ahead)
The Fog of War. Hoop Dreams. The Thin Blue Line.
At their very best, documentaries can teach us how to see the world through a new prism. They challenge our commonly held assumptions. They find bravery or beauty in the mundane and even the grotesque.
This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that kind of enlightenment awaits viewers of Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Madness and Mayhem. It does not. Filmmaker Eric Goode puts forth a game effort at trying to string together the saga of Joe Exotic and his antagonists into some kind of coherent arc. Ultimately, that proves tantamount to making pizza out of a dumpster full of Wal-Mart’s discarded meat.
Instead, the docu-series is a ramshackle orgy – quite literally, in some cases – of the twisted and the absurd from the life of the one-time candidate for governor of Oklahoma.
So let’s celebrate Tiger King for what it really is with a list of its top 10, um, things.
But first, here’s our Honorable Mention list:
His music videos (other than “Here Kitty Kitty):
Woman losing her upper arm to a tiger and showing up back at work less than a week later. A true team player.
Joe responding to the accident with, “I’m never gonna financially recover from this”.
Jeff Lowe’s unflinching commitment to the bandana/hat combo.
Carole Baskin suggesting that one should cover someone in sardine oil if they wanted the person to be attacked by a tiger.
Joe’s presidential and gubernatorial runs:
Joe hopping on his four-wheeler to view a tornado (the most Oklahoma moment of the series):
10 - Don Lewis
Unfortunately, we never actually get to meet the man described by his family as a “sexaholic” with a “green thumb for money.” Joe Exotic claims Don Juan is marinating in the septic tank beneath Carole Baskin’s house. Me? I like to think he’s chilling down in Costa Rica with Wife No. 6 right now using his gold bricks as paper weights.
9 - An alleged murder-for-hire plot was apparently foiled because the hit man drove hundreds of miles out of the way to go to a strip club
I guess that’s what you get for supposedly hiring an animal park handyman to do your dirty work. (And why did he do an interview while taking a bath in shorts? A Never Nude, perhaps?)
I really don’t think think enough has been made of the fact that these idiots were discussing some kind of slapdash assassination plan on camera. Speaking of which...
8 - James Garretson
I’m honestly not sure what role Mr. Garretson played in this operation, aside from being super excited to insinuate himself into a litany of felonies. Damn if I’m not thrilled that he did, though.
Seriously, his office consisted of a lemur and a shelf full of ceiling fans. We need more information.
More from Big Jim in a bit.
7 - “Beautiful, Wild and Free”
Listen up, you cool cats and kittens. Mr. Exotic’s soulful crooning has gone viral, but don’t sell short on the Big Cat Rescue theme song by recording artist Terez.
AND TO BE IN THEIR PRESENCE
CAN BRING YOU TO YOUR KNEES!!!
This shit is nearly five minutes long.
6 - Exotic animals as aphrodisiacs
Is this really a thing? And did anyone get the impression that the director was, like, way into it? Some of the shots of people frolicking in pools with tigers had a distinct HBO-late-night aesthetic.
5 - Ziplining tragedy
OK, so, homeboy worked with tigers at a zoo for decades – and that’s not how he lost both his legs? I realize there was a lot going on here, but this ziplining accident wasn’t discussed enough.
4 - James Garretson on a jet ski
I can’t decide if this was meant to be a fitting end to Garretson’s chapter in this story or teasing a spinoff series about his adventures in the pawn shop world.
3 - “Here Kitty Kitty”
The coldest diss track since “Hit ‘Em Up.”
Why is Joe dressed like a priest? We’ll come back to that.
2 - Carole and Howard Baskin’s wedding photos
I bet you missed these in the third episode, didn’t you?
Carole’s third wedding showed us a new side of seemingly mild-mannered Howie — one featuring him as a kinky Fred Flintstone. It appears he dressed in a tiger print loin cloth for the ceremony. In the shot above, it looks like he’s paying homage to the demise of his bride’s previous marriage. Oh, and there’s Carole leading him around on a leash:
Beautiful, wild and free indeed.
1 - The funeral
The top spot really couldn’t go to anything else.
In one of the series’ most provocative scenes, Joe donned his priest garb to officiate the funeral of one of his husbands, Travis Maldonado. During the eulogy, Joe lauded Maldonado’s testicles.
A fitting tribute.