King tiger, Netflix’s Stranger-Than-Fiction documentary is a real phenomenon. The seven-episode series, currently in the lead List of the 10 most watched content on Netflix, returned on Sunday with an eighth episode: an aftershow titled The tiger king and me. Since King tiger became an overnight success amid COVID-19 social distancing, McHale conducted wrap-up interviews with the documentary’s subjects from his couch, via video chat. The result is an attempt at a messy closure for what was ultimately a very messy series.
King tiger has been fairly criticized for focusing on Joe Exotic’s outsized personality rather than the real victims of his toxic personality, and The Tiger King and I sounds like a response to that criticism, shifting attention to the people in Joe’s orbit who have been most affected by his actions. Neither Joe Exotic nor his nemesis Carole Baskin were interviewed for the aftershow, and fellow big cat owner Doc Antle is also absent. In attendance: former employees of Joe Erik Cowie, Saff Saffery and John Reinke; its campaign manager, Joshua Dial; her ex-husband John Finlay; its web series producer Rick Kirkham; and the new owners of his zoo, Jeff and Lauren Lowe. All of them share more details about life with Joe Exotic and what followed.
As an interviewer, McHale valiantly attempts to distinguish between sympathizing with the subjects of the documentary and joking about the absurdity of their lives as depicted in King tiger. The shifting tone is a bit jarring, but the comedian’s is so supernatural charming that it’s not as off-putting as it could have been. McHale’s easy confidence also seems to help the documentary’s less flamboyant subjects feel comfortable opening up. Most of them didn’t expect the kind of fame that the most popular documentary of all time (according to McHale) would bring them. Several interviewees note that they can’t even do a quick run at Walmart without being stopped by a fan of the series. “They don’t care about COVID,” says former zoo director John Reinke. “They want to shake your hand.”
Walmart’s fame isn’t the only thing the King tiger subjects agree, however. By the way reactions on social networks, almost everyone who watches King tiger thinks Joe is a bad person, but it almost sounds like passive acceptance. It’s as if his violent outbursts are just another weird facet of his weird persona. But according to those who worked with him, Joe Exotic was even worse than the documentary suggested.
In one of the most heart-wrenching moments of the post-show, former chief zookeeper Erik Cowie shares that he was the one who had to put the tigers to rest – some of them were healthy young adults health – before Joe euthanized them to make room for more kittens. “These cats trusted me all the way,” says Cowie. And Rick Kirkham, who lived on the grounds of the zoo while filming a Joe Exotic TV show, remembers Joe once promised a woman that he would take his aging horse and let him live the rest of his life. at the zoo. As soon as she left the parking lot, however, Joe shot the horse down and fed the meat to his tigers. (Kirkham also drops that Joe was actually terrified of his big cats and never approached them unless they were tranquilized or otherwise weakened.)
It doesn’t seem like Joe was nicer to his human associates. John Reinke remembers Joe constantly saying that Reinke would never be able to run the zoo on his own. “He’s always tried to keep everyone smaller than him,” says Reinke. Joshua Dial, who saw Joe’s husband Travis Maldonado accidentally shoot himself in the head, has never had access to mental health resources and is always saving money for counseling. Erik Cowie was even more succinct, stating simply: “[Joe Exotic] was an asshole, man.
One of the questions McHale asks almost everyone (as well as “Who should you play in a King tiger adaptation? Was whether Joe Exotic should be in jail. The result is a unanimous “Yes”. Saff Saffrey, however, is the only one to give Joe any mercy. Saffrey was hailed as the true hero of the series – her calm demeanor in the face of everything from gender inequality to losing her arm in a tiger attack, in stark contrast to Joe’s mania. Even agreeing that justice has been served, Saffrey doesn’t want Joe to die in prison. Quoting the free Thanksgiving dinners that Joe gave to his community, he said, “Joe did a lot of messed up stuff, and it’s a fact… but he also did a lot of good stuff.”
Some of the directors’ choices in the original seven episodes of King tiger feeling a little disgusting, like spending an entire episode making the case that Carole Baskin killed her husband and showing footage of Joshua Dial witnessing Travis Maldonado’s death. But the aftershow brings a bit of catharsis. It’s uncomfortable to remember the depths of Joe Exotic’s cruelty, but it’s an important reminder, especially since King tiger memes are flooding social media. The memes won’t stop, but it’s best to let the people whose lives touched Joe Exotic the most have the final say. And it’s uplifting to see them seemingly long after leaving Joe’s toxic orbit, especially her ex-husband John Finlay, who was disappointed that the show portrayed him as a drugged highlander. (In The tiger king and me, he wears a shirt and sports new teeth, which is in stark contrast to his shirtless and toothless interviews on the show.)
Just like King tiger, The tiger king and me is messy, and it never completely settles on a tone. But that rightfully shifts the focus to the real heroes of the story – the underpaid zookeepers who seem to be the only people who genuinely care about animal welfare. King tigerThe inheritance of will probably be complicated. Like a lot of real crime and reality TV, it’s undeniably compelling while still being quite exploitative. The aftershow doesn’t dampen those instincts, but without Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin taking up so much space, the last thing viewers have left is a glimpse of the fallout from their feud.
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