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Eight life lessons we learned while watching 'Tiger King'

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

Tiger King, the truly bonkers new Netflix docu-series about the world of roadside zoos and the outrageous personalities that run them, has whipped up so many memes in such little time, it truly has taken our isolated lives by force.

The show centers around the eccentric and sometimes disturbing persona of Joe Exotic, the owner of the G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma.

Yes, the first episode can be a bit of a speed bump that isn't easy to traverse for newcomers to this flashy world, but we promise, give it more time and you'll be hooked.

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There is a lot to unpack from the seven-episode show, so we've pulled out eight life lessons Tiger King has taught us. Warning: spoilers below.

1. There is no such thing as bad press

Joe Exotic twists and turns every situation in his favor, from losing a gubernatorial race (yes, he actually, woefully, ran for governor of Oklahoma) to having his alligators burned to death in a fire on his property. We're not sure if this is absolutely a good quality, but whatever comes his way, he can spin it to his own benefit.

2. "Everybody’s got a past"

No one is who they seem to be in Tiger King. Take Carole Baskins. Is she really the animal rights advocate she claims to be? Why is she under scrutiny for the disappearance of her first husband? Joe's ex-husband, John Finlay, even has his tattoo (which says he was "privately owned by Joe Exotic") covered up. It's the perfect metaphor for Exotic's own quote, "Everybody's got a past."

3. A tiger will never be a house cat

As much as they act like big cats are under their thumb, these tiger owners can't escape the fact that these are wild animals. We see this when Joe Exotic is dragged by one of his cats or when a tiger rips a worker's arm clear off her body. Word to the wise: don't try to pretend something is what it really isn't!

4. Maybe don't take things to the next level

Joe Exotic never fails to cross the line. He grabs an EMS bomber jacket before responding to a worker's arm being ripped off. Someone is fighting for animal rights? Threaten to kill them! Hell, why not run for president? One thing we can all take away from this is the world is crazy as it is, don't add to it by amping it up.

5. Anyone can be a hero

Who'd have thought that we'd root for James Garretson, the former strip club owner and big cat enthusiast with a bowl cut? We almost immediately hate him when he comes on the scene as a backer for Joe Exotic's zoo, but when he becomes an FBI informant, we almost want to see him succeed. The montage of him zooming around on a jet ski is majestic, befitting a hero. It just goes to show you that heroes can rise out of any situation.

6. Everyone can be a villain

That being said, Garretson still has his vices and is shady at best. In fact, there's really not a single person on Tiger King who hasn't done something questionable or even downright horrible, including breeding big cats to sell them on the black market, luring in young adults into their cult-like compounds, and working on a murder for-hire plot. Even though we want to find a hero in all of this, don't look too hard or you'll be severely disappointed.

7. Don’t underestimate how crazy things can get

You thought the first episode was nuts? Hold on to your 40-gallon cowboy hat. Just when things seem to be too much, Joe Exotic and his peers keep the crazy train rolling. Just keep your eyes open and let it unfurl before you like the hot garbage fire that it is.

8. Tiger King is the distraction we all need

Look, life is crazy enough as it is right now, and sometimes the best thing we can do for our sanity is to take a mini, mental vacation from all the bad news and focus on something that is so far out of our reality that it acts as a distraction. We're not promoting an abandonment of reality, but you might want to tune into someone else's life for a bit.

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