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7 Undeniable Life Lessons from ‘Tiger King’

Netflix's binge-worthy series packs some essential truths ... if you look hard enough

Joe Exotic -- docuseries superstar, tiger tamer … life coach?

Sounds implausible, no? Exotic (not his real name) is the star of Netflix’s new cultural sensation. “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” follows the eccentric trainer and his larger than life coterie.

The show must be seen to be believed. That’s not hyperbole.

Naturally, viewers across demographics are fixated on the seven-part docuseries. “Tiger King” consistently ranks in Netflix’s top 10 most viewed shows, and it may stay that way as the buzz spreads across social media.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness | Official Trailer | Netflix

Look closer, though. The series offers some important life lessons viewers should consider in between the jaw-dropping reveals.

SOME MILD ‘TIGER KING’ SPOILERS AHEAD

Loyalty Matters

Imagine having an employee lose a limb due to workplace negligence but punch the clock just a few days later.

How could you create that kind of loyalty in a worker? Even more shocking? Exotic’s employees endured lousy pay, lousier living conditions and who knows what psychological cruelty Exotic summoned on a daily basis.

Yet one zoo employee lost an arm and came back for more. Never, ever discount the power of loyalty.

Confidence Counts…

Try influencing friends and strangers alike the Joe Exotic way.

  • The mullet
  • The crazy outfits
  • The salty language
  • The curious people skills

You couldn’t do it. Exotic pulled it off. How?

It’s partly due to his unflagging self-confidence. Now, in his quietest moments he probably had profound doubts about both his empire and ability to manage it all.

His public persona never showed an ounce of defeatism. He stood confidently outside his zoo’s doors, ready to take on any challenge that came his way. And he succeeded far longer than anyone could have imagined.

…Talent? Not So Much

Exotic fancied himself a country crooner. Suffice to say his songs never graced any Billboard chart. He talked endlessly in front of TV cameras, but he never approached the level of a polished media presenter.

His fashion sense proved … problematic, and that’s being gracious.

‘Tiger King’: Joe Exotic’s Country Songs | RS News 3/26/20

None of that stopped him from achieving his primary goals. He ran a big cat zoo for years, sustaining his gig through a variety of cons and shrewd decisions.

He fancied himself a reality TV star. That only happened, though, when his entire world collapsed. 

Talent matters, of course, just not all the time.

Pick Your Battles

Team Exotic got hammered by fellow big cat enthusiast Carole Baskin in the court of law. She sued him for stealing her marketing materials and name, and even Saul Goodman couldn’t get him off the hook. Did Exotic back down? Of course not. You can’t find that quality anywhere in his outsized persona.

That decision cost him dearly.

'Tiger King' Subject Carole Baskin Slams Netflix Doc | News Flash | Entertainment Weekly

He eventually handed control of his empire to businessman Jeff Lowe, losing power over his singular accomplishment -- Greater Wynnewood Zoo.

Control the Narrative

The mainstream media once excelled at this task. Now, reporters have shed so much of their dignity, and credibility, that many Americans no longer trust them to set the narrative.

Exotic suffered from a similar problem, but he did everything possible to dictate how the public saw his life story. Disagree? He came in third in the primary during his unsuccessful run for governor of Oklahoma.

Third!

He ran as a Libertarian, and it’s unclear he even knew the party’s platform. Let that sink in.

Dominate the Digital Landscape

Exotic attempted to game the Google gods, and it partially worked. He reconfigured his big cat business’ name to sound similar to the phrase dominating the search engine rankings.

Voila! A rush of new web traffic. 

No matter what you think of Exotic, he grasped the power of both SEO and social media. His steady flow of videos and Facebook material kept fans engaged with his antics. Some even hungered for more.

Don’t Underestimate Your Enemies

The Hatfields and the McCoys. Superman and Lex Luthor. Tom and Jerry.

Now, we have Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin.

Baskin, a big cat supporter who loathed Exotic’s approach to these creatures, isn’t a supervillain. She still had all the resources required to make Exotic’s life miserable. And she did just that throughout the docuseries.

You could argue they needed each other on a certain level. Our rivals often push us to greatness. Baskin did much more to her fellow big cat enthusiast.

Exotic knew her powers, which is why he took the course of action that changed … everything.

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5 Comments

  1. This show is like watching the world’s most interesting train wreck. There is something profoundly wrong with all of these people, but their story is endlessly watchable. It reminds me of the films of Werner Herzog, who would invite us to watch with sad-eyed fascination as eccentric characters become consumed by their obsessions, and we think, “there but for the grace of God go I.”

  2. You couldn’t find a higher concentration of (functional) mental defectives in one place. Misfits, broken people, drug addicts and the criminally insane. That seems to be the case with all those who collect these weird animals and Ms. Baskin is no different, just more polished in her presentation. She reminds me of Hillary Clinton: “Me murder someone? Ahahahahaha!” Same disingenuous laugh. Very creepy.

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