Filling the Void: Tiger King Edition

Like nearly everyone else on the internet, I distracted myself from the still-growing pandemic this week by watching the incredibly entertaining and surreal documentary-series Tiger King. Like the charismatic star of the show, Joe Exotic, the story is a train wreck of ego, obscenity, and shamelessness that leaves you laughing and disgusted at the same time.

If you somehow haven’t heard of this show, I’m not going to summarize it for you. Instead I will give you almost everything you need in an introduction by showing you some pictures of Joe Exotic, every single one of which is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life:

Now I’m normally not one to advocate judging a book by its cover, but in this case it is entirely appropriate because the people presented in this documentary are anything but subtle. They constantly say the quiet part loud, film themselves committing crimes, and tattoo their identities on their loins.

In fact, these are people who are hell-bent on using outrageous external means to locate and project their inner selves. Here’s a quick-fire list of some more of those methods:

  1. Collecting and breeding hundreds of tigers.
  2. Talking in detail about your penis piercing when no one asked.
  3. Running a tiger-themed sex cult.
  4. Purchasing gratuitous amounts of firearms.
  5. Renting a mansion so people will think you’re rich.
  6. Calling yourself Bhagavan when your real name is Kevin.
  7. Decorating your entire home from floor to ceiling with tiger print (we get it, you like tigers).
  8. Recording lip-synched country music videos about petting tigers (we get it, you like tigers).
  9. Having both a soul-patch and ponytail (we get it, you like tigers).
  10. Running for president.

These are just some of the many colorful ways the main characters in the series attempt to fill the deep void in their hearts. The documentary does in fact explore some tragic and formative moments in the lives of both Joe Exotic and his bitter enemy Carole Baskin. I would wager that the other main characters in the documentary also have some personal trauma in their past. These people who are constantly bickering, suing, and attempting to kill each other, have more in common than they’d like to admit. They’re all trying to cover up their pain and insecurity with tigers (… or jet skis). 

But why tigers?

Because tigers are naturals at being everything that they feel that they are not—naturally powerful, beautiful, graceful, and dangerous. By owning them or associating with them, this ridiculous cast of criminal misfits think that they can harness some of that power. But here’s a tip for anyone thinking of buying a tiger: you won’t be gaining any power, you’ll only be robbing a tiger of it, and your inner void will remain. 

Now, it is easy to sit back watch this documentary from the comfort of your couch and think, “wow, these people are absolutely insane.” That is in fact essentially what I am doing right now.  Yet I want to point out that we all have a little Joe, or Bhagavan, or Carole inside of us.

Because who among us has not fantasized about owning exotic animals, joining a sex cult, or embarking on a country music career? Who among us!?

But the next time you start chasing one of those dreams, why not first stop and ask why? What’s that special void you’re trying to fill?

Perhaps it would be better to just watch a documentary, talk to a therapist, or write a song.

Not to brag or anything, but here is the music I wrote this week instead of buying animals on the deep web or joining any cults. Special thank you to my friend Brad Birge for laying down the tasty bass you hear on this track.

New Moon II — March 29, 2020