Quality bogan absurdity

Joe Exotic, the eponymous Tiger King and one of his rugs in waiting. Photo: Supplied
Joe Exotic, the eponymous Tiger King and one of his rugs in waiting. Photo: Supplied
Predictably enough, the world’s top distraction during these extraordinary times has been a one-season, seven-episode, meth-fuelled, lion-pitted ode to craziness, writes Kate Oktay.

Kate Oktay
Kate Oktay
Tiger King. It’s almost certainly the result of an algorithm.

I had watched the trailer, mesmerised, months ago. Part documentary, part reality television with American-brand, cashed-up bogans. The preview culminated in a low budget, crooner-cowboy music video that won me over completely. This was supremely awful, and I needed to watch it.

"Look at this ... it is actually ... just watch it," I said to my husband, opening the trailer. My eyes shining, I sang along, "I saw a tigeeerrrr. And tiger saw a maaaan". My husband did not sing along. He looked at me with a face that said "Why did I marry this person?" and said, "Stupid Americans. We are not watching that".

And then I spent the past three weeks listening to how crazy/fantastic/so-bad-it-was-good from everyone I had ever met. I showed my husband text messages that raved and rated the greatness, while he looked on with something bordering on contempt.

And then, the universe/The Weekend Mix gave me the best excuse I would ever have. A weekend of Tiger King. A glorious weekend, where I can tell a sort of truth and say I am working, while I sloth around in bed eating chips and watching pure rubbish.

"So annoying! I really can’t be bothered writing this column," I lie, as I walk into the bedroom, my face metamorphosing from mock sadness to absolutely beaming as soon as my back is turned.

"She can’t come, I yell to my husband when my daughter walks in the room. It is inappropriate for children."

Gleefully, I wriggle under the duvet. I could almost cry with happiness at the lovely mixture of solitude, terrible television, and junk food in bed, and all under the wondrous pretence of work.

"This is going to be the dumbest-best thing I have ever seen," I text my friend, gloating.

"The cat is OK," I yell.

"Settle in," I tell her, pointing at the tigers. "This is going to be inspirational."

The cat, relieved to be away from the threat of dress-ups, being shown drawings of wolves, and jammed into a pram with a teddy bear, purrs with delight.

The subject of the series, Joe Exotic, owns a zoo, but if you are thinking Orana Park, that is the wrong mental image. Instead, imagine a loud, mad, American bogan who, one day, despite being unqualified and who probably can’t read, thinks "S***, I might buy a tiger", and then it just spirals out of control.

Joe gets into a war with a woman called Carol Baskin who wears bejewelled garlands and interior decorates with various shades of neon animal print. Carol is less of a bogan, but a thousand times more irritating, and also owns a zoo, but calls it an animal rescue centre. This is where it starts, and it gets more bonkers by the moment.

The sheer insanity is hard to encapsulate in a few words, but one scene sums it up nicely. A worker at Joe’s zoo got their arm ripped off by a tiger. Joe rushes to help, but first he puts on a fetching leather jacket with a paramedic symbol on the back, so he can really look the part while pulling the tourniquet tighter. When the worker is taken away in an ambulance to have their arm amputated Joe tells the staff, "I’ll never recover from this financially". Joe is one of the more likeable characters.

If you want distraction — well-made, brain melting, bogan-based distraction that will keep you away from the fridge for just over 40 minutes at a time — Tiger King is your go to. It will also be a pleasing confirmation that removing your eyebrow ring 15 years ago was the right choice.


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