The Tiger King's New Clothes



Ah, the first lockdown. Whipped coffee, botched haircuts and the topic of my article today: Tiger King. I personally watched the hit documentary series after seeing it so often online, and I quickly discovered why. These people were just mind blowing! Their world was so far removed from anything I’d ever seen, and really looked like something from a film (which I suppose was the aim). I digress, the tales spun, and scandals exposed paled in comparison to the fashion on the show. As someone who feels they have a pretty solid colour theme to stick to when dressing (black, white and red, if you’re curious), even I was blown away by these people’s dedication to their entire aesthetic.


In an attempt to review their fashion, let’s take a trip down memory lane, when a two-week lockdown seemed like a long time, and I was thinking about booking tickets to a concert in June 2020…


Joe Exotic.


Now, say what you’d like about Joe, he really knows how to dress to attract attention. This sequined blue shirt is a stunning piece that not many people could pull off, but, with many piercings and a, now surprisingly stylish mullet, he wears it well. In the series we can see that he is more relaxed when the press is away, relaxing in t shirts and jeans, but never without a hat and always in his signature piercings or cocky and loveable attitude. White jeans are an interesting look on anyone, especially someone who I imagine is around a lot of mud on a daily basis. Although if cats leave fur all over black jeans – does white keep Joe away from needing a lint roller? All questions I’m sure will be posed to him once he gets out of prison. And no! not for crimes on fashion! It’s for attempting to kill out next stylish member of the Tiger King Cast, our very own…


Carol Baskin.


Animal print for days all you cool cats and kittens! Animal print has been a recurring theme in fashion, becoming vintage and modern faster than the tigers are bred in these big cat parks! (just a little joke, please don’t try to have me killed Mr Exotic). No one pulls off this print better than Carol though, with her husband coming in a close second in their wedding photos (only google it if you wanna be scarred for life, I’m serious). Carol’s fashion does have a purpose though, as she explains in the docu-series, that it’s to remind her opponents in court that she’s gonna be ‘the one on their case about big cats’. If I’m honest that doesn’t make a ton of sense to me – like saying I’m a really big advocate for human rights, then wearing a skin suit to court, but do you Carol.


Taking a slightly different route here, hear me out…


There are many more instances wherein animal print is used in the show, on Jeff Lowe’s oversexualised female workers, the animal print tattoos that litter the cast and of course the animals themselves.


However, the social issues the series brought up were often disregarded in favour of discussing the way these people dressed. As I said before, they paled in comparison. The show discusses human trafficking, grooming and attempted murder just to name a few. I enjoyed the show but after watching Louis Theroux’s documentary on Joe Exotic after the show aired and it examined the issues in the communities we are shown in a much more forensic way. Obviously, this wasn’t the aim of the series, it was less documentary and more drama, but it wasn’t treated that way.


Let’s have a closer look at Carol and Joe.


The outcry for Joe Exotic to be pardoned even reached the President at the time, who said he’d look into it. After watching the series, I wasn’t too worried about that, Joe just seemed like an eccentric guy who you could really get wrapped up in – but he was much scarier than that. He’s a man who lured in addicts and people who had no support from anyone and made them dependant on him, grooming two straight men to be his lovers, despite them telling him, they were straight. This resulted in one of them committing suicide, seeing no way out.


He also attempted to have Carol killed, seriously. In the show, it seems like a far-fetched idea but looking closer it was scary how close he got. He paid an assassin who was driven to Florida to kill her, and the only reason she’s still alive is that he spent all his money on drugs and alcohol and missed his time window to shoot her. Carol is a slightly wacky woman who wants to support and help big cats. Joe wanted her dead because she was interfering with him breeding the Cats to use the babies to do pettings, which made him the most money.


Looks can be deceiving.


This article looked real fun when you started reading it, but it was something entirely different underneath all the lockdown references and making light. Fashion is something that can help us understand a person and have us express ourselves, but the stupid clothes on Tiger King encouraged us to watch it and laugh, when really, we should have been potentially concerned for people’s lives or maybe how much humans interfere with animals. Overall, I think the Tiger King needs new clothes, for all of the fun and engaging persona to be stripped away and the situation to be seen for what Theroux exposed it to be; incredibly dangerous.


Clothes, appearances and personalities do not reflect who a person is or their past actions, simply what they show to the cameras. I hope next time we see a quirky personality on TV we are less taken in by the superficial and judge them for who they are, or let the albeit very flawed justice system take its course instead of appealing to a reality star president for a pardon for a reality star king.