We were four days into the first UK lockdown. Adapting to an unprecedented (yes, we said it) set of circumstances. And then Joe Exotic, with his bleach blonde mullet and big cats, rocked up on our TV screens.
All of this marks a collective moment in time. Even if you didn't watch the (absolutely wild) Netflix docu-series, chances are you've seen it playing out online. From memes to internet threads and dedicated WhatsApp groups, it's fair to say that wherever we turned, Tiger King was there.
This seven-part series followed Exotic – or Joseph Maldonado-Passage, né Schreibvogel, the self-proclaimed "Tiger King" – and the seriously wild phenomenon of big-cat owners. As it's from the makers of the Fyre Festival documentary, we probably should have guessed that there'd be twists and turns along the way – and, in that regard, its revelations had everyone screaming at their screens.
Now, a year after Tiger King was unleashed on the world, a second season appears to be a very real possibility. While it might not be all that surprising that Netflix would want to cash in on one of its biggest releases of 2020, it's pretty unusual for a true-crime story to get a follow-up.
But despite its surge in popularity last year, do we want another series?
Despite the light-hearted internet commentary and fixation with its larger-than-life characters, there are real people and real events at the heart of this story and it holds a much more insidious side.
The series' protagonist, around which the story was built, based much of his personality on spewing hatred against one woman: Carole Baskin. One of his 'catchphrases', in fact, was to repeatedly refer to her as "that bitch" – and that wasn't even the worst of it.
While holding a lens to this doesn't necessarily make the documentary complicit in that view, it has to be acknowledged that, in-line with Exotic's own beliefs, Carole became the villain of the piece both on and off screen.
Exotic is currently behind bars serving a sentence for a Murder for Hire conviction. And yet, the rampant misogyny that permeated Tiger King’s first instalment didn't seem to stop him from being celebrated as some sort of wacky celebrity character.
Knowing that he's currently in prison, where does that even leave a second run?
There has been much talk about what direction a possible sequel might go into. Dillon Passage, Joe Exotic's husband, has reported that Exotic will be appearing in season two via phone call recordings. And according to The Sun, speculation is that the so-far officially unconfirmed second season could follow Exotic as he attempts to clear his name. Since the show aired, headlines have made it clear that he has been wanting that for quite some time; he even asked former president Donald Trump to hand him a pardon.
But should we be giving Exotic more of a platform? With everything we've said above, we'd argue not. Further amplifying him, we'd argue, would be misguided at best and distasteful at worst.
Baskin herself recently said that she would not be taking part in a second season, after feeling 'misled' by the initial series. Talking to Radio Times, Carole explained that filmmakers Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin reached out to her and her husband Howard not too long ago about the possibility of filming more episodes.
"When [Rebecca] said she wanted to clear the air, I felt like, you know, that's just absolutely ridiculous," she said.
"It was so obvious that I had been betrayed by them. Why would she ever think that I would be willing to speak to them again? And so I told her to just lose my number."
This isn't the first time she has aired her disappointment either. It didn't take long for Carole to criticise Tiger King after its initial release, branding it "salacious and sensational" in order to "draw viewers". She also argued that "they took so many things out of context."
It's hard to overlook that the mysterious circumstances around the disappearance of her husband played a fairly big role in the narrative of the series. But Carole has argued that the accusations and conspiracy theories were simply "lies and innuendos from people who are not credible" and she claimed that the documentary makers |did not care about the truth" or give her the "opportunity before publication to rebut the absurd claims."
In response to Carole's widespread criticisms, the makers of the docu-series argued (via LA Times) that they had been "completely forthright with the characters" and that "with any project that goes on for five years, things evolve and change, and we followed it as any good storyteller does. We could have never known when we started this project that it was going to land where it did."
We would argue that nobody came off particularly well in Tiger King, which probably feeds into the fact that other contributors have also criticised elements of the docu-series.
Regardless, we'd argue that the lens was pointing in a lot of the wrong places. For a series supposedly spotlighting animal abuses, the animals were completely side-lined. Any hopes of a second season correcting this by going down the conversation route were seemingly dashed back in May of last year, when a spokesperson for Eric Goode's film company appeared to rule that out as the focus.
Unless new episodes are going to go some way towards fixing the mistakes of the first, we'd rather not have one.
Tiger King is available to watch on Netflix.
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