Tiger King is a wild ride. It starts out seeming like a pretty linear he-said-she-said debate about owning tigers, but once you get past the first episode, they keep throwing grease on the white trash dumpster fire. It seems like an erratic compilation of characters doing literally whatever they want. Well, that *is* what it is. But if you look closely at the main maniacs, they all have very similar traits. Do Joe Exotic, Jeff Lowe, Doc Antle, and Carol Baskins all have the same personality disorder?
The first and obvious characteristic they all have in common is that they own exotic animals. I’m sure the allure of having an exotic animal is having something no one else has. It’s not advised to keep an exotic animal as they are not domesticated, need fresh food and a lot of land to roam, and many other things, but let’s say for argument’s sake that having *one* well-kept tiger is not the worst thing you can do. However, the way that these people all hoard tigers and other exotic animals is pathological. It is cruel to the animals, first and foremostly, but it’s also an obnoxious, flagrant display of wealth and power, the power being that they are able to tame and keep animals that are known for being killers. Joe, Jeff, Doc, and Carol all have large collections of animals that they enjoy showing off, regardless of how they acquired them or how well-kept they are.
Speaking of wealth and power, where are they getting all this money? Doc has his zoo in conjunction with his business of being an animal trainer on Hollywood sets, which could account for a large portion of his wealth. It was stated that Jeff was a master con-man and was able to put up quite the front, but where did the rest of the money come from? Besides ticket sales, how are Joe and Carol able to feed their hundreds of animals? Carol inherited the Big Cat Rescue along with a large lump sum of money when her husband disappeared (that’s a whole ‘nother thing), but they never talked about how Joe got his start in the business or where he got his money. However, all of them are able to create whatever image they want to have, whether it be an omnipotent nature man, a Vegas playboy, a flashy cowboy/country singer, or a hippy world healer, without having clean money to back it up.
All of the zoos had workers that the owner viewed as “less than” or “malleable” that were paid barely livable wages, if anything. Joe had his crew of “misfits” that had nowhere else to go. Doc had young, virgin girls who didn’t know any better. Jeff had an ex-con as his handyman that he knew would do his dirty work. Carol had her volunteers that were so passionate about saving animals that they were willing to participate in her made-up hierarchy. Each of these groups of people were naive or helpless in their own way, and their bosses knew that.
Joe and Doc took it even a step further and manipulated the workers into having sex with them in exchange for lavish gifts like trucks, houses, or in Joe’s case, drugs. They groomed these partners from a young age. Just like they wanted to tame the tigers, they wanted to claim these people as their own. Joe “turned” straight men gay and Doc “turned” virgins into women. Carol used sex as manipulation with her husbands, but in the inverse way. Joe and Doc’s proposal was “have sex with me and I’ll give you the best life,” where Carol’s proposal seemed to be “give me the best life and I’ll give you sex with me.” Her second husband’s daughter and ex-wife discussed how Carol used the fact that she was young and hot to try to lock down his money. The picture of her on her wedding day with her third husband where he is on his hands and knees with a collar and leash on really says it all. That was on their WEDDING DAY. Where two souls are supposed to become one. Not where one soul is sold to the other.
The theme of multiple partners also extends throughout the program. Carol had three husbands, but hers were not at the same time. However, Doc, Joe, and Jeff were very vocal about their collection of partners. Joe married two men at the same time. While polyamory is a lifestyle that exists and can be loving, it can be assumed that Joe married these men to show that he was able to get not one, but two people to commit to him. As soon as both of them were gone, it was said that his whole personality shifted. As soon as he married his next husband two months after Travis’s death, he was back to being himself. Some speculated that he missed Travis, but he could have missed having someone who was legally bound to him. Doc has several partners that all live on his, how you say, cult grounds. Jeff had a wife, but he was very upfront that he continued to sleep with multiple women and even got his wife involved. It was never said whether or not his wife actually enjoyed it or not. In one scene, Jeff shows off the hot nanny who he picked out to help his pregnant wife. No amount of sex or attention satiates these people.
Another important element that they all share is that they all truly believe they are right and everyone else is wrong. Joe Exotic spent most of his life trying to take down someone who opposes him. Joe believed that he deserved to be famous, and even confidently ran for president fully believing that he had a chance. When he didn’t win, he ran for governor because it was the next race that was coming up, and his ego needed to be stroked ASAP after the hit it took in the presidential race. Carol has built herself up to be the savior for all big cats and seems to believe that she is the only one who is able to stop the exploitation of animals (which she is also doing, but whatever). Jeff basically admitted to setting Joe Exotic up to be sent to jail and does not show one ounce of remorse. Doc acts if he is the only person who knows about animals. Actually, he acts as though he is the only one who knows about anything and even makes the workers call him “Bhagavan,” which basically means he is among the gods.
These people’s need for money, sex, and power mirrors narcissistic personality disorder, but the fact that it manifested itself in owning tigers the way that it has in these four people is fascinating. This is not a professional psychological evaluation, and it barely scratches the surface of these absolute head cases, but it just goes to show that maybe these people don’t get along because they are more similar than they realize.