Connecting with Culture
Our blog reflecting on weekly news, trends, innovation, and the arts...
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE SHOW TIGER KING
At least, I found that shocking at first. Seven episodes later, someone has lost their arm to a tiger, a man has accidentally killed himself, and ‘Joe Exotic’, the polygamous, arson-committing, country-singing owner of 1200 big cats has run for president before being convicted of the attempted murder of an animal rights activist who maybe killed her husband.
By this point, the extreme exploitation of workers, casual drug abuse, and cultic semblances barely caused me to bat an eyelid. And that in itself is uncomfortable – it’s amazing how quickly we can become so numb to so much brokenness.
But there’s something even more disturbing about this Netflix series, amplified by its soaring popularity.
In the ‘documentary’, people flock to see these strange animals. And, in an ironic twist, it turns out the viewer has much in common with visitors to these zoos. The show puts the characters in a cage, and we pay Netflix to look around.
The trailer alone suggests that Tiger King revels in its ridiculousness. It’s a circus, and the characters are the acts. By the end, they cease to be real people. They’re just the butt of Netflix’s joke, and we’re the ones laughing. Most conversations I’ve heard about Tiger King – and the ‘hilarious’ memes created since – involve causally comparing characters, judging their actions, and debating who’s worst.
But what would it look like if Jesus walked in? The gospels are littered with examples where he refuses to stand in pious judgment, but is instead moved by love and compassion – a love that ultimately leads him to the cross. Jesus doesn’t excuse sinfulness, or the damage it causes, but he refuses to let it have the final word.
Wouldn’t he treat the people in this show the same way? And, as his followers, in what we watch and with the people meet, shouldn’t we do this as well? After all, we’re broken too.
Maybe then we’d understand the devotion of our saviour, who willingly associated with the lowest in society. Maybe we’d be slower to demonise, quicker to empathise, and ready to embrace those others might seek to ridicule. And maybe we’d be more able to love those around us as Jesus does, however broken they may be.
Research Assistant, LICC