Tiger King’s morality

It was a Saturday evening. It was 8 pm. Our daughter was asleep and my partner and I decided to spice up our life by watching Netflix. And we did what everyone does these days: we watched Tiger king. 

There is something highly addictive about this show.

Tiger king: the show 

I am completely taken away by the slow-motion sequences of a lady of a certain age riding her bike, with her hair too long for her age being blown back by the gentle breeze. 

I am pervertedly fascinated by the protagonists’ missing front teeth, reminding me of the passion gap, which eases the sliding in and out of a “hum hum”. 

And I am enjoying watching this documentary that strikes a strong resemblance with my favorite movie of all times: Beetlejuice.  Joe Exotic is Beetlejuice. He talks, walks, and thinks like this 80’s character. He even has the same badly produced show to advertise his delusional world. When fiction becomes reality…

Yet this show goes beyond reality: it transcends all social rules, there is no morality as we know it. These people have created new ethics that, when viewed through our norms, are completely indecent. How exquisitely entertaining! 

The new norms 

It starts off with a lady getting her arm chomped off by a tiger at work – you know, just the regular daily stuff. She has the choice to either keep it (and sit through two mere years of recovery) or either she can get it amputated. She shrugs and chooses the latter option, going back to work six days later. As if limbs were detachable and unnecessary. 

Then they created a new set of rules for marriage. Either you add partners to it or you exterminate the one you don’t want anymore. Marriage has become something very simple.

Furthermore, they seem to live in this no man’s land as if the Law did not apply to them. Upon hectares and hectares of green countryside, they have declared their own independent colony where they can rule supreme and write their own constitution from scratch.

And finally, what is tremendously fascinating is how each of them is utterly convinced of their moral righteousness. Without a single quiver or second of hesitation, they exploit their employees, whom they either pay nothing or grant a pittance less than the legal minimum wage. Moreover, they have zero qualms in justifying why they put these magnificent cats in cages, stripping them of their basic right and need for freedom. They do all this in the name of love: love for human beings and love for animals. They are helping them. How is that not clear and obvious to any of us?!

We are followers of this freak show because, in a very strange and twisted way, these people are very successful. They have rewritten the game; created new rules of morality that enabled them to achieve the success they dream of- even if it did not last. One can only establish a link with Nietzsche’s thoughts on morality. 

Nietzsche and morality 

Nietzsche believed that we need to become the man we want to become, but unfortunately we cannot do so as the norms and values of our societies do not allow it. He is convinced that morality, as we know it, holds us back from becoming the higher version of ourselves – and thus, we should reject morality.

Simon Robertson, a Lecturer in Philosophy at Cardiff University, perfectly sums up what is morality. His classification allows us to demonstrate how our protagonists do not share our view of morality:

“1. Morality demands that you comply with its norms, values, ideals, and duties, irrespective of whether doing so conflicts with what is good for you personally. Nope our characters are not doing any of the above. If anything, it doesn’t even seem as if they are going out of their way to shatter these known norms, values, ideals and duties. They just don’t seem to find them applicable to themselves at all.

2. Morality takes itself to apply to all people equally, so you cannot escape morality when it conflicts with what is good for you personally. People being equal! Not in their world! Haha!

3. Complying with morality can prevent you from realizing the highest excellences.  4. Therefore, morality demands that the higher types behave in ways that prevent them from realizing the highest excellences that express their flourishing.They have reached the higher version of themselves in this world because they did not follow the imposed standards of morality.

These characters are complex hillbillies applying a Nietzschean vision of morality somewhere out there in the American outback on an exotic cat farm. They make us realise that we are not the higher version of ourselves. And perhaps that is not a bad thing. This is what makes it an incredible documentary.

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