I have watched the second episode of Tiger King, and let’s just say that I’m a bit… perplexed is probably the right word. If you haven’t read the first part, you might be a bit confused. You can read my take on it here. Continue ahead if you are ready.
This episode had one of the most dramatic openings I have ever seen in a documentary. I truly was not expecting something to happen so quickly. The episode begins with footage of one of Exotic’s employees, Saff, getting his arm torn off. By the way, Saff does identify as he even though everyone else uses “she”. For that reason, I will refer to Saff as he even though it does not line up with the rest of the documentary.
I do have to give Exotic some credit however that after the incident, he told his patrons directly what was happening instead of trying to pointlessly cover it up. I will admit that I clapped my hands a bit at that moment. That was until Saff said that he returned to work five days after being released from the hospital for having his arm amputated. Let’s just say, I would not be the one. But seriously, why would he go back?
This episode covered the more cult-like attributions that occur in these zoos. I’ll start by talking about Antle since the episode mostly covers him. One of his former employees, Barabara Fisher, has the most to say about him. The first thing we learn about Antle is that the “Doc” nickname is because he considers himself an actual doctor of mystical science. The documentary doesn’t cover what exactly his philosophy is but Fisher states that Antle’s first name, Bhagavan, actually translates to “lord,” and everything actually goes downhill from there.
Fisher mentions that the living conditions she faced. It was pretty much horse stalls with cockroaches crawling all over the place. Antle would say his employees were garbage unless they listened to his teachings. It was also pretty much known that in order to get anywhere you would have to sleep with Antle. On top of that utter cringe, he pretty much makes his employees work practically 24/7 while forgoing any family events and changing their names. If you know anything about the BITE cult model, all of the red flags should be waving. Leaving this place to work somewhere else is pretty much impossible as he pays his employees $100 a week. My mind pretty much stalled going over all of this information.
Also, staff would mention that sometimes tigers would just go missing without a trace or any explanation why. I’m pretty sure my brain short-circuited at that.
Next, we have to discuss the working conditions at Exotic’s zoo. The living conditions for his employees are not much better, I would say they are about the same. The pay is only slightly higher at $150 a week, but I’m not sure that’s much of a difference considering the fact that employees would have to live off of expired meat that was meant to go to the animals. He gets people to stay by having people with practically no other choices work for him such as former convicts and new people in town without any family or support. Something that is not really covered by the documentary is the age of Exotic’s husbands. When he first met them, they were fresh out of high school and very vulnerable and suggestible. I know it’s nothing illegal, but it still feels a bit pedophilic in a way since they are in such a vulnerable position.
Lastly, I wish I could shine down a ray of up, but I cannot. Baskin doesn’t pay her employees because they are all “volunteers” who are enraptured with his message. Baskin doesn’t even learn who any of these people are until they are there for several years. I don’t know whether this should be considered an insult or if it’s reasonable considering the number of volunteers she somehow racks in through her insanely influential social media campaigns.
As soon as I thought that all of the red flags where done being waved, the documentary decides to drop a bombshell: one of Baskin’s husband’s randomly disappeared, is presumed dead, and everyone thinks she got a tiger to eat her husband. What in the world?