We need to address the Tiger in the room. The Tiger, of course, as seemingly the entire country knows after a couple of weeks of shutdowns/social distancing is Netflix’ Tiger King. A docuseries full of bizarre characters that would be the envy of a Coen brothers movie. Think Fargo with big cats, poisonous snakes, and chimps.
Okay, Tiger King has just about nothing to do with family law. Aside, possibly, polygamy. But boy does it say a lot about truth, lies, human nature, hubris, paranoia, self-delusion, acting purely for self-interest, acting against self-interest, social media, talking your way into 22 years in federal prison, and more. Most of this is something family law attorneys see on a weekly basis.
Not that any of this is obvious from the start. After all, Tiger King did not start out as a ‘true crime’ documentary. It was five years in the making and started as a deep-dive documentary into the exotic reptile trade in southern Florida. It soon took on a life of its own.
Between the documentarians’ cameras and the penchant for the main protagonists – Joe Exotic, the Baskins, Bhagavan Antle, and, later, Jeff Lowe – to post almost their every waking moments on one form of social media or another, we saw everything happen in real time. The stories had time to develop.
It’s messy. Like the real world. Chaotic, even. Everything is obscured by the big – potentially crazy – personalities. Whenever they are in front of the cameras, everyone spins their stories to put themselves in the best possible light. They are often instantly contradicted by the many friends, family, reporters, and workers watching events unfold every day from the sidelines.
What we have through most of the seven episodes is a jumble of facts, lies, innuendo, wildly optimistic slants on reality, and, to quote Paul Simon, “hints and allegations.”
It’s real life. We, the viewers, are left to try to piece together a narrative that makes sense. A narrative that is as true to the facts as is reasonable given the unreasonableness of the people involved.
Who’s telling the truth is not the question, even if it could be answered. The trick is to distill the truth amid the competing stories; to strip out the self-interest(s); to try to reconcile the many versions of what is happening.
Tiger King is so compelling because it’s never black and white.
In family law, few things are black and white.
It’s all real life.
Be well everyone.