I was wrong. Up to a few days ago, I believed that people would be receptive to the animal abuse exposed by Tiger King. This despite the fact that its makers seemed more determined to have animal abuse be a marginal element in an epic documentary where it should have been the point of focus.
My reason for believing rested widely on Walter Benjamin’s theories of reception in distraction. I hoped the images of mistreated big cats, caged, abused and depressed, would serve as the flashed of history that Benjamin talks about, which lead to strong moral awakenings.
Well, that has not happened. I was wrong.
Tiger King has been out for several weeks now. And even though we are living through a pandemic that most likely was born out of mistreatment of animals and humanity’s insatiable hunger for meat, Tiger King has done little to aid a discourse in animal welfare.
It is clear, now, that whenever Tiger King is mentioned across all media – from mainstream television to blogs with ardent followings – the focus is on Joe Exotic’s incarceration. Many are calling for his release. In the midst of a pandemic, a journalist even asked President Trump whether he would consider pardoning him.
I find all this incredibly depressing. Up to ten years ago, I too could not have cared less about animals. Then, my awakening was so strong that I feel just as passionate about it as I do about the arts. So, having realized that nothing positive has come out of Tiger King makes me feel totally hopeless about humanity and generally unwell.
And the worst part is that I don’t know who or what is to blame. Is it solely a problem of conditioning? Is it a problem of the media being financed by companies that, in one way or another, make money off of mutilated animal corpses? After all, the media runs on advertisement.
It also seems to me that people would give just about anybody the time of day. Even flat earthers. But when it comes to animals, unless they are presented as cute and unthreatening to the order of things, no time is spared. Images of battery farms are unpleasant. They won’t get you any friends.