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Catatonic: Why Humans Can't Stop Watching and Posting on Social Media About Netflix's "Tiger King"

Dr. Kenneth Gross

Dr. Kenneth Bruce Van Gross's Books on Primal Neuroanthropology Explore Why Humans Can't Stop Watching and Posting on Social Media About Netflix's "Tiger King"

In a time when so many of us are waiting around for sporting events to begin again, this is a really interesting analysis to showcase just how deep sports movements and strategy go...”
— Dr. Kenneth Gross
PHILADELPHIA, PA, UNITED STATES, April 14, 2020 / -- As Americans have settled into their 'new normal' — being quarantined in their homes for an extended, indefinite period of time — the increase in social media activity, and the need for television and streaming services has become immediately evident, no more so than with the phenomenon that is everyone's newfound obsession with Netflix's Tiger King, the exploration of big cat display casing and its bizarre underworld.

But does our obsession and desire to tune in and post online come strictly from an entertainment standpoint, or is this desire wired into our DNA as a species, from something that developed tens of thousands of years ago? And what about the obsession of the show's eccentric characters for the big cats?

"Animals are seen as accessories, shown off like mascots, used to adorn the human body, and used as a profit center," said Philadelphia-based board certified neurologist, internist, medical educator and healthcare commentator Dr. Kenneth Bruce Van Gross, M.D. "In Tiger King, they are less seen as pets, but more of something humans can hunt for or collect, and use to their own advantage, which was developed into our brain circuitry thousands of years ago."

There is tribal aspect of Tiger King that can be connected to the proof that hunting and interaction with wild animals dates back 40,000-plus years, as seen in cave drawings found in Indonesia and described in 2019. The depiction of these large hunted animals is extremely intriguing and complicated on the level of our modern day Tiger King age.

What they represented to humans then, as well as in his two new books — Primal Neuroanthropology - A NeuroSports Hypothesis; and Primal Sports II: A Psychoanalytical Psychoneurological and Neurosociological Treatise with New Game, Myth, Philosophical and Satire Extras — Dr. Gross details the connections between hunting, primal instincts, and the human connection with wild animals, as they all relate and are directly correlated to said cave drawings.

Dr. Gross has lectured extensively on the sports-neurology interface, the aging brain, and various subjects in medicine and neurology. Throughout his 40-year career in medicine, Gross has written about these links, and details extensively these correlations in both his first book, which was released in 2019, and his newest release, which were both published by International Psychoanalytical Books (IPB).

"These types of interests and pursuits are hardwired into our DNA," said Dr. Gross. “In a time when so many of us are waiting around for sporting events to begin again, this is a really interesting analysis to showcase just how deep sports movements and strategy go from a brain, mind and nervous system standpoint. Now that we have Tiger King in our lives, we're seeing this from three standpoints — that of the viewer, who is completely enthralled in what we're watching, that of the “zoo” guests who are pursuing personal experiences and social media posts, and that of the characters in the documentary, who have their own beliefs and instincts regarding living with big cats."

"The drive and motivation for this is built into our neuro-circuitry. It developed at infancy, with movements related to that of our own degeneration. There is a direct correlation to aspects of psychosis and neurosis in our daily lives and in fanatical behavior and sports as well. Creativity and childhood play also contribute. We evolve, we grow, we involute, and we exhibit these phenomena that link all these processes. It’s exciting and it’s complicated. In the subject of Tiger King, this relates to how we're genetically coded to naturally be hunters, and how humans interact with animals. You can see how each 'zookeeper' interacts with animals and how naturally instinctual their behaviors come to them, and how the public spends exorbitant amounts of money to have the opportunity to pet, pose and post photos of themselves with the cute cubs and terrifying adult cats. The public that is supporting these ‘rescues’ is not only selecting their tribal leaders by determining which one of the characters to donate to or pay for experiences with, they’re hunting for opportunities like this to both brag about and to satisfy deep rooted desires, even if the high-priced experiences evoke fear and anxiety. Their social media pages are modern man’s cave drawings.”

In Tiger King, other than embracing, petting and posing with tigers, there was minimal interaction with them other than during workers' roughhousing. This speaks to the cats' roles as accessories or specific types of "power and speed gods" revered, and to some degree, emulated in contact sports like wrestling and football. Furthermore, the owner as the master and savior we see in Tiger King has adapted a role that has played out for centuries in politics, hunting and sports, with athletes being owned and 'saved' by wealthy franchise owners.

Dr. Gross also points out that in recent years, toxoplasmosis — commonly seen as a cat infection – is present via blood antibody detection in pet owners of cats. A significant association has been made between the presence of psychosis, cat ownership, and high toxoplasmosis titers. "Joe Exotic may very well have been afflicted with this type of psychosis, and was around enough big cats long enough to warrant a look into this," said Gross. “This is direct evidence of adaptation and evolution, similar to the reasons why our brains today drive us to post about Tiger King on social media, just as our ancestors ‘posted’ on the walls of caves.”

Dr. Kenneth Bruce Van Gross founded Fusion Clinical Multimedia, Inc. to launch a medical and general education business dedicated to interdisciplinary content embraced within great neurological landscapes so many of which link to sports. Learn more about Dr. Gross, purchase his books, and read more about Primal Neuroanthropology by visiting

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