Watching Netflix’s breakout hit documentary series “Tiger King” is like playing two truths and a lie with someone, except every truth makes you reconsider reality and there are no lies.
Shocking, unreal and mesmerizing were some of the many words I thought of to try to explain the experience of this show, but what my mind finally settled on after watching all seven episodes in a day was a simple “what the fuck.”
Take this description with a grain of salt because no one could possibly hope to cover every insane event in this show in a single review, but ultimately “Tiger King” is about the ownership and breeding of big cats in America.
Compelling enough for the true-crime community, this still doesn’t explain the show’s intense social media blow up. This fixation comes from the bizarre big cat underworld “Tiger King” portrays: drugs, cults, murder, polygamy and politics all centered around a feud between Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic.
Let’s face it: You’ve heard about this show, thanks to Netflix, Twitter memes and a total lack of other things to do in quarantine. The main focus of the show is on Joe Exotic, former owner of Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park and complete nutcase. You have never seen or heard of someone like Joe Exotic. He’s like Gordon Ramsey meets Elton John meets The Beverly Hillbillies, and even that’s not anywhere close to pinning him down.
If I can say one thing for Joe, it’s that he’s completely unafraid to be himself. However, something that I believe the many viewers posting about the show online are missing is that this is not a good thing.
Alright, spoiler warning! If you haven’t seen the show, now’s a good time to skip a few paragraphs.
You figure it out early on: There are no innocent players in this story (besides most employees and romantic partners, who were almost all abused in some way or other). All of them are guilty of fighting a feud that put their egos before animals, and many are guilty of insinuating violence, illegally selling animals and keeping animals in bad to unlivable conditions.
But I’m particularly disgusted with the internet's infatuation with Joe Exotic. In this feud between Joe and Carole Baskin, many people seem to be taking Joe’s side. Did the internet forget that he used drugs and animals to feed younger boyfriends’ addictions so they’d stay with him despite not being gay, leading to the suicide of one? Did we forget that he killed and buried multiple tigers, or that he sold pizza using out of date food reserved only for the animals?
Did we forget that he is the only person on the show currently serving time in prison for murder for hire, among other things?
I’m not saying that Carole Baskin is completely innocent. As far as the show is concerned, she’s hypocritical and hateful, too. I’m just saying that in Romeo and Juliet, you aren’t supposed to favor the Montagues over the Capulets.
Rating this show is like rating the Hindenburg explosion. I was interested, but only because I felt I couldn’t look away. In fact, the majority of it made me feel sick to my stomach. I guess if I were to look at production as well as content, I could find it in myself to rate “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness” a seven illegally-smuggled-tiger-cubs out of ten.