Review: Tiger King

Josie Krupens, Opinions Editor

   In a time of overwhelming uncertainty, people tend to seek an escape in television and movies. It seems strange that a docuseries could pull off this feeling of escape, and yet it does just that. Netflix’s latest addition Tiger King took the world by storm in an era of darkness. With its depiction of the fantastical world of tigers, murder, and debatably bad country music, Tiger King thrusts the audience out of the “real world” for a truly strange and extraordinary viewing experience.

   Tiger King is a true crime limited docuseries directed by Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode. It depicts the underworld of private ownership of big cats, which in itself seems like the setting of some twisted fairytale. It follows the stories of several of these big cat owners. But of them all, the most notable is the rise and fall of Joe Exotic, the self-proclaimed “Tiger King,” and how his rivalry with animal rights activist Carole Baskin ruined his professional and personal life.

   The docuseries exposes the viewer to a world that is rarely thought of. Big cat ownership and illegal breeding circles contain some of the worst aspects of humanity: drug smuggling, murder-for-hire, mysoginy, arson, startling death threats, cult-like communities, and more. Tiger King takes all of these vices of the big cat underworld and sheds light on them.

   Tiger King is a perfect mix of sensational hilarity and the sad truths of life. Though there is humor, the show doesn’t sugarcoat the horrors of the world it is documenting. The show is adequately serious when it needs to be and the humor is well placed and truly genius. Showing clips of the country music videos made by these big cat owners, for example, is sure to make the audience laugh at the sheer absurdity. The viewer is only left feeling uncomfortable with the humor when that’s the intended purpose.

   In addition to its thoughtful premise, Tiger King is extremely bingeable, providing over five hours of entertainment. With so much material packed into seven 45 minute episodes, the audience remains invested and engaged throughout the viewing experience, sometimes to the point of informational overload. Shocking cliffhangers and ominous flash forwards keep the viewers on the edge of their seats. At the end of an episode the audience is left shocked, confused, and intrigued, itching to watch the next episode right away.

   One discrepancy in Tiger King is its title as a docuseries. “Tiger King seems like more of a reality TV show than a documentary,” explained Junior Abby Cosgrove. Tiger King is very sensationalist in its storytelling, which does give it a feel of being more like reality television than a true crime docuseries.

   As absurd as Tiger King is, it represents real life well. No person in Tiger King seems to be moral; there always seems to be some discrepancy in a person’s record that makes it questionable whether or not he or she is a good person. This helps people realize that there isn’t always a “good guy” and a “bad guy” in a situation. Additionally, there are many unanswered questions in Tiger King, such as cases the police have yet to solve and people who have yet to be proven guilty. It shows that real life remains messy and incomplete, and there won’t always be a clear answer to a mystery.

   Tiger King does touch on the problem of the endangered status of tigers in the wild compared to the private ownership of tigers in homes; however, it is very brief. Their message could have more blatantly encouraged people not to buy tigers for themselves. However, most of the message is implied within the entire series and its editing, to a point where any person with a moral compass would think “buying tigers is an awful thing.”

   It’s no wonder why Tiger King captured the interest of so many people. Its eccentric cast and insane storylines were bound to make it a hit, especially at a time where people are desperate for entertainment. It definitely takes a tough stomach, but Tiger King is the perfect show to binge.