One thing has to be said upfront: If you want to understand the hype surrounding the Netflix documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, you can’t get around watching all seven episodes. The world that is revealed in the series is unfathomable to any imagination. What happens is indescribably bizarre, unrestrained, hypocritical and unbridled.
In the US state of Oklahoma, Tiger King, aka Joe Exotic, runs a private zoo with wild cats. At times, he lives there with more than 200 tigers, two husbands and a crowd of followers. But that’s not all that’s going on: There are also the issues of money, drugs, sex and contract killings. In a nutshell, it is a sphere in which no rules seem to apply. Joe Exotic, however, is by far not the only big-cat fanatic in the US. There are endless feuds that develop between the Tiger King and his rivals.
One of those rivals is the big-cat dealer “Doc” Antle, who awarded himself the title “Doctor of Mystical Sciences.” On his reservation in South Carolina, he not only indulges his passion for predators, but also unabashedly presents himself as a polyamorous cult leader. Another figure is the self-proclaimed animal rights activist Carole Baskin, who usually wears predator-patterned clothing from head to toe and is suspected of murder.
Eric Goode, director of the reality series, has recorded the wheelings and dealings of the protagonists over five years. With this production, he succeeds in evoking a different world that comes as a welcome distraction during the coronavirus pandemic.
Me: I can’t stop thinking about, talking about, or reading about the coronavirus
— Mary (@maryyyyrosee) March 23, 2020
Me: Oh cool, a documentary about tigers. Let me check this out. #TigerKing
Me ten minutes later: pic.twitter.com/LMpKFnBCPe
— Bill Welker (@MMAontheRocks) March 25, 2020
— JARED LETO (@JaredLeto) March 27, 2020
And in some cases involuntarily, like Donald Trump…
— Montoya 🕉 (@GonzaloMo) March 29, 2020
More tigers in cages than out in the wild
But despite all the creativity evolving on social networks regarding the Tiger King, there are also critics who call into question the enormous hype surrounding the true-crime series. After all, the fate of thousands of predatory animals is at stake here. In the US alone, there are more tigers living in captivity than those who have been counted in the wild around the world. In addition, there are the degrading conditions in which the employees of private zoos live and work.
— A (@xHummingbird505) March 27, 2020
Despite the monstrosities, or perhaps because of them, the streaming figures for the series are booming these days. Currently, Tiger King is one of the most popular TV shows in the US. In Germany, the documentary is listed as 9th in the Netflix ranking. The bizarre dealings of Joe Exotic and his rivals seem to have hit a nerve in the coronavirus crisis. It can’t seem to get any more absurd than this.
Featured image credit: Netflix