In the four weeks since its release, “Tiger King”, a true-crime-style docuseries directed by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, has clawed its way to becoming the world’s new obsession.
With a cast of real-life bizarre personalities and a population bored and hungry for popular culture, “Tiger King” scored over 30 million unique viewers in its first 10 days of streaming on Netflix. According to Variety, after its release on the 20th of March, “Tiger King” had an unfavourable start with an average minute audience of 280,000 in the United States. But, the hype built up quickly. By day three, the docuseries had a daily average minute audience of one million, and by day nine, the average was four million. According to Nielson, Tiger King has surpassed “Stranger Things” in views and quickly became the most twitted TV show, with 1.8 million nonpaid twitter interactions (From March 20-29).
According to Netflix’s own rankings, over the past couple of weeks, the docuseries held the crown of the No.1 most popular title in the U.S. and has remained within Netflix’s Top 10 rankings till this day. Nevertheless, it is important to note that this ranking is based on the number of viewers that have watched a show or movie for two minutes or longer, which still serves to illustrate the surreal buzz around this recent release.
“Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”, sheds a light on the exploitation of captive animals in the United States, as well as the fascinating personalities and eccentric lives of big cat owners. It focuses on Joe Exotic, a “mulleted, gun-toting polygamist and country-western singer” zoo owner, and his ugly feud with Carole Baskin, an American animal rights activist and owner of a big cat sanctuary in Florida. The docuseries highlights Carole Baskin’s fight and campaign against private zoos and their owners, and Joe Exotic’s fightback fuelled with hatred and eventually a murder-for-hire conviction.
The animals are definitely not the protagonists of the story. From eccentric and manipulative relationships, animal and human exploitation, to hatred, murder, a conviction and a quest for fame, “Tiger King” manages to make the mysteries and eccentricity surrounding private zoo owners in the United States public. The directors of the series definitely stay true to their plot and throughout the seven episodes.
The total madness behind such characters gives Goode and Chaiklin the perfect messy and compelling story. However, what is depicted through the cameras is the opposite of what the lives of Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin and other big cat owners really are. The docuseries is rather boring – the plot is extremely slow-moving and overstretched, as it includes interviews, footage and details that are irrelevant. The way it was shot somewhat strips away from the madness of the story of Joe Exotic, and the viewer is left to imagine and picture the true story themselves. Stories of other mythical-like characters such as “Mommy Dead and Dearest”, telling the story of Gypsy Rose, are far more interesting and told in a gripping manner.
Additionally, I believe that the timing of release of the docuseries is wrong; there is still a lot of stories to unfold and many facts and puzzle pieces missing from the story that make “Tiger King” drift from the purpose of a documentary that is to inform, instruct, or record history. The plot is built based on a lot of speculation and “Tiger King” steers more to the realm of entertainment and reality.
Furthermore, the last episode, a special after-show hosted by Joel McHale, was a complete waste of time. Nothing new and relevant is given to the audience, the interviewer has bad humour and there is no point to it apart from monetising more.
The only positive takeaway from the docuseries is that despite what is mentioned before, a light was still shed on wild animal abuse and captivity in the United States, and that Joe Exotic finally got the 15 minutes of fame that he has been chasing his whole life as a “gay, gun-toting, drug addict, fanatic”.