Not Your Average Joe
Cult of Personality
Playing with Fire
Make America Exotic Again
The Noble Thing to Do
In the United States there are more captive tigers than there are in the wild. It’s a shocking fact and one that sets off a chain reaction of incredulous and outright bizarre instances in this 7-part Netflix docu-series. In an age where the streaming giants have come under scrutiny for cancelling shows early, ending too many shows on big cliffhangers and coming under fire from fans regarding the auto-play feature, there’s one constant that continues to see Netflix flourish – true crime documentaries.
There are literally dozens of high quality titles to choose from and it seems Netflix can do no wrong in this category. Apart from one or two misfires, true crime has found its home on the platform and Tiger King is yet another welcome addition to the line-up. With plenty of twists and turns along the way, Tiger King essentially revolves around a bitter feud between two big cat owners. On the one side is the enigmatic Joe Exotic, a man who owns over 200 tigers and subsequently finds himself in prison for instigating a murder-for-hire against his rival.
On the other side of the tiger cage sits Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue. Adopting the side of animal rights and PETA, Carole does her best to expose what she deems to be ill practices performed at Joe’s park. What begins as a simple enough rivalry soon descends into a nightmarish world of deceit, murder, mayhem and magic as the two point fingers and start throwing mud at one another.
The pacing of the series is wonderful too, with a consistent ebb and flow between the episodes and a welcome unbiased approach as both Joe and Carole receive equal amounts of screen-time. Caught in the middle of this feud are the various zookeepers and workers on both sides of the conflict and this really helps add some depth to the show as a whole.
Given Joe has his own internet show and Carole adopts a lot of social media and different media tactics in her crusade, there’s a whole slew of archival footage used right the way through the 7 episodes. Given how big the personalities are for some of these players, especially Joe Exotic, the talking head segments are equally as entertaining as that of the rivalry and action inside the park.
Regardless of how you feel about big cat owners and people taking on these wild animals as pets, there’s no denying that Tiger King is a highly enjoyable, shocking and oftentimes unbelievable series. It’s one that weaves its tale with venomous wit and charisma, while presenting an overarching, thought provoking message about the ethics of holding big cats as pets. While it may not be the best documentary of the year, it’s certainly one of the more unusual and bizarre. Once again, Netflix remains the king of the jungle when it comes to these documentary series.