From the time I wake up in the morning until after my son goes to sleep at night all I can think of is the pandemic that is keeping us isolated inside our home. And once my son is asleep and I can finally stop parenting I just want to distract myself for a couple of hours. I want to think of anything but the pandemic and watch anything but Peppa Pig (which I am currently using a bribe to get my preschooler to practice his letters while Pre-Kindergarten is canceled).
A co-worker recommended it to me as the perfect late-night distraction, so my partner and I started the series last night. (If I had started it one day earlier I probably wouldn't have distracted myself by cutting my hair with my son's dull safety scissors, so if you feel like you might be about to give yourself a bad haircut I recommend turning to Netflix instead.)
Tiger King is a true-crime documentary series about a "zoo owner [who] spirals out of control amid a cast of eccentric characters in this true murder-for-hire story from the underworld of big cat breeding," according to Netflix.
The main character is a man named Joe Exotic who owns a zoo with nearly 200 tigers in Oklahoma. His nemesis is a woman named Carole Baskin, owner of a big cat rescue in Florida. At first, you think this is an obvious rivalry between someone who holds animals down and an animal advocate, but it quickly becomes obvious to the viewer that this story is so much more than that.
And that is why Tiger King is now one of the top shows on Netflix. Move over, Love is Blind, Joe Exotic is bringing more drama than the pods ever could.
I am struggling to put into words how off the wall this true crime tale is from the moment it begins, so I'm gonna let this viral tweet do it for me.
Netflix's hottest show is #TigerKing It has everything: big cats, mullets, hitmen, leather fringe, amputees, polygamy, labor disputes, mysterious disappearances, and what's that in the corner? Why, it's a cocaine kingpin. #TigerKingNetflix pic.twitter.com/Yzscv2DCut
— Kyle Kamerbeek (@kkamerbeek) March 25, 2020
That tweet is just a preview of this truly bananas show. I am only two episodes in but I am looking forward to going into Netflix daze after my son's bedtime tonight. If nothing else, I need to have Tiger King in my life so that I have something to talk about that isn't pandemic-related.
The series' directors, Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, could not have predicted how much this show would become a cultural phenomenon, just like Goode could never have predicted that he would follow this story for five years.
In an interview with Vanity Fair Goode referenced Christopher Guest's 2000 mockumentary, Best in Show, while explaining the unique subcultures in the exotic animal world. But Best in Show was fiction. The events in Tiger King actually happened. Recently. In America. While none of us were looking.
Some of the themes in the series are incredibly dark—murder plots, animal abuse, cult leadership—but together these horrific events and scenarios weave into a story that is so unbelievable that it has to be seen.
Joe Exotic lives in a bizarre, dangerous world, but with everything going on in the real world right now I am looking forward to visiting his world tonight and turning off my brain for 50 minutes (maybe 100 if I can stay awake for two episodes).