When Tiger King came out in early 2020, it helped a lot of people through the pandemic by keeping us distracted. It was one of the few big hits on Netflix early in the year while everyone was trapped at home surrounded by toilet paper.
It became a quick phenomen. People in all walks of life were talking about this crazy story of a man who sort of trained tigers and the colorful characters around him. Tiger King quickly became a part of our socially-distant culture.
It was, unfortunately, also a punchline. If you liked Tiger King, you were lower-class. How dare you watch trash programming!
I’m here to tell you differently. Tiger King is a legitimate true crime documentary. If you enjoyed it, you enjoy well-made documentaries. You’re not trash. The people you watch, however, might be.
For these three reasons, Tiger King deserves a little more credit in the true crime documentary world.
1) Tiger King goes beyond the life of Joe Exotic
Joe Exotic is the self-proclaimed Tiger King, but he isn’t the whole story. His sworn enemy, Carole Baskin, is equally as entertaining in the little bubble she has created.
Tiger King has already spun a pair of spinoffs. One focuses more on Tim Stark, a similar character with an alter-ego named Sue, and fallout from the original series. The other specifically targets Doc Antle. He’s what Joe Exotic aspires to be except with many wives, not husbands.
The Tiger King documentary series doesn’t begin as a true crime story, but has so much nefarious nature in it you almost feel silly at the end for not realizing what it is. Joe Exotic’s alleged hit on Carole Baskin, Carole’s rumored killing of her husband, and all of the crimes Jeff Lowe has committed as an imposter give us the most unique world in true crime documentary history.
2) Tiger King makes everyone looks like the bad guy in the end
There is no hero in Tiger King. Joe Exotic is made out to be sympathetic. He’s certainly not wearing a cape. Well, maybe if you put sequins on it.
In the world of professional wrestling, there are faces and heels. The faces are the good guys and the heels are the villains. Every single person who appears in Tiger King comes across as a shady figure in some way. A couple of the lower-level workers in the zoos are passably decent. Something about the company they keep still gives viewers doubts.
The filmmakers obviously have some opinions about the people in the documentaries. However, they also allow viewers to come to their own conclusions.
3) Tiger King is pure entertainment
Who says a true crime documentary has to be nothing but darkness? If anything, Tiger King reminded us all there is humor even in crime.
This whacky world of Joe Exotic and Friends has some of the most unintentional humor ever caught on film. Parts of it feel like a British sitcom where the goal isn’t to make you laugh with punchy jokes. Instead, the writers set out to make the viewers cringe and feel uncomfortable throughout. Ricky Gervais could only dream of creating a single character from the Tiger King saga.
The bastards, bitches, and assholes in the Tiger King series are the best to ever assemble in any true crime series. You’ll find yourself rooting against Carole Baskin when Jeff Lowe enters the picture and quickly realize he’s just as much trouble.
And because everyone is missing a few too many teeth or a little too flamboyant we’re made to believe we’re wrong for enjoying it?
Get lost. I hope you never financially recover from your next purchase.