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Tiger King Review: Nothing Like Anything You’ve Ever Watched Before

March 19, 2020
5 min read

Netflix’s ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness’ is nothing like anything you’ve ever watched before. That alone is reason enough to give the seven-part docuseries a shot. The series is undoubtedly the streaming giant’s wildest, most twisted true-crime offering till date. And that’s certainly saying something, given the treasure trove of real-life crime narratives Netflix has to offer.

At its centre, the seven-part docuseries follows the rise and fall of Joe Exotic, the self-fashioned “Tiger King”, who eventually becomes involved in a murder-f0r-hire plot. But it is also so much more. The series offers an expansive view of big cat owners, piecing together first-hand narratives of the numerous people involved in the ultimate dethroning of Joe Exotic. SPOILERS ALERT!

Tiger King Recap:

The first part of the docuseries, aptly titled, “Not Your Average Joe” introduces us to Joe Exotic: the gun-toting, mullet-sporting, gay, polygamous owner of G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park, in Oklahoma. Formerly known as Joe Schreibvogel, the documentary explores his rise and fall as Joe Exotic, and eventually, the Tiger King, as he is ultimately dethroned. 

Joe begins G.W. Exotic Memorial Park in memory of his late brother, and for his own love for animals. The documentary explores Joe losing his purpose as he is consumed by his rivalry with Carole Baskin, and his own desire for fame and wealth. His business primarily centers around breeding of exotic animals, cub selling, and cub petting.

While the docuseries centers around Joe Exotic, each episode looks at the lives of the eccentric people who own and work for big cat parks. It explores the experiences of the workers who are oftentimes exploited, and the cult-like lifestyle that is created by the owners of these parks. The series also introduces us to Carole Baskin, the owner of Big Cat Rescue, who is Joe’s biggest and most vocal critic. It looks at Carole’s own controversial past, and the empire she builds by rescuing big cats.

As Joe and Carole’s rivalry continues, Joe finds himself trapped in a $1 million lawsuit. It is at this point that Jeff Lowe is introduced as a new investor, and an angel in disguise for Joe. But everyone involved in the business plays dirty, and Jeff manages to take Joe’s exotic animal park away from him. The docuseries looks at the good and the bad of the industry, while focusing on the ugly, all leading up to how Joe is eventually convicted for attempted murder for hire.

Tiger King Review:

Netflix’s ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Murder’ is all set to continue the streaming giant’s reign over the true-crime genre as its expands its kingdom. And as the name suggests, seems to be the new king in town. The docuseries stands out from the rest of the genre as it presents to us a meaty true-crime buffet with its expansive, interconnected portrayal of private ownership of big cats in America. It introduces us to the biggest, wildest names in the business, only to expose the devastating reality underneath the garb of its eccentricities.

‘Tiger King’ uses its explosive, almost sensational, content to its advantage, and is simultaneously both entertaining and thought-provoking. It nosedives straight into the flashy and meaty underbelly of the tiger trade, exposing the dark truth of big cat owners, as they turn out to be more dangerous than the wild cats they house.

The series unravels the lavish lifestyles of these eccentric individuals, who live in huge mansions and own hundreds and thousands of exotic animals, that they illegally breed and sell, earning up to $100,000 from a single cub. And often, brutally end their lives once the animals are of no use to them.

‘Tiger King’ exposes the viewers to a stranger than fiction reality, the kind that would make you question both the sanity and the humanity of mankind. It also adopts an unbiased lens at it looks at each person involved both critically and sensitively, from breeders like Joe, to rescuers like Carole.

‘Tiger King’ is undoubtedly the most entertaining true-crime docuseries I have watched in years. The series has not a single dull moment as it is straight out hilarious at times, while heart wrenching at others, but always, always compelling. However, what makes ‘Tiger King’ unforgettable is that it is not without purpose.

While Joe Exotic’s conviction may seem like poetic justice to some, the final moments of the series hauntingly suggest that there is much more to the narratives the makers have pieced together. As the series unravels the corrupt, exploitative, and often misogynistic lifestyles that these individuals lead, it also manages to capture the love they once had for the animals they cage. It almost makes you sympathize with Joe Exotic. But one also can’t help but notice the hypocrisy in the narrative of each of these so-called “animal lover”.

The docuseries, then, serves as a cautionary tale about the greed of men that ironically turns them less human than the wild animals they cage. As ‘Tiger King’ reaches its final conclusion, one can’t help but think that the only real-winner, amidst all the rivalries and betrayals, is capitalism, the monstrous beast that devours men and animals alike.

Read More: Where is Joe Exotic Now?

Rating: 4/5

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