Tiger King is a documentary that dives deep into the messy world of Joe Exotic, the famed Tiger King of Oklahoma, whose success is rooted in managing the Greater Wynnewood Zoo, a privately-owned zoo that is home to over 200 tigers and other exotic species. The series also serves as an expose of private zookeepers, the players and pawns that lay part to pursuing wildlife as a commodity.
Watch it if you:
Are a fan of crime documentaries, crime television shows (think a bawdy version of The Godfather) with a generous helping of camp, family reality shows, and other scripted series. Animal enthusiasts and fans of National Geographic and The Discovery Channel should proceed with caution.
What I think:
It’s ironic how the biggest catfight in this story does not occur between the tigers, but it's controversial enough to stick out for the whole seven episodes. The story is not consistent, and that's the beauty of it. It plays out like a roll call of personalities, a Whodunnit that isn't quite solved even until the end, interspersed with scenes of barely polished, gritty countryside. Honestly, the only reactions I had with this series were either "Aww" (because of the rare animal content) and "Hmm" (a doubtful nature carried about when watching the confessionals).
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What stood out to me the entire series, however, was the use of raw footage and sound bites spliced in between the documentary. The rawness is evident and best showcases everyone's personalities from the minute they appear, with camera framing that likens them to spectacles meant solely for entertainment. There are comedic moments that balance out the otherwise heavy content, yet Tiger King doesn't forget to showcase that there are no winners here. It's a thesis that it carries throughout and it's a mess all right, but it's one worth catching even from the sidelines.
Tiger King is now streaming on Netflix. Watch it here.