Day 6

Why Netflix's Tiger King is the perfect show to watch during a pandemic

The Netflix docu-series Tiger King has taken the internet by storm, even in the midst of a pandemic — and according to culture writer Sam Adams, it's not hard to see why.

'No matter how weird your life has gotten, it hasn't gotten Tiger King weird,' says TV writer Sam Adams

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was convicted in an unsuccessful murder-for-hire plot against Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue, who he has repeatedly accused of killing her husband Jack (Don) Lewis. (Santa Rosa County Jail via Associated Press)
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The Netflix docu-series Tiger King has taken the internet by storm, even in the midst of a pandemic — and according to writer Sam Adams, it's not hard to see why.

The show tells the story of Joe Exotic, a tiger zoo owner as obsessed with fame as he is with tigers, and his nasty feud with a self-styled animal rights activist who has her own questionable history.

Adams breaks down why the show featuring "panoply of wackadoodles" is especially bingeable in this particular moment in history:

I think there are several reasons that the show is kind of bringing everyone together right now. One is that is the only thing that is weirder than real life.

It's hard to count the ways that everyday life has turned upside down in the last few weeks. Times Square is empty. Toilet paper is more valuable than gold. And walking down the centre of the sidewalk makes you a sociopath.

Watch: Netflix trailer for Tiger King (video contains coarse language)

But no matter how weird your life has gotten, it has not gotten Tiger King weird.

Are you a polygamist cult leader? Have you had your arm ripped off by a tiger and gone back to work the same week? Are you in jail for plotting the murder of your nemesis? If not, maybe things have not changed all that much.

Another thing that I think is really key to Tiger King's appeal is that it's dark, but it's not that dark.

Considering this is a story that involves things like systematic animal abuse, attempted murder, even suicide, it should probably feel a lot more disturbing than it actually does. But the series keeps a safe distance.

You can waste an entire evening just discussing the third episode, which basically accuses Joe's main professional rival of having murdered her first husband and fed his body to her pet tigers.- Sam Adams, Slate culture editor

It's kind of like you're in a car that's slowing down and [you] look at a traffic accident, but you don't actually stop and get out. This is not necessarily a good thing in some ways. I think it can feel like the show is just kind of glossing over some of the darker and more important issues that are involved in this.

But I do think the way that it just keeps moving is key to why this is something that's enjoyable and not just depressing. You can kind of consume it like junk food and you may not feel great about yourself afterwards, but you're very into doing it while you're doing it.

Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property near Tampa, Fla., on July 20, 2017. (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

[Tiger King] is a real argument starter. There is a lot to discuss after it's done.

I mean, you can waste an entire evening just discussing the third episode, which basically accuses Joe's main professional rival of having murdered her first husband and fed his body to her pet tigers.

The series leaves you with a lot more questions than answers, and often that's not a good thing. But in a time when we're all kind of stuck inside with the same people and a lot of time on our hands, the arguments … can go on for hours. And that is a good thing.

People are mainly watching it to escape from the world outside. But if you think about it, it's a series about a fame-addicted con artist who, as one of his enemies puts it, basically raises lying to an art form.

But if you take a step back, he's also a person who's kind of dangerously divorced from reality, obsessed with his blonde female rival and reckless to the point that it endangers everyone around him.

And if that doesn't ring a bell, maybe you've escaped into Tiger King too far.


Interview produced by Yamri Taddese. To hear more, download our podcast or click Listen above.

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