After scrolling through tiktok after tiktok featuring Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, I finally decided to watch the Netflix documentary ‘Tiger King’. While I normally wouldn’t watch a documentary, I somehow managed to finish the 7 hour long episodes in just 2 days.
As the credits flashed before my eyes, I was left with mixed feelings. While the documentary was certainly interesting, it was equal parts unsettling and strange. The people in the show are so outrageous I couldn’t believe they were real and that they had never captured my attention before the documentary. Joe Exotic, with his two husbands, burning hatred for Carole Baskin, and 176 tigers seemed like a figment of my imagination, although I’m not quite sure I am creative enough to ever create a character even as remotely peculiar as Joe Exotic. Carole Baskin at first seemed pretty average to me, but as the episodes started to focus on the sudden and strange disappearance of her husband and her malicious jabs back at Joe, the crew revealed a loony and eviler side of the crazy cat lady. Finally, Doc Atle, although he wasn’t the main focus, was by far the most disturbing to me. His extremely zen demeanor contradicted all of the accusations waged against him and left me with a weird feeling of disturbance and anger.
The film crew and the director, Eric Goode, did such an excellent job of exposing the oddities and sketchy deeds all the characters committed in a way that was almost impartial. The entirety of the show, I would hear all of the terrible things Joe said and see the crazy things he did yet I still felt for him as his life began to unravel. Somehow, Goode balanced all of the crazy with just a dash of goodness. He ensured that the audience could make up their own mind about characters and did not omit pieces of film that humanized and demonstrated their better sides.
I also thought that the documentary was definitely pieced together in a way that built suspense and interest up as the episodes went on and that mini cliffhangers kept me pressing the “next episode” button. However, the first two episodes were very slow. The hour long episodes drug by and didn’t include any extraordinary footage. I probably wouldn’t have kept watching if I hadn’t read the description for episode three: “The Secret.” After that, the intensity tripled and remained for the second half of the episodes. There still were parts that lost my interest and some segments that seemed unimportant dragged on. Ultimately, I feel like the documentary would have been better if it were condensed into several shorter episodes.
In the end, ‘Tiger King’ was entertaining but not all that the hype made it out to be. The characters were as insane as promised, but it just got to be a little long. I ended the documentary feeling like I had just experienced a very long and specific fever dream. I will admit it was a decent way to kill off a couple hours in quarantine although I’m almost certain I’ll never rewatch it and probably would never have watched it if it weren’t for the vast amounts of time quarantine provided me with.