Release date: March 20, 2020
Joe Exotic has been something of a local celebrity in Oklahoma. His billboards by the side of the highway definitely stood out, and he would pop up in the local news from time to time. I even know some people who went to his zoo. In 2016, his campaign for president of the United States shot him to nationwide fame for a brief time. Aside from the entertaining silliness Joe Exotic brought us, most people did not know much about him or the insane things he was involved in; at least, I did not know much about it.
The wildly popular Netflix original documentary series, “Tiger King,” explores Exotic’s life more deeply. It seems to have been in production for at least a couple years before being released, and that happened to be a pretty perfect time frame because they also got to cover, in real time, the grand finale and natural end to this story.
I started watching “Tiger King” because I heard so many people talking about how insane and unpredictable it was. Going in with those expectations, I have to say it left me a little disappointed. Is the story being told filled with wacky characters and unusual happenings? Undoubtedly, yes. However, that was not the main thing I took out of “Tiger King.” The surrounding details are certainly entertaining, but, at its center, “Tiger King” is a story of how greed, vanity and petty competition can corrupt even the noblest of intentions. If you have not watched it yet, I would recommend you do your best to ignore all of the hype and go in without any expectations. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had been able to do that.
My only real problem with the series is some aspects of the filmmaking on display. Slow motion is used a little excessively without a real purpose to it other than to look cool, I suppose. In effect, it ends up looking cheesy and cliche like almost all other uses of slow motion tend to look in the year 2020. Other than that, there is really nothing too engaging to look at throughout the seven episodes. Excepting a few effective and necessary visual aspects, I could easily imagine this working equally well as a podcast. I usually try to keep my attention focused on the screen whenever I am watching something, but there are certain shows and movies with which I can put my attention partially on other things and get essentially the same experience as if I were to focus entirely on it. “Tiger King” was one of those shows for me. One compliment I can pay to the show as far as filmmaking goes is I thought the editing, especially in the final episode, was very well done.
Another thing I had somewhat of a problem with was how no one on this show is all that likeable. Each and every one of the main players have extreme moral failings—be it overt hypocrisy, tendency to manipulate, desire to commit murder, etc. I actually should not classify this as a real problem with the show; it is just presenting things as they are. However, I was not exactly able to get on anyone’s side as the show goes on because of how morally reprehensible and, more importantly, unlikable everyone is. This does not keep it from being entertaining, but it was definitely something I noticed.
Though I was a little negative in this review, I really did enjoy “Tiger King.” I just think it has been extremely over-hyped. I would recommend it, but, again, it would probably be a better experience if you go in without any expectations.