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  • Tori Thoele

Polygamy, Murder and Mayhem, Oh My!

We’ve all watched it — murder for hire, missing husbands, alleged-cults, and not to mention the crazy memes depicting it on the internet for all to see. The new docu-series Tiger King is insane to say the least. A docu-series that was meant to inform the public about the

encagement of exotic cats turned into murder, mayhem, and polygamy. But the most consistent thing it does is provide entertainment to anyone in need of it and entertainment is a necessity during these trying times.

Despite Tiger King being a show that the older generation might see as melting a few brain cells, most of the population has viewed it in its entirety. It’s currently trending on Twitter, and countless memes about the show have been shared by thousands of people on various social media platforms. A Netflix original, it premiered March 20, 2020 and while it’s only been out for about a month, it has gone viral and has consistently held a spot on Netflix’s Top 10 most watched shows. Most of America’s youth are watching it and UMSL student Patrick Waldschmidt’s opinion sums up the show quite nicely: “ It started out as dumb, goofy and entertaining, which then turned into a very informative and intriguing show. Along with showing what happens behind the scenes, they show how nasty some people can be to get ahead. Overall, I thought the series was interesting and gave a different view into the world of big cats. It was very ridiculous at points, and good at others. The drama was exciting and unexpected. Ultimately, it turned into more of a true crime show.”

promotional image from Netflix

Most college-aged viewers feel the same way. I know when I watched it, it gave me a world to escape to. My worries about homework, deadlines, and staying healthy vanished into nothingness, and I thought, wow, compared to how the people in Tiger King live their life, I’ve got it good. Spoiler alert: Most, if not all of them, have been locked up and the majority of them are cheaters, backstabbers, and liars. Joe Exotic, the main personality, gets 22 years for the muder-for-hire plot of Carole Baskin, his arch-nemesis.

And if college aged kids can’t convince you to watch Tiger King, maybe media expert Dr. Laura Zwarun can. As a Communication Media Researcher and a college professor at UMSL she knows the ins and outs of media. “ I have seen Tiger King—the first three episodes, because I am not a good binge watcher. I had never heard of it, and it seemed one day EVERYONE started talking about it in my social media, and what struck me was how people from so many different walks of life were watching it. So I watched the first one, and I was amused and horrified, but felt no real need to watch more. Then a friend whose opinion I respect said the 1 st episode is really just introducing the characters and setting things up, and to keep going, and as soon as I got 5 minutes into the 2 nd episode, I saw why. It just gets more and more depraved and ridiculous!” claims Zwarun.

But while she states it’s a bit bonkers she goes on to say that overall the entertainment aspect of it can’t be denied: “Anyway, I think it’s good entertainment media—it certainly captures the fancy of a lot of audiences, and diverse ones, too, like I said. And I think it’s an excellent example of really good storytelling—this (their lives) was all going on, but it took someone with a vision to realize that this could be a documentary series and really capture the batshit craziness of it for a viewing audience. Now, Joe Exotic already had a channel and was filming everything, so it’s not like no one thought to share it before, but the idea of telling the story in this genre, sort of from a more meta or global perspective, is different, and very well done, in my opinion.”

NBC News reported on a recent survey Netflix did on binge watching. 73% of people who binge-watched were left with good feelings after finishing the show. And while some viewers felt a bit depressed after it was over, in my opinion, they should feel better to have watched and experienced the show rather than to not have at all. Give Tiger King a chance. You might find yourself finding out what the hype is all about. You might even feel a bit more optimistic about your current situation, because after all, you aren’t Joe Exotic.


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