**Caution: Spoilers and hilarious memes ahead**
How does one even begin to describe the latest in Netflix’s range of documentary series, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness? After binging the first season, as many people already have (and indeed, there really is no other way to watch it) I’m at a loss to find the words to explain what I have just seen. “True Crime” doesn’t come close to describing what this genre-spanning, jaw-dropping masterpiece of unscripted television really is. Tiger King is, somehow, simultaneously a nature documentary, a thriller, a comedy, a tragic love story, and a murder mystery, and it’s exactly what the world needed right now.
The characters include a gay, gun-carrying, country-music-singing, former magician, an ostensible cult leader with four wives, who rides around on an elephant, and the world’s original crazy cat lady, complete with more cat-print outfits than one human should rightly own. If these characters weren’t already living, breathing human beings you wouldn’t be able to make this shit up.
The series follows, in a somewhat zig-zagging timeline, the story of Joe Schreibvogel, who became Joe Maldonado-Passage, but is better known as Joe Exotic, owner of a zoo and a business breeding and selling exotic animals in the US, particularly large cats. It focuses on the multiple controversies in his life, including his three-way marriage to two straight younger men (clearly bewitched by meth and tiger magic), and his eternal battle with his nemesis, animal rights activist Carole Baskin, who has dedicated her life to shutting down operations like his.
If this is all starting to sound a little messy and confusing, that’s because it is. The fact that Netflix managed to piece together a linear narrative with all the information in this saga is impressive, especially considering you could watch this episodes in just about any order, and understand the story just as well (or, like many of us, not very much at all).
If we learn anything from this series, it’s that Big Cats bewitch people into doing strange things. The people that orbit the owners of these operations develop an cult-like obsession and devotion to them, the likes of which is comparable to what we witnessed in another great Netflix docuseries, Wild, Wild, Country (and if you’re looking for something to fill the emptiness in your life after finishing Tiger King, this is definitely where you should start if you haven’t seen it already). Another collector of big cats and spouses, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, has his multiple wives working from 8am to 12pm to train tigers using yoga while scantily clad in leather and tiger print. Personally, this man deserves an entire Netflix series all on his own, and even a further reality show spin-off titled The Real Housewives of Doc Antle would probably do just as well.
Through the seven episodes of chaos, we watch in horror as tigers tear the limbs off of employees, lives are lost due to arson, and Joe Exotic and his mullet venture briefly, and astoundingly, into the world of American politics. It’s topped off with the FBI investigating the alleged murder-for-hire plot against Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic, in an act of what seems to be karmic retribution, ending up in prison.
Honestly, if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out. You’re missing out on riveting topics of conversation, exposure to the worst hairstyles you’ve ever seen (despite the fact that Joe’s first husband, who isn’t actually mentioned in the series, was a hair stylist! Mind: BLOWN), and you’re absolutely missing out on the best that the meme world has to offer right now. So, if you’re stuck in quarantine, install the Netflix Party extension to your browser, invite your friends, pour yourself a STIFF drink (you’ll need it), and get ready to be baffled by a story that even fiction writers would be at a loss to invent.
When you finish the last episode of Tiger King, and you experience that gaping hole in your life that no other series will ever come close to filling, don’t worry! You can still get your fix of Joe and Carole, and also learn a lot of details that Netflix didn’t include in the series, by streaming the podcast series Joe Exotic: Tiger King, produced by Wondery.
Never has the world needed television like this more than it does now. In a few months from now, we’ll all be out of lockdown, we’ll all be dressing as Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin for halloween, and the world will be well once again.
Tiger King graced our screens just in time to stave off the boredom and the madness of quarantine. You have to watch it, but remember:
You can never unwatch it.
Essential Millennial Rating: 5 out of 5 avocados