March of 2020 was a time like no other. The coronavirus swiftly shut down schools and work, forcing everyone to stay home. This sudden isolation was confusing and uncomfortable, causing people to begin looking for ways to connect with one another. Following trends on social media offered some alleviation; making whipped coffee and learning the “Savage” dance on TikTok, alongside thousands of others, gave a similar effect to actual human relations. This widely-felt craving for connection fostered an environment that allowed certain pieces of media to succeed beyond their genuine worth: “Tiger King” is a perfect example of this anomaly.
It felt as if everyone was watching “Tiger King,” and that feeling was not far from the truth. According to Variety, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” has been sampled by 64 million Netflix households worldwide since its release. There was constant commentary regarding the series, which forced a sense of urgency on people. It became easy to feel left out for those who did not understand the ceaseless references people made to the show. As a result, many gave in to the masses and watched “Tiger King.”
Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage is the main focus of “Tiger King,” and he is the major reason that the show found any success. He famously goes by Joe Exotic, on account of his ownership of exotic animals. He gained popularity and wealth by allowing people to interact with his tigers, either at his zoo or on the road. Maldonado-Passage is one of the most eccentric and outlandish people to ever be captured on film. The audience may not necessarily like him, but it is difficult to deny that he is entertaining.
However, Maldonado-Passage’s personality can only keep audiences enticed for so long — in this case, one season. As amusing as Maldonado-Passage might be, his horrible personal qualities are difficult to overlook. He has continuously threatened the life of a woman named Carole Baskin, who is another person involved in the exotic animal industry. Maldonado-Passage has made video after video clearly stating that he wants Baskin dead, either by his own hands or by paying someone else to end her life. This is part of the reason Maldonado-Passage is currently in jail. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Western District of Oklahoma, Maldonado-Passage “has been sentenced to 22 years in prison after a federal jury convicted him of two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.”
A major issue with “Tiger King” is that it is considered a true-crime docuseries, which becomes increasingly apparent in the second season. Unlike most true crime stories, this one depicts a man’s threats against a woman without any action taking place. Of course, one does not wish to see these threats become real, but the expectation of true crime usually guarantees such. Most people do not want Maldonado-Passage to be successful in his desire to end Baskin’s life — but unfortunately, there are some people who do. Many posts on social media sided with Maldonado-Passage as he rooted for Baskin’s death, which further proves the strange reactions that “Tiger King” ensued.
Regardless, this show should not be classified as a true-crime series. The creators obviously tried to force it into this category, which ultimately ruined the show. There is very little discomfiting content in “Tiger King.” Possibly the most upsetting aspect is the mistreatment of endangered species. Unfortunately, the creators did not seem to grasp this, so they ended up attempting to make every detail seem groundbreaking and eerie — when it simply isn’t.
Season 2 is meant to be a follow-up, updating the audience on what has taken place since the first season aired, though this is entirely unnecessary. It quickly becomes clear that there is essentially no new information to add.
The first episode of any show is undoubtedly important, as it sets the tone and plot for the rest of the season. But “Tiger King” starts its second season by following Maldonado-Passage’s campaigners on their attempt to get him pardoned by the president at the time, Donald Trump. They do not receive the pardon, so there is no actual point to the entire episode.
The lack of genuine content becomes even more evident when viewers suddenly realize that Season 2 reuses clips from the first season. Also, the show pads episodes by including reactions to the first season that people posted on social media. This was obviously easy, as so many people posted about “Tiger King” and there are screen recordings of Baskin’s YouTube channel as well. It is mentioned that she makes these daily diary reading videos, though this information has no bearing on the actual story.
Maldonado-Passage is in jail for the entirety of the second season of “Tiger King.” All of his interviews are conducted through the phone and with a low-quality camera. As a result, the sound and visual standards of all of Maldonado-Passage’s direct statements are terrible, which only further emphasizes the show’s disregard for genuine quality.
It becomes progressively more confusing throughout the second season whether audiences are meant to root for Maldonado-Passage or not. He is depicted as a strange type of hero in one clip, and then totally torn apart by past friends in the next.
Clearly, “Tiger King” was never a great show, but extenuating circumstances allowed it to receive feedback that it did not genuinely deserve. Now that many quarantine rules have been lifted, audiences are finally able to see the series’s actual quality levels, which many viewers would see as exceedingly low. It is somewhat endearing to remember the hold that shows like “Tiger King” had on everyone when the world was desperately longing for real human connection. People should remain grateful that they are no longer in such deep isolation, and that can be celebrated by watching shows and films that actually deserve attention.