Tiger King is a documentary series on wild animals with four and, above all, two legs. Few fictions would be plausible with the degree of sordidness, grimness, corruption and hidden violence that transits through the seven chapters directed by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin for Netflix. On the one hand, there are quadrupeds: tigers, lions, leopards, panthers or cougars in a country that, according to the documentary itself, has more cats in captivity than there are in the rest of the world at large. On the other, the bipeds: a series of characters that not even the most imaginative screenwriter could imagine and in which zoo gurus who function as sects mingle, a rich animalist with blond and dark hair past who only dresses in animal print, ex-convicts willing to kill for a plate of lentils, FBI snitches, or petty businessmen who use tiger cubs to put pretty girls and prostitutes into their bed.
There is no shortage in this cast of a handless woman and a man without legs, who seem to be the only beings with a minimum of humanity and good sense, or boys willing to marry a man they do not want for a pantry well stocked with methamphetamine and to whom the least serious What could happen to them is the caress of a lion or lose all their teeth due to the happy drug. The moral misery that Tiger King gathers is infinite, and yet it is inevitable to laugh at such human fauna.
The center of it all is the title of the series, Joe Exotic, nickname of Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, a megalomaniac and crazy character, a gay country singer stung with piercings and tattoos, which can cause all the repelus in the world until we know the rest of the birds that fly over it. Joe Exotic, whose mullet-dyed blonde hairstyle has become a posironic wink even famous people like Miley Cyrus copy, rebuilt his life after a spectacular traffic accident thanks to his relationship with the tigers. But what started as a defense of wild animals in captivity ended up becoming another business of animal exploitation where feline cubs are a juicy bargaining chip. The guy even ended up running for president of the United States first and governor of Oklahoma later. Candidacy that in a bizarre interview was summed up with this question: “Are we ready for a redneck president, with his hair tied up in a ponytail, lover of tigers and guns, gay and polygamous?”
Basically Joe Exotic was reality meat and that’s why he had his own. A grotesque material difficult to beat. Perfect for this type of series that, following in the wake of other Netflix documentary programs (from The Wild Wild Country to Bikram: Yogi, guru, predator) gives reason to that famous reflection by Janet Malcolm at the start of one of her books of reference, The journalist and the murderer, in which the essayist stated that every journalist who is not “too stupid or too conceited” knows that what he does is “morally indefensible” because ultimately what exploits is “vanity, ignorance or loneliness of people. “
Tiger King is no stranger to this harsh reflection and how the cult of celebrity leads its characters to immolate themselves in public. The viewer suffers this contradiction without being able to detach himself for a minute from the screen. The culmination of the story is the trial against Joe Exotic for trying to kill the animalist Carole Baskin and for trafficking in beasts. In short, the descent into hell of a group of ridiculous millionaires and geeks of all kinds in a country governed by the laws of money, fame and guns. The whim for possessing or being close to noble beasts that are born and die condemned to a cage could be open to multiple and sad interpretations. In the United States alone, it is believed that there are between 5,000 or 10,000 specimens in captivity. But that terrifying mystery is still pending.