Please Watch Anything Other Than Tiger King (One of These Shows Perhaps?)

 Some of the tigers from Tiger King

Quarantine is a drag. I get it. But is the best remedy for isolation really a show as problematic as Tiger King? Really? Here are some excellent reasons to take it off your favorites list- as well as a few suggestions for much better things to watch.

There are so many reasons to avoid Tiger King, and even Forbes has weighed in. These are just some of the show’s many missteps:

(Content warning: The following list and links contain discussions of narcissism, extreme misogyny, animal cruelty, transphobia, biphobia, and suicide)

  • It glamorizes the abusive narcissism perpetuated when business and community leaders place ego above all else. This is often upsetting to those who have been through similar situations. There’s no real indictment of that kind of toxic behavior worked in to balance the glamorization, either.
  • The show doesn’t hold back on depictions of extremely misogynistic harassment. At some point you wonder what the audience is expected to get out of it. The titular “tiger king” expresses sexually violent fantasies, uses gendered slurs as if they’re punctuation, and even exploits underage girls. This is after the editors removed a huge amount of Joe Exotic’s racist ideology because it “didn’t have a context in the story“, so it’s strange that the creators felt this gendered violence belonged.
  • Nothing about the show actually does anything to help tigers. It even leans towards idealizing unaccredited “roadside zoos”. There’s a serious missed opportunity to actually address the plight of the animals involved in the big cat trade. The show also fails to draw a distinction between responsible and irresponsible practices.
  • Tiger King lacks intersectionality in queer representation. Not only is a trans man repeatedly misgendered, but the show also perpetuates an especially harmful kind of bi erasure by suggesting that men’s attraction to women is “proof” that they can’t also be attracted to other men. 
  • The series includes a depiction of one man’s slow, painful downward spiral and eventual suicide without a content warning. Surveillance footage is even shown of someone reacting to the suicide as it occurred. Netflix seemingly has not listened to the backlash for 13 Reasons Why and continues to produce shows that exploit suicide for cheap shock value.

In short, Tiger King is a general trainwreck, seemingly designed to go viral specifically because of how extreme it is. This isn’t the first show Netflix has produced that is fueled by trashy outrage, and it won’t be the last.

So why do so many people watch it? A common suggestion is that Tiger King has gained so much popularity because of the quarantine. While that’s understandable, surely there are more imaginative ways to satisfy whichever need you’re trying to fill. Just off the top of my head:

“But I need quarantine therapy!”

Watch Star Trek: Voyager instead. It’s a show where hundreds of people become unexpectedly isolated away from their loved ones. Instead of moping or getting tunnel vision, they selflessly make use of their situation to help others whenever they get the opportunity.

“But I love that big gay energy!”

Watch Queer Eye. Season 3 is all about people who are too hard on themselves but then learn to breathe a little and accept help from friends.

“But I can’t look away from the trainwreck!”

Watch something with an actual train getting wrecked. It will be more spectacular, I promise. What’s your favorite movie train crash from this IMDB list? (Mine is the one from Super 8.)

A screenshot from the movie, Super 8. A train car flies through the air with an explosion and debris behind it. It's nighttime and everything is dramatically lit.
The best trainwrecks have explosions!

“But I love tigers!”

Watch Tiger Queen instead. It’s about actual tigers in the wild.

“But everyone else is watching it and I want to participate!”

Hasn’t everything getting cancelled soothed your FOMO already? If not, there’s plenty of buzzworthy stuff to watch in your geek circles.

  • Anime fan? Check out Fugou Keiji.
  • Cartoon fan? Watch Steven Universe Future.
  • Sci-fi fan? Watch Picard (Or if you’ve already seen it, host a Netflix party where you and your friends take turns picking Next Generation episodes.)
  • Also, why not poll your personal circle to see what amazing shows you’ve missed out on over the years? Surely your friends will be all too happy to welcome you into countless new-to-you fandoms.

What are your favorite things to watch instead of Tiger King?

Author: Corellon Johnson

Corellon is an engineer, cosplayer, group admin, creative fandom polymath, and chaotic good paladin of Carrie Fisher.

They’ve run over 50 fan panels and con events and can be found starting way too many projects in the Good Omens, Bioware, and Star Wars fandoms.

Twitter: @coryphefish
Newport News, Virginia, USA


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About the author

Corellon is an engineer, cosplayer, group admin, creative fandom polymath, and chaotic good paladin of Carrie Fisher.

They've run over 50 fan panels and con events and can be found starting way too many projects in the Good Omens, Bioware, and Star Wars fandoms.

Twitter: @coryphefish
Newport News, Virginia, USA