Tiger King’s unsavory portrait and typical blindspot
The Netflix series Tiger King drew 35 million viewers in its first 10 days of release, likely qualifying as the most successful documentary in television or movie history.
Producer-director Eric Goode presents a rich cast of indescribably weird, real-life characters, linked through the exploitation of exotic animals and tastes for decadent, unconventional sex, meth and cocaine, business crookery, elaborate tattoos and, quite possibly, murder.
It’s an unflattering portrait of an unsavory slice of Mid-American life with a conspicuous lack of context.
The story unfolds mostly around a private zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, a deeply Christian, tiny town at the “Buckle of the Bible Belt,” but religion or church get scant mention in seven hours – aside from brief, contemptuous reference to the Evangelical background of two morally compromised characters.
Yes, it’s compelling to watch, but Tiger King displays the typical Hollywood blindspot to the enduring force of faith in “flyover country” between the coasts.