This article contains spoilers through all seven episodes of Tiger King.
At this particular moment, the most-watched show in America is a seven-part documentary series about a gay, polygamous zoo owner in Oklahoma who breeds tigers, commissions and stars in his own country-music videos, presides over what he describes as “my little cult” of drifters and much younger men, and ran for governor of Oklahoma in 2018 on a libertarian platform. He’s also currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for, among other charges, trying to arrange the assassination of his nemesis, an animal-sanctuary owner in Florida. And his business allies include another big-cat breeder—a yoga-loving guru in Myrtle Beach who runs what appears to be a tiger-themed sex sect.
There are no heroes in Tiger King. Not Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage, whose stripy mullet you’ve surely seen on social media, accompanied by a teal sequined jacket so ostentatious that the adult tiger he’s posing with looks like an afterthought. Not Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, who, one former employee alleges, coerces teenage girls working 100-hour weeks at his ranch to reach “his level of enlightenment” by sleeping with him. Not Carole Baskin, the owner of a Florida sanctuary for big cats, who Tiger King insinuates—in a strikingly unjournalistic way—might have killed her husband. And definitely not Eric Goode, the New York hotelier and animal-rights activist who co-directed the series, whose elevator pitch for it seems to have been “What if Christopher Guest, but real?” and whose disdain for the dentally challenged and leopard-print-festooned characters he captures is Tiger King’s most discernible emotion.