Dan Hassler-Forest on the hit series Tiger King

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness | Official Trailer | Netflix

Currently, Tiger King is one of the most popular documentaries on Netflix. Dr. Dan Hassler-Forest (Media and Performance Studies), member of the Utrecht Young Academy, discusses the success of the series on the VRPO website.  

Dr. Dan Hassler-Forest. Foto: Ed van Rijswijk
Dr. Dan Hassler-Forest. Photo: Ed van Rijswijk

Hassler-Forest compares Tiger King to Temptation Island and MTV’s My Super Sweet 16. “It has the same slick visual style and editing, but also a similar patronizing attitude towards its main characters. The fun factor arises from people making fun of themselves on television. This time around it is not just half-naked adonises or spoiled teens, but Americans with missing teeth haggling for a luxurious life.” 

Joe Exotic, Doc Antle and Carole Baskin are portrayed as stereotypes, similar to the main character of The Office, Michael Scott.

Polarisation problems

Because the makers do not seem to meddle with the story, they appear impartial. “That illusion makes them look down on their main characters,” Hassler-Forest explains. “Joe Exotic, Doc Antle and Carole Baskin are portrayed as stereotypes, similar to the main character of The Office, Michael Scott. The lack of social empathy adds to the problem of polarization in American culture and politics. The makers of Tiger King could have chosen to explore the underlying social and economic problems in the US that lead to the rise and fall of figures like Joe Exotic. Tiger King may not feel like exploitation, but it is. These people think they might profit from all the attention.”