If you’d told us at the beginning of the year that we’d spend April stuck inside under lockdown watching a documentary about a man with a mullet, 176 tigers and a murder-for-hire charge, we would have had some questions. But here we are.
During these strange times, Tiger King has become one of the defining shows which seems to have brought us all together. The seven-part documentary series follows the story of Joseph Maldonado-Passage – or Joe Exotic, as we now know him – and his exotic-animal park.
But what starts as a look inside America’s big cat obsession quickly becomes something very different – and leads to Exotic’s arrest in connection with a murder-for-hire charge.
With its twists, unexpected revelations and all-over bizarreness, it’s no surprise that Tiger King has attracted so much attention – the latest of which has come from legendary documentarian Louis Theroux.
If you didn’t know already, Theroux speaks from inside experience. In 2011, he met and documented Joe Exotic’s story as part of his BBC documentary America’s Most Dangerous Pets.
Speaking on The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show, Theroux explained his one “little quibble” with the documentary – but praised the show’s “amazing” storytelling.
“I did think the tiger perspective was slightly lost, that was my little quibble,” he said. “I sort of thought there is an animal rights story here which they kind of did at the end a bit but you didn’t see the foreground.
“I feel bad even raising that because I thought it was an amazing piece of multi-episode storytelling of the type that I would aspire to do. I thought it was an entertaining and amazing romp through this netherworld of big cat owners and it really gripped my attention.”
This isn’t the first time Theroux has spoken about his feelings towards the show. In a piece for The Sunday Times, the documentarian said that he understood people’s obsession with Exotic, but warned that the human story should not distract from the real story at the show’s heart: the animals.
“If I have a quibble with the series, or maybe just a cautionary note, it’s that the carnival of human folly it depicts should not blind us to the pressing, and less amusing, animal issues at its heart: playthings of a more powerful predator, kept in captivity because of human acquisitiveness, ostentation and control,” he wrote.