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Why is the Tiger King so popular?

Addi Tarr
2 min readApr 9, 2020


While most of our social media feeds are littered with COVID-19 updates and recommended safety and self-isolation practices, a new contender has entered the playing field. The Tiger King dropped on Netflix last month, quickly becoming the most watched Netflix during this time.

Viewers loved the bizarre real-life story of Joe Exotic, as well as the rest of the characters involved in the world of underworld surrounding big cat breeding. But what made it such a hit?

As Accredited Business Psychologist & Media Psychologist Charlotte Armitage put it:

“The Tiger King series may be grabbing so much attention because it combines a whole range of compelling factors,” Armitage said. “Crime, the fight between two opposing sides, larger than life personalities, shock and disbelief, beautiful animals, and the adorable cubs.”

While this fascinating story may be something viewers expect to see from a fictional series, very few audience members can resonate with this being a real-life experience that they witnessed.

As of last week, Jeff Lowe revealed that a final episode of Tiger King is in the making, which is set to air on Netflix later this week to further feed the obsession. Although the episode has been said to release later this week, the actual date of release is unclear.

For those who have seen the memes but not yet watched the show, the Tiger King documentary series follows a colorful Oklahoma-based zookeeper known by his stage name “Joe Exotic.” It tells the story of how Joe Exotic wound up in federal prison after an attempted murder-for-hire scheme, as well as his history of Tiger breeding, and his longtime feud with a Florida-based millionaire.

Sounds bizarre, right?

Every episode contains a series of odd details, with polygamy, lip-syncing, and flamboyant fashion, to the tattoo that one of Joe’s ex-husbands has on his pelvis. There’s even an entire side plot about what appears to be a tiger-themed sex cult and the goings-on at a completely different zoo.

The illustrious scene that Tiger King paints gives an inside view on the world of illegal big cat breeding, and exposes how common the practice actually is. Yet the focus of this show is not so much on big cats, as it is on the characters involved.

Could the popularity of this show correlate to the mass of people self-quarantined due to the COVID-19 pandemic?