The Potential for a ‘Tiger King Effect’: Analysis of Public and Media Response to the Netflix Series 'Tiger King'

Keywords: Animal Welfare, COVID-19 Pandemic, Exotic Animal Trade, Human-Animal Interactions, Media Framing


During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Netflix aired the docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness. This aligned with the United States declaring a national emergency and the beginning of stay-at-home orders. Netflixexperienced a significant increase in viewership and a large number of responses to Tiger King’s content from viewers and media outlets (e.g., Stoll 2021). In this article, we present an analysis of social media responses on the Netflix official Facebook page and online news articles associated with Tiger King published between 20 March 2020 and 30 March 2020. This thematic analysis reveals that public response was mainly related to expressions of sentiment, characters featured in the docuseries, and references to the show’s content (e.g., specific scenes). We also identified character references, series content descriptions, and real-life events as themes within media sources. We conclude this article by discussing the potential for a ‘Tiger King Effect’ in the U.S. and the media’s role in distributing human-animal related materials to the general public.

Author Biographies

Nikki Bennett, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Nikki Bennett is a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her research focuses on human-animal interactions. She holds a MS in Anthrozoology from Canisius College and a BS in Zoology from North Carolina State University. Her previous graduate studies examined containment of nontraditional exotic species for companionship purposes. As an undergraduate, she studied abroad in Namibia to learn about African ecology and mitigation efforts for human-wildlife conflict. Professionally, Nikki has assisted with ecological research in the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department at the University of Florida. She also has experience monitoring shorebird and sea turtle nesting behaviors.

Elizabeth Johnson, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Elizabeth Johnson is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). She obtained an MFA degree at UNLV and is certified in Museum and Gallery Studies. She is an advocate for interdisciplinary research, whose focus includes biocultural approaches to human behavior, anthrozoology, identity, kinship, behavior, and ethics.  Elizabeth is currently investigating the physiological responses behind human-animal bonds. Her professional background includes rescue and rehabilitation of exotic and native species in Texas and California. Additionally, she is experienced in academic advising, social media research and development, photography, exhibit design, and equine therapy.

October 31, 2021
How to Cite
Bennett, N., & Johnson, E. (2021). The Potential for a ‘Tiger King Effect’: Analysis of Public and Media Response to the Netflix Series ’Tiger King’ . Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, 14(2), 124–146.