The Tiger King, the GOAT, and the Celebrity Next Door: Viral Viewing as Panic Mediation
This module discusses some of the qualities of viral viewing, its role during CO-VID 19, and why Netflix’s “Tiger King” was a pandemic-perfect series. It then investigates the experience of watching ESPN’s Michael Jordan docuseries “The Last Dance,” as well as John Krasinski’s homespun “Some Good News” during the pandemic.
This module will focus on Netflix’s “Tiger King,“ ESPN’s Michael Jordan docuseries “The Last Dance,” and John Krasinski’s homespun “Some Good News.” We will ask: Why were these shows pandemic-perfect? What needs did they meet?
Participants will examine multimedia texts and define how those texts met/meet audience needs in a time of crisis.
Watch this video to hear more: Introduction Video
By the end of this module, you should be able to:
- Identify the qualities of viral viewing
- Investigate binge-watching during the CO-VID 19 pandemic.
- Examine multimedia texts and define how those texts met/meet audience needs in a time of crisis.
- Reading: Jonah Berger and Katherine L. Milkman, “What Makes Content Go Viral?” (Please focus on pages 192-94 and 201-03), Journal of Marketing Research
- Reading: Kate Knibbs, “Tiger King is Cruel and Appalling: Why are We All Watching It?,” Wired Magazine
- Reading: Michelle Orange, “The Art of Watching: Looking at Animals Looking at Us,” Virginia Quarterly Review
- Video: Tiger King Official Trailer
- Watch: Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, (Episode 1, though we recommend the entire series).
- Lecture: The Tiger King, the GOAT, and the Celebrity Next Door: Viral Viewing as Panic Mediation
- Questions to Consider:
- During the first month of quarantine, 64 million people watched Tiger King. In the Wired article, Kate Knibbs writes, “I didn’t like [Tiger King] at all, but maybe that didn’t matter—I felt my vulnerabilities temporarily cauterized by disgust.” Michelle Orange calls it “insidious” and “light-nihilist entertainment.” What do you think these terms mean?
- Having watched the Course Overview presentation and the first episode of Tiger King, reflect here on why a show that can be characterized in these ways captured so many viewers when it first aired during the Pandemic. Consider the questions posed at the end of the presentation and create your own ‘reading’ of the Tiger King‘s qualities and their audience appeal at that specific time.
- Lecture: Reflective Video: Tiger King Why We Watch
- Video: “Some Good News Episode 7”
- Video: The Last Dance Official Trailer
- Video: The Last Dance Extended Trailer
- Lecture: Thoughts on Some Good News
- Lecture: Thoughts on The Last Dance
- Questions to Consider:
Identify something you watch that meets a need for you, and reflect on your viewing habits. You can choose to focus on something you watched during the pandemic, or focus on another time and place. Use the following questions to guide your reflection.
- Why do you choose to watch this, and what makes you continue to watch?
- Do you think that there are situational factors that influence your choices?
- Identify several key patterns in the show that help to explain its appeal
- Reflect on some of the reasons you watch this.
Why are YOU watching?
In this module we explored some of the reasons why the pandemic was a perfect opportunity for binge viewing. In addition to being a catalyst for “ being apart, together,” shared viewing experiences helped us to cope with anxiety and isolation; they helped us via escape, nostalgia, and by offering us a community.
For this project, teachers might ask students to explore a show that they binge-watched through the pandemic and reflect on what needs that show met for them. (Similarly, teachers could ask students to study a binge-watching experience outside of the pandemic timeline to explore a particular personal, historical, or cultural moment).
Choose one or a combination of the options below:
- Record a video (reminder: the module’s second session includes examples of reflective videos about Some Good News and The Last Dance) or podcast (approximately 5 minutes).
- Write a reflection (approximately 1200-1500 words)
- Choose a show that you binge-watched during your pandemic isolation.
- Re-watch the trailer and memorable episodes or clips. Take notes.
- Consider why you watched. What did you like about it? Why did you keep coming back to watch more? What qualities did it have? Do you think you would have watched if not for the pandemic? Would you have experienced it differently? Did you feel like you were part of a community? Organize your thoughts before recording or writing.
While we encourage students to identify their own shows, here is a list of some of the most watched pandemic shows:
- Too Hot to Handle
- Blind Date
- Game of Thrones
- Killing Eve
- Breaking Bad
- Schitt’s Creek
- The Good Place
- Stranger Things
- The Office
- The Walking Dead
- The Last Dance. Directed by Thomas Caffey. ESPN and Netflix.
- Some Good News with John Krasinski
- Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness. Directed by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chalkin. Netflix.
- Bayer, Ronald. “The Continuing Tensions between Individual Rights and Public Health. Talking Point on Public Health versus Civil Liberties.” EMBO Reports, Nature Publishing Group, Dec. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2267241/ (Links to an external site.).
- Berger, Jonah and Katherine L. Milkman: “What Makes Content Go Viral?” Journal of Marketing Research, April 2012, vol. 49 no. 2, pp. 192-205
- Burr, Ty. “How John Krasinski has rewired our engagement with Celebrity.” Boston Globe, 7 May, 2020 https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/05/07/arts/how-john-krasinski-has-rewired-our-engagement-with-celebrity/?event=event12 (Links to an external site.)
- Clark, Travis. “Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’ was watched by 34 million US Viewers in 10 days, according to Nielsen.” Business Insider, 8 April 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/netflixs-tiger-king-watched-by-34-million-viewers-2020-4#:~:text=Netflix’s%20’Tiger%20King’%20was%20watched,10%20days%2C%20according%20to%20Nielsen&text=Netflix’s%20hit%20docuseries%20%22Tiger%20King,to%20the%20data%20firm%20Nielsen. (Links to an external site.)
- Clarendon, Don. “A Full Breakdown of our Quarantine Viewing Habits.” TV Insider. 23 May 2020 https://www.tvinsider.com/934915/quarantine-tv-viewing-habits-shows-genres/ (Links to an external site.)
- “Connected TV Usage Remains Above Pre-COVID-19 Levels as Traditional TV Viewing Normalizes.” Insights. 4 June 2020. https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2020/connected-tv-usage-remains-above-pre-covid-19-levels-as-traditional-tv-viewing-normalizes/
- Dixit, Ayushi, et al. “Binge Watching Behavior during COVID 19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional, Cross-National Online Survey.” Psychiatry Research, vol. 289, 2020, doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113089
- Feinberg, Daniel. “Emmys: John Krasinski’s ‘Some Good News’ will Take on Late-Night’s Big Guns.” The Hollywood Reporter. 24 June 2020.
- Feinberg, Daniel. “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, A Review.” The Hollywood Reporter. 19 March 2020. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/tiger-king-murder-mayhem-madness-1285304
- Foucault, Michel. “Panopticism.” Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon Books, 1977.
- Gilbert, Sophie. “The Most Watched Show in America is a Moral Failure.” The Atlantic, 7 April 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/04/netflix-tiger-king-is-an-ethical-trainwreck/609568/
- Gregory, Sean. “How Michael Jordan and The Last Dance Spoke to a Nation Desperately Missing Sports.” Time, 19 May 2020.
- Hedges, Chris. Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. Vintage Canada, 2010.
- Jacobs, Jason. “Television, interrupted: pollution or aesthetic?” Television as Digital Media (Console-ing Passions). Edited by James Bennett, Niki Strange. Duke University Press, 2011.
- James, Kendra. “The Delicious Arrogance in Netflix’s Tiger King Has Depressing Implications for America.” Polygon, 27 Mar. 2020, www.polygon.com/2020/3/27/21196634/tiger-king-murder-mayhem-madness-carole-baskin-joe-exotic-coronavirus-response).
- Knibbs, Kate. “Tiger King is Cruel and Appalling: Why are We All Watching It?” Wired Magazine, 31 March, 2020. https://www.wired.com/story/tiger-king-coronavirus-covid-19/ (Links to an external site.)
- Morris, Wesley, and Jenna Wortham. “Frosted Flakes.” Still Processing Podcast: The New York Times, 9 April 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/04/09/podcasts/still-processing-tiger-king.html.
- Moor, Robert. “American Animals.” New York, 3 Sept.2019. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/09/joe-exotic-and-his- (Links to an external site.) american-animals.html (Links to an external site.)
- Orange, Michelle. “The Art of Watching: Looking at Animals Looking at Us.” Virginia Quarterly Review, Summer 2020, 203-205.
- Perks, Lisa Glebatis. “Media Marathoning and Health Coping.” Communication Studies, vol. 70, no.1, 2018, pp. 19–35., doi:10.1080/10510974.2018.1519837
- Reigstad, Leif. “Joe Exotic: A Dark Journey into the World of a Man Gone Wild.” Texas Monthly, June 2019. https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/joe-exotic-a-dark-journey-into-the-world-of-a-man-gone-wild/ (Links to an external site.)
- Santos, Maria. “Top 20 TV Shows Everyone’s Watching for the First Time While Quarantined.” UpNext by Reelgood, 11 May 2020. https://blog.reelgood.com/top-20-tv-shows-everyones-watching-for-the-first-time-while-quarantined (Links to an external site.)
- Shifman, Limor. “Unpacking Viral and Mimetic Success.” Memes in Digital Culture. The MIT Press, 2014, 65-98.
- St. Felix, Doreen. “The Crass Pleasures of ‘Tiger King’.” The New Yorker. 6 April 2020. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/04/13/the-crass-pleasures-of-tiger-king (Links to an external site.)
- Walsh, Kathleen. “No one is talking about the misogyny of Tiger King so I will.” The Independent. 31 March, 2020. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/tiger-king-carole-baskin-joe-exotic-netflix-sexist-misogyny-don-lewis-a9438451.html (Links to an external site.)
- Young, Ryan. “Viewership numbers from ‘The Last Dance’ prove Michael Jordan documentary was a smash hit.” Yahoo Sports. 21 May 2020.
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