The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

“Cheer” and “Tiger King”: Stars who commit criminal behavior should not be rewarded by streaming services

4 min read
Someone's left hand holds a remote with their thumb pressing a center button.

Many streaming services air shows that highlight and glorify criminals, profiting off the dramatization of their crimes. | Erik Mclean, Unsplash


Staff Writer

Hulu recently announced that it was coming out with a show titled “The Girl From Plainville” about Michelle Carter, a woman who encouraged her boyfriend to kill himself through text messages back in 2014. The show is supposed to center around her life and the events leading up to the act. While the purpose of releasing a show of such nature is unknown, giving Carter a platform for her story benefits Hulu because such a dramatic topic attracts viewers and, subsequently, increased profits.

In keeping shows that star criminals and showcase criminal activity on their sites, streaming platforms glorify terrible people and allow viewers to do the same. To avoid profiting from criminal actions, streaming services should not create shows like “The Girl From Plainville” that glorify criminals, and all convicted actors should not be allowed to receive royalties from their shows. 

Streaming platforms profit off of abusers and their victims by producing shows that draw viewers in. These shows, instead of trying to bring light to an issue, seek to present drama that attracts viewers and helps increase the service’s profits. 

In Aug. 2020, just four months after “Cheer” aired its first season, Jerry Harris was arrested and charged with sexual misconduct on multiple counts. He was accused of sending explicit messages to minors, which started when he was 19 and messaging children as young as 13 years old. Harris was one of the main performers on the show and had gained quite a following.

Season two had already begun filming when Harris was arrested, which resulted in him appearing in the first few episodes, including one named “Jerry,” which was dedicated to addressing the allegations against him. 

While it was important to address this issue and his subsequent dismissal from the show, the episode didn’t mention his crimes until ten minutes into a dramatic and uncomfortable episode. It was most difficult during the tribute-like montage of Jerry at meet and greets with children, laughing and clips of public figures like President Joe Biden and Ellen DeGeneres praising him. 

While the show allowed the survivors’ stories to be heard, the show’s depiction of Jerry was always positive in their B-roll clips, and the survivors were shown in a light that spread pity on them instead of empowerment. It was as if the producers were making them look weak with the type of questions they were asking the young boys and their mother.

By titling the episode “Jerry,” it was evident that Netflix knew they could gain additional viewers for alloting an entire episode to the matter. The “Jerry” episode failed to properly address the issue. They ended his episode with a flashback of Jerry talking about the dark place he would be in if he didn’t have cheer (one example he gave was being in jail). It felt as if the episode was mourning his loss for all the wrong reasons. The producers and directors are to blame for that episode and the way Jerry was shown. When the new season was released, there was no trigger warning or mention of if/when they would discuss Jerry until the “Jerry” episode.

To indicate that the production team and Netflix are taking this issue seriously, the first season and first four episodes of “Cheer” should be taken off the streaming service. They should keep the episode where his allegations are discussed in order to acknowledge the issue and set an example that predators will be punished for their crimes. 

While “Cheer” is a current example of this occurrence, there are many other shows on various platforms that have been met with the same dilemma of keeping a show with a predator on the screen. 

One of those is “Tiger King.” The star, Joe Exotic, is currently in prison for murder-for-hire and animal abuse. One of the co-directors of the show, Eric Goode, spoke in a Washington Post article about what they wanted viewers to take from the series. 

Goode said, “We had to thread that needle carefully so at the end of the series, it wasn’t preachy or the voice of God telling you how to feel about the cruelty and isolation of the tigers, and we hope they came away with the outcome that this was a very cruel and abusive practice.”  

While Goode’s overall message explains a perspective that doesn’t attempt to idealize Joe Exotic, the issue of continuing these shows is that a convicted felon is on the screen, which can lead to people not holding him accountable for his actions for the sake of entertainment. Exotic’s net worth is around $10-15 million, and he had a line of underwear with his face on the crotch that sold out and gained him about $20,000, according to InTouch Weekly. It is not stated whether or not he made any money from the show.

These streaming services should refuse to give royalties to the criminals who star in their shows, and they need to improve their own practices by halting any productions that glorify criminals or depict their stories for the mere sake of views.