Why you should watch “Tiger King”

Illustration by Casper Savoie
Hey all you cool cats and kittens. If you haven’t heard of the Netflix original documentary series “Tiger King: Murder Mayhem and Madness,” then you must live under a rock. 

The documentary series explores the self-proclaimed gay, gun-toting redneck Joe Exotic, his zoo of 200 tigers, a feud with animal rights activist Carole Baskin, his race for president and governor, and how he became a federally convicted felon. 

All seven episodes are all one wild roller coaster. It has everything: cults, tigers, politics, polygamy, and even a mysterious disappearance. It’s a must watch for everyone stuck without anything to do during self-isolation.. Warning, there will be spoilers ahead. 

The series begins by stating there are more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild. That fact alone is shocking even though tigers are on the endangered animal’s list. 

Where do I even begin with Joe Exotic? The man is a mysterious anomaly of all mankind. He has tigers, two husbands, a mullet and multiple facial piercings. 

Carole Baskin, Joe Exotic’s animal rights foe, advocates to stop selling, breeding and petting tigers. She runs Big Cat Rescue, a facility that rescues big cats, clad in a quirky flower crown and cat print. 

“Doc” Antle is another big cat owner with a zoo in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He has also made appearances on late-night talk shows and with Britney Spears during the infamous performance of “I’m a Slave 4 U.”

With these three real-life characters, the entertainingly chaotic story shifts through three main plot points in the first half of the series. The first, whether Carole Baskin killed her second husband Don Lewis  and fed him to the tigers. The second, whether “Doc” Antle is running a cult to which many women-who call themselves Antle’s girlfriends-have fallen victim. The third, the war raging between Joe and Carole which involved protests, smear campaigns, and a mailbox full of snakes. 

The war is really the show’s focus, but the problem is all these other crazy shenanigans also happened. The war climaxes when Joe Exotic is arrested for hiring someone to kill Carole. You would think the war ended when Joe was sentenced to 22 years in prison, but I think he won the war. 

The show didn’t portray Carole in the best of light and damaged her reputation, to say the least. I believe she is guilty of killing Don Lewis, her husband who mysteriously disappeared around the time he , and fed him to their rescued tigers. The show also portrayed her as a hypocrite because, like Joe and “Doc,”  she charges admission to see the rescued tigers. 

The series’ most tragic moment was the accidental suicide of Joe’s 23-year old husband Travis Maldonado, who had an addiction and was taken advantage of by Joe Exotic. 

One of the craziest moments involves a tiger biting a former employee’s hand off. . It wasn’t just crazy because he lost part of his arm, but because Joe Exotic put on an EMS jacket he seemed to have lying around just in case a medical event happened at the zoo. That’s Joe Exotic for you.  The employee held no ill will towards the tiger, the zoo, or Joe and returned to his job after he was medically cleared. 

Joe Exotic is a hard person to hate, but I do think he had many faults including his own ego. In the beginning, you see his love for the tigers, but by the end, he lost his passion let outside factors take precedent. Do I think he tried to have Carole killed? No, because I think he fed off their feud, but I do think he probably did some illegal things. 

He also trusted the wrong people who stabbed him in the back, stole his zoo, and got away with crimes they also more than likely committed. 

The show is a fascinating microcosm of the brutal and cutthroat world of exotic animal industry. It is an absolute must watch for everyone in this weird time of isolation. 

About Author

Jordan Jones was hired as the Culture reporter for the Mesa Legend in January of 2020. She is in her second semester at MCC, and she plans to transfer to ASU and get an Interdisciplinary Studies degree in Film Study and Art History. With her degrees and passion for cinema, Jordan intends to become a film archivist.

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