A gun-wielding, attention and animal-loving borderline psychopath. Another borderline psychopath that obsesses over the first psychopath. Money. Greed. And most of all, big cats.
All of these elements combine to make the unbelievably true limited Netflix documentary Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Maddness.
Tiger King mainly follows Oklahoma native Joe Exotic and his leadership of a zoo that houses all kinds of animals, with the main attraction being exotic (no pun intended) cats.
One of the more intriguing elements of the documentary is Exotic’s feud with animal rights activist Carol Baskin. The two are in many ways polar opposites, yet it slowly becomes evident that they are in many ways similar, making their arcs that much more interesting.
When she was introduced in episode one, Baskin comes off as normal and only wished the best for the cats of the world. That notion slowly deteriorates through the rest of the season in the most unexpected ways.
Ethical issues are also raised throughout the series. The debate over whether Joe can breed tigers is Carrol’s main reason for going after him. This is a practice Joe and many other zoos like his take part in.
Baskin’s main argument is that tiger cub petting is what brings in the money. Once those cubs are too big for petting, they become a financial liability, leading to abuse or even the execution of the animals.
Another zoo much like Joe’s is owned by Bhagavan Antle or Doc Antle. In addition to Baskin attacking him for the same animal-related crimes as Joe, he is attacked for his treatment of his mostly female employee base.
Made up of mostly women in their 20’s, Antle claims to be enlightened and for those employees to reach the same level of enlightenment as him, they must sleep with him. Unsuprisingly, Doc Antle also takes part in polygamy.
The series also explores the workers at Joe Exotic’s zoo. They initially come across as quirky or odd, but nothing too out of the ordinary about them. Nope! They turn out to be in many ways just like their boss.
In episode one, one of the first times we see Exotic interacting with his employees is when one young employee gets her arm gruesomely ripped off while sticking her arm in the cage of a tiger.
This was where the infamous meme of Exotic muttering the lines “I will never recover financially from this” originates. This moment of shock for the audience is what sets us down the path of the insanity of the big cat industry.
Despite this, that employee went back to work just days after getting her arm amputated.
A series full of seemingly fantastical characters, Tiger King fails to provide a dull moment. The story takes on the characteristics of a Shakespearean tragedy, even if everything about it is true.