“Tiger King” is a Netflix documentary series that was released March 20. The series gained a large following due to the COVID-19 quarantine, making it the No.1 watched show on Netflix in the United States.
The series follows big cat conservationists and collectors, Joe Exotic, the owner of the G.W. Exotic Animal Park, and Carole Baskin, the owner of Big Cat Rescue.
Specifically, the series follows Exotic’s strange life before being arrested. Exotic had a camera crew follow him around to make a reality show, showing every part of his personal life. This includes Exotic firing employees to keep things interesting, an employee getting half their arm ripped off and convincing a 19-year-old to marry him and another man. He’s also shown to be constantly threatening Baskin over video, running for president in 2016 and showing off his country music career.
Fans who have watched the series believe Exotic deserves to be released from prison, but the show’s co-director said these fans are misguided. The series shows Exotic’s worst self, separating newborn tigers and keeping them in boxes inside his home, videoing himself shooting a mannequin to “prepare” for what he will do to Baskin and associating himself with less than reputable people. Exotic even tries to hire a person to murder Baskin. The hitman hired is revealed to be an employee of the wildlife park associated with Jeff Lowe, a man Exotic used to be business associates with. If fans truly believe Exotic deserves to be out of prison, it seems similar to people who fall in love and obsess over serial killers.
Most, if not all, of the characters are bad in their own way. Baskin kept all of the money after her ex-husband Don Lewis disappeared, Lowe was caught up in criminal activity and Doc Antle, the owner of another wildlife preserve, had former employees mention how he manipulates the women who work for him. Fans of the series even believe Baskin killed Lewis by feeding him to a tiger.
The only decent people in the series are the former employees of the G.W. Exotic Animal Park. They express regret that the cats were not being taken care of properly towards the end of Exotic’s ownership. Zookeeper Saff Saffrey put it best when he said at the end, the cats did not win.
One of the few redeeming qualities about Exotic at the end of the series is when he realized he did not treat his animals well. He mentioned he had separated his chimpanzees and, when he had to give them up to another park, noticed that they seemed much happier.
But Joe Exotic is not the hero of the series. “Tiger King” shows he might not be as bad as other characters, but he was not, and is not, innocent.