For many of us, self-isolation, quarantine and government lockdowns mean working from home and staying indoors – but it also means prime binge-watching. With so many streaming platforms at our fingertips, we’re overwhelmed with choice – but if there’s one thing you have to watch in isolation, it’s Netflix’s new documentary series, Tiger King. Hear about it below:
Without giving too much away, Tiger King follows Joe Maldonado-Passage AKA Joe Exotic, an eccentric big cat breeder and zoo owner based in Oklahoma. Joe’s personal story is batsh*t crazy on it’s own, but it’s the broader story of Tiger King that has everyone’s tongues wagging.
The series takes viewers down a bizarre rabbit-hole of competing big cat breeders, the fight for animal rights, murder-for-hire convictions, polyamorous relationships, accidental suicide, tiger attacks and more – leaving you bewildered and with your jaw firmly on the floor.
Here’s everything you need to know about Tiger King, the Netflix series on everyone’s lips:
Who is Joe Exotic?
Joe Exotic AKA Joseph Maldonado-Passage (né Schreibvogel) is the former operator of Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
After Exotic’s brother Garold Wayne died in a car crash in 1997, he used money from the settlement to buy a ranch in Oklahoma and turned it into a zoo dedicated to his late brother. Over the years, Exotic became a big name in the big cat world, particularly for his ‘online reality TV show’ and live tour incorporating both wild animals and magic.
Joe Exotic is an openly gay man, who at one time had two husbands: John Finlay and Travis Maldonado, the latter of which was killed in 2017 in an accidental suicide.
In 2006, Exotic’s animal park was accused of violating the Animal Welfare Act standards. In 2011, Carole Baskin – the owner and operator of competing zoo Big Cat Rescue – protested Exotic’s use of cubs in shows. Exotic retaliated by stealing trademarks of Big Cat Rescue, and so began an almost decade-long feud between Exotic and Baskin that ended in a criminal charge for animal abuse and murder-for-hire.
Who Is Carole Baskin?
Carole Baskin is the founder and chief executive officer of Big Cat Rescue, a not-for-profit animal rescue in Florida.
While Baskin is portrayed as somewhat of an animal rights hero in the early episodes of Tiger King, her dark past becomes clear later on. She opened Big Cat Rescue in the early ‘90s with her then-husband Don Lewis, a much older millionaire who mysteriously disappeared in 1997. Both Lewis’ daughters from his former marriage, and Joe Exotic have accused Baskin of killing Lewis and feeding him to the tigers. Baskin denies the claims and maintains that Lewis left her without any explanation.
Throughout Tiger King, viewers witness the drama surrounding Baskin and Exotic’s longtime feud. Her biggest beef with Exotic stems from the fact he breeds big cats, whereas her mission is to give them a place to be safe and live out the rest of their lives. As mentioned previously, the animosity between Baskin and Exotic escalates to criminal levels as the series carries on.
What Else Does Tiger King Cover?
As well as the murder, mayhem and madness between Baskin and Exotic, Tiger King uncovers the seedy underbelly of the big cat business in the United States, and the characters at the forefront of it.
During the series, we meet Exotic’s employees – many of whom are employed fresh out of jail and on an extremely low wage, Exotic’s quirky reality TV producer Rick Kirkham and other big cat breeders, including Mahamayavi Bhagavan “Doc” Antle and his several wives, and Mario Tabraue a convicted felon and former drug kingpin.
You can’t make this stuff up. Tiger King is available to watch now on Netflix – believe me, you don’t want to miss out on this wild rollercoaster of emotion.
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