Tiger King: The Joe Exotic Pandemonium


Truth Arnold, Digital Media and Design

Tiger King: Muder, Mayhem and Madness is the new Netflix docuseries that came out on March 20, 2020. It’s a true crime series about the ins and outs of a subculture of exotic tiger zoos and big cat breeding by a small group of people throughout America.

The show mainly follows the larger-than-life Joe Exotic and his Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and the animal rights activist Carole Baskin and her hatred towards the culture of big cat breeding. Their rivalry knows no bounds; the constant verbal threats and lawsuits between them are enough to socially and financially destroy each other for years and years. Not only do we follow Joe and Carole on their escapades in big cat culture, but we also follow the biggest stars in this subculture and how they treat animals in their self-made zoos and the dark secrets behind them. The docuseries has garnered a lot of attention since its release as everyone and their grandmas stay in their homes unable to escape the drama.

Now, what can I honestly say about Tiger King? It’s honestly the most wild documentary that I have ever seen, and I’ve seen my fair share of true crime documentaries. I definitely understood the hype of it all once I started watching it. After about two or three episodes, I honestly forgot that this is a true crime series and started thinking of it as a reality TV show because every person and plot point of this show is so outlandish I can never truly compute if any of it is real. Joe Exotic’s big cat zoo is just one surprise after another, and some suspicious controversies just make me go, “Oh, you can just do that? Is that allowed?” Joe Exotic himself is so far from normal, being a tiger-loving, gun-slinging, country singing,  gay/polygamous, Oklahoma man just trying to do his thing and make money, and you can very much admire that about him.

At the same time, though, throughout the series some of the suspicious things about how he runs his zoo makes you question his motives and intent. The same can be said of  “Ms. Cool Cats and Kittens,” Carole Baskin, whom you’d expect to like because of her animal activism for big cats. But, honestly speaking, there are things that she also does that make you feel like she might just be just as bad as Joe and everyone else in the docuseries. I won’t spoil everything that makes Carole so sketchy (I mean, you should’ve watched it already), but come on now, everyone….she did it and we all know it. Even the side characters are… unique, to say the least, about how they take care of their zoos and the people in it. It really makes you think about how messed up some of these industries are and how it’s all happening under our noses.

The amazing thing about this whole documentary is the fact that you get so caught up in the egos of all of these tiger owning people that you seem to forget that some of the documentary was supposed to be about the animals and how they are abused and kept in these cages in America. I think being caught up in the drama was the biggest downfall for Joe Exotic, as well, because he needed to focus back to his roots of taking care of those tigers. The tigers are, honestly, the biggest victims in the whole documentary that deserved to be looked at, and by the end of the series, you realize that you got swept up by the rest of the drama that you forgot that these animals needed help. I hope that with this documentary we start to think more about these types of issues in relation to animal rights, animal abuse, and self-regulated zoos. Because at the end of the day, the only exotic animal that should be in the cage are people like Joe.