A “Tiger King” review for all you cool cats and kittens


Kira Matheson

The star of the show, Joe Exotic, seen handling one of his many tigers.

Coming in second to the global pandemic, the release of Netflix’s “Tiger King” is one of the most shocking things to rock the media this past month. The documentary series has gained an almost cult following, taking the internet by storm since its March 20 release date.

The show follows Joe Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exoctic, a flamboyant, larger-than-life tiger trainer and handler. He owns the G. W. Zoo in Oklahoma, home to almost 200 tigers, lions, and countless other imported animals. The episodes highlight the majesty of his park with a dark side hidden underneath.

To cover everything that happened in the seven-part mini-series is next to impossible, but as the story progresses, the viewers are shown the disturbing man behind the curtain. Exotic’s flashy demeanor camouflages his rage, negligence and erratic behavior, both towards his staff and the camera crew. However, no one had it coming worse than Carole Baskin.

An animal rights activist from Florida, Baskin is the leader of Big Cat Rescue and is notorious for trying to shut Exotic down. Met with online abuse from Exotic, including multiple videos of him shooting a doll in her likeness, setting off explosives in her name and threatening to attack her with snakes, she begins to fear for her life.

Her fears were confirmed when Exotic decided to hire a hitman to kill her.

At this point, the docuseries becomes a bad car crash. This is no longer about the animals, but about a deep-rooted grudge involving Exotic and his ego. The show wraps up with him in prison, charged with murder-for-hire and wildlife violations, with no real positive ending.

The most frustrating part about this show is that there is no hero figure. Exotic may seem brash, but is shown crumbling at the thought of losing his tigers; Baskin may seem like a big cat’s Mother Teresa, but is also suspected of feeding her husband to her tigers and changing his will. It’s arguably the most human aspect of the “Tiger King” experience, everyone is multifaceted and no one is truly good or bad.

Although the show is mostly about the fall of the G. W. Zoo, it touches on some incredibly violent and tragic moments in Exotic’s life. His financial troubles, raging drug addiction, and on-screen suicide of one of his husbands carried the plot for the majority of the middle episodes.

Though it made for disturbing content, it distracted the viewers from the point of the series.

The basis of “Tiger King” was about what humans are doing to handle endangered species and how each person on the show thought they were doing the ‘right’ thing. From innocent intentions sprung selfishness as their ideologies clashed with one another. Point being, it missed the mark for promoting conservation as the tigers were watered down to a cameo in the murder-for-hire plot.

Though it makes for excellent quarantine television, “Tiger King” is not something to increase your fate in humanity. Its seemingly fictional storyline can only be described as a permanent pit in your stomach, blindsided by every turn. Watch with discretion, believe who you will and don’t put your hand in the tiger cage.