If someone had asked you a month ago, “What do the words ‘Tiger King’ make you think of?” you probably would not have had a clear answer. Now, even if you have not seen Netflix’s new series, you have most likely heard of it from your friends or on social media. “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” focuses on big cat conservation societies along with a few big cat collectors. The self-proclaimed Tiger King, Joe Exotic, has captured the attention of many.
Whether people choose to focus on his eccentric personality, his polygamous relationships or his beautiful hairstyle, Joe Exotic is a truly captivating figure. The main plot point of “Tiger King” is the ongoing conflict between Joe Exotic, a tiger collector, and Carole Baskin, someone who considers herself a big cat rescuer. Many fans of the Tiger King himself, however, believe Baskin is not the innocent animal rights activist she wishes to be portrayed as.
The main source of controversy regarding Baskin is the situation involving the mysterious whereabouts of her former husband. Baskin’s second husband, Don Lewis, a self-made millionaire who was more than twenty years her senior, went missing in August 1997. In July of that same year, Lewis filed a restraining order against his wife, claiming she threatened to kill him. Lewis had a history of adultery and sex addiction and, although the restraining order was rejected, he asked Baskin for a divorce, which some people believe established a motive for Baskin to kill her husband. Joe Exotic, Baskin’s feuding enemy, continues to push a theory indicating Baskin murdered Lewis and either fed him to their tigers, or hid his body in a septic tank.
Another popular opinion among fans is that Baskin is not truly an animal savior as she insists. At times, it seems as if she is just as guilty as Joe Exotic for holding big cats in captivity. The cages at her facility, Big Cat Rescue, appear to be smaller than those at the zoos where she tries to “free” animals. Images from her park show tigers crowding in overgrown cages as well.
Moreover, she relies solely on volunteers to run Big Cat Rescue. According to their website, volunteers must spend either $70 for adults or $50 for students and seniors to volunteer in the first place. Workers at zoos are being paid for the same exact work and the facility sells non-refundable tickets costing at least $30 per person, so one may wonder where the money is going that would pay the employees. These facts definitely raise questions in the minds of those who are hesitant about Baskin, and while the exact numbers are unclear, it has been reported that Baskin could be worth up to $10 million.
Additionally, Baskin has emphatically spoken out against the series “Tiger King,” denouncing it as “salacious and sensational.” She also indicated she was misled by the purpose of the show, believing it was going to be an exposé on the big cat industry. An honest misunderstanding could have led to her being misconstrued to the audience, but her response regarding “Tiger King” could be interpreted as a cover-up and distraction from the viewers beliefs that she is guilty.
Whether you watched “Tiger King” and believe Carole Baskin is guilty, or you simply enjoyed seeing Joe Exotic’s ex-husband, John Finlay’s shirtless interviews, it is safe to say the show has been captivating and entertaining. If you have yet to watch the seven glorious episodes of “Tiger King,” it is very spicy and one of Netflix’s most unique shows to date, which should put it at the top of anyone’s list.