By now, a lot of you have seen this riveting documentary series. Or, if you haven’t convinced a friend or family member to lend you their Netflix username and password, you’ve at least heard of it. As of this story’s publication, it has been viewed almost 25 million times. It has a big cast of hysterical characters, and some even bigger cats. It’s bananas. And it’s called, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
I don’t even know where to begin. To a certain degree, the series doesn’t seem like it knows either. I guess we should start with the backdrop – an industry of big cat “conservatories” or “rescues” that pawn their tigers, lions and ligers to a fawning public who gets to experience them up close.
It turns out there are a lot of these big cat conservatories in the American South…for some reason. Maybe the rural culture and loose animal rights regulations have a lot to do with it. But I digress. Because it’s really about the star of the show – an eccentric, over-the-top, once in a lifetime personality who goes by Joe Exotic.
From his flamboyant outfits, to his funky mullet, to the handgun holstered on his side – this is the kind of man who would get you laughed off a Hollywood set for even trying to make up. Joe’s passion for tigers led him to launch a “zoo” where patrons can pet tiger cubs, feed full grown, 400 pound tigers, and see Joe Exotic – the man, the myth, the legend himself.
It’s a pretty loose-caboose operation, sloppy actually. Not only did a handler get her arm torn off (only to return to work the following week) but a little kid got snapped on by an adolescent tiger as well.
Joe’s personal life is as much of a show as his professional life is. He is married to two other guys who are not interested in him, addicted to meth, and really enjoy shooting guns – one of whom accidentally shoots and kills himself. By the way, did I mention all of these things are somehow caught on camera?
Now, we can’t forget about the other, almost as compelling, supporting characters – also big cat enthusiasts. One woman, Carole Baskin, runs a big cat rescue and starts a campaign against Joe’s inhumane business. Not only is this woman rumored to have killed her previous husband and fed him to their pet tigers, she ends up having a hit put out on her by Joe Exotic.
Then there’s another man, Baghavan ‘Doc’ Antle, who owns a big cat conservatory and has a harem of brainwashed women who follow him around and do sexual favors in return for a supposed higher spiritual status. Oh, and the FBI gets involved at a certain point. Let’s face it, the FBI always gets involved at a certain point with things like this.
There are no lulls in the plot. I promise. And if you’re worried I’m spoiling it – I’m not. There are twenty other things I’ve left out and then there’s the way it all ends up. I’m still going bonkers. I totally and absolutely recommend this series for the LATV quarantine queue. Once you finish, here are a few other good movies to watch.