Just when we thought isolation was going to be boring, ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness’ came to the rescue. (Image Source: Netflix/Facebook)
By Eva Blandis|@BlandisEva
If you haven’t heard of or watched Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, then I presume you live under a rock because it is everywhere.
On March 20, everyone with Netflix was lucky enough to gain access to what Joel McHale, in his after show, described as being the most popular documentary series in history.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness follows several big cat owners who run zoos, or in the case of Carole Baskin, a ‘sanctuary’.
Joe Maldonado-Passage (known as Joe Exotic) is the owner of G.W. Zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, and the focus of the docuseries.
Throughout the series, the audience follows Joe in his day-to-day life as a big cat lover, YouTube personality and, believe it or not, country music singer.
Now, before you get too excited, you need to know that it has been discovered that Joe didn’t write or sing any of his music … weird, I know.
To be honest, there is a lot of weird stuff going on with Joe and his zoo.
Although it appears that Joe opens his wildlife park with the best intentions, it soon turns sour as PETA and many other wildlife conservation organisations try to shut him down.
But wildlife conversationalists aren’t the only people who are after Joe. Carole Baskin also makes it her priority to shut down G.W. Zoo.
Carole Baskin, also a big cat lover, is the founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida.
Big Cat Rescue is described as a non-profit sanctuary by the Big Cat Rescue website; however, Joe and others are quick to debunk the idea of it being a ‘sanctuary’.
Others? There can’t be more… can there? Well, yes, there is, and this guy also loves big cats.
Mahamayavi Bhagavan Antle, better known as Doc Antle, is the founder and director of The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.).
In an interview with a previous worker, it is discovered that everyone who works for Doc, in his cult-like facility, is expected to call him ‘Bhagavan’.
When asked, in the docuseries, what ‘Bhagavan’ means, Doc describes it as meaning “you’re a friend of God”.
Along with requesting everyone to call him ‘Bhagavan’, he allegedly makes his workers sleep in “horse stalls…full of cockroaches”, as described by a previous employee who is interviewed in the documentary.
Apart from loving big cats and running a zoo, Joe and Doc have something else in common: polygamy.
Doc, at the time of his meeting with Joe, has three wives while Joe has two husbands – something which is explored in-depth throughout the series.
Now let’s get into the focus of the series and that, for sure, is murder, mayhem and madness.
In Carole’s attempt to rid America of the private possession of exotic animals, she also tries to stop cruelty against these animals, and during that time goes after Joe.
Although Joe seems to love all his exotic animals, there is some question as to the ethics behind taking cubs away from their mothers straight after birth.
By hand-rearing cubs, Joe is able to host play sessions so that the visitors at the zoo are able to spend time with them.
It is hinted throughout the docuseries that Joe euthanised older wild cats to make room for the younger ones, as they bring in more money.
Carole is not shy of naming and shaming people for the unethical treatment of animals, and that is how she goes about dealing with Joe.
In retaliation, Joe makes it his number one priority to humiliate and deface Carole.
In doing so, he brings up the mystery of Carole’s missing husband, Don Lewis, who many believe she murdered and fed to her cats.
Joe uses music videos, YouTube videos and protests to get back at Carole.
As Joe’s attempts to get back at Carole get more vicious, Carole decides to sue Joe for copyright of the photos he used to defame her.
Joe ends up needing to sell his zoo due to the substantial economic strain from legal bills.
But, selling his zoo isn’t the only extreme measure Joe takes.
Joe decides to organise a hitman to go after Carole, which inevitably doesn’t go as planned.
As a result, Joe is serving 22 years in prison.
After the release of the docuseries, there are thousands of people who want Joe to be released from jail and allege that Carole killed her husband.
I am also very suspicious about the disappearance of Don Lewis.
Amongst all the madness of Joe, Carole and Doc, we can’t forget the exotic animals that are caught up in this whole saga.
There is no doubt that the lives of these animals are majorly different from what their lives in the wild would be like. Tigers, especially, are an endangered species.
One positive role these zoos play is the preservation of exotic animals.
But, is life in captivity worth it? And most importantly, is Carole’s ‘sanctuary’ any better than other zoos with exotic animals?
In the docuseries, most of the wild cats look happy, despite the obvious, but we aren’t privy to what happens when the cameras are off.
If it is true that both Doc and Joe euthanise their animals to make room for younger animals, then there is no doubt in my mind that these people are in the wrong.
But is it right for Carole, who is also keeping wild animals in captivity, to go after people who run a similar business to her own?
We must not forget that Carole makes income from tours of her ‘sanctuary’.
Along with Carole, Joe also has the best intentions when setting out to save animals who are being abandoned by private owners.
It seems that as the fame gets to Joe, the love and care of his animals deteriorates.
Was this from a lack of money due to the legal bills, or were there a myriad of other reasons?
Tiger King has created an online phenomenon that has resulted in the #carolebaskinchallenge on TikTok, and several fan pages being made for Joe Exotic.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is the perfect distraction during isolation, and undoubtedly serves its purpose to entertain during all seven episodes.
So, if you haven’t watched it yet, stop what you’re doing and check it out – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.