Oh, COVID-19, you’ve given us so much already, but Tiger King has been by far your best gift. Let’s be completely honest here, this show came at the right time. If it premiered at any other time, we would have all missed it and wouldn’t have cared less. But, due to the fact that we are all super-glued to our streaming devices trying to social distance ourselves from others, we spent seven glorious hours wrapped in the insanity that is Joe Exotic. My husband learned to stop saying “This can’t get any crazier” after the third episode. Why? Because it was clear as the episodes went on that this show was just getting MORE and MORE INSANE.
If you’ve been living under a rock or haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Tiger King yet, it’s the story of “Joe Exotic” and his Tiger Zoo in Oklahoma. A documentary team had aspirations to create a tiger version of Blackfish, the sensational Netflix documentary about killer whales in captivity. What came out of that five-year adventure going was something entirely different. From episode one, viewers realize that Joe Exotic is not your normal tiger guy. Now that I think about it, is anyone who owns a tiger or big cat normal? He has TONS of different animals, but tigers are his main thing. He even at one point houses Michael Jackson’s pet alligators. Yep, those were the alligators that perished in the warehouse fire that to this day no one knows who set. Joe Exotic gets in a heated internet war with the big cat rescue queen to the point that he attempts to hire a hitman to kill her. During all of this, he runs for president and governor while financially putting the zoo into the ground. As you would imagine, everything goes south for him and he’s currently sitting in jail.
Pop culture’s newest obsession, Carole Baskin, happens to be the person Joe Exotic is after. She portrays herself as the innocent bystander in this series, but she’s far from it. This woman is doing the SAME DAMN THING Joe was, but was just smarter about it. She has thousands of free volunteers to do her dirty work, people who are sending in donations to help her causes, and is charging people to enter her facility. Did we mention she even has PETA on her side? I don’t know how you can accuse someone of charging money to see tigers as a bad thing when she was clearly doing the same thing. While she isn’t holding kitten feedings or holdings to the public, her volunteers get the opportunity to do so after putting in so many YEARS of volunteer work. Plus let’s not forget the entire fact that almost everyone on planet earth is certain “that bitch Carole Baskins” killed her husband by feeding him to a tiger.
While Joe and Carole are the center of the drama on the show, there is a cast of colorful characters along the way that really put the icing on this television cake. From Joe’s multiple husbands to his staff at the zoo, everyone brings something to this insanity show. There are informants that do inside work to get Joe turned in to the feds, ex-cons who are hired for murder, an innocent political manager who is now scarred for life, and even other wildlife enthusiasts with huge private zoos. Jeff Lowe and his wife are quite unique as well. They bought Joe’s zoo when he was going bankrupt then eventually turn him over to the feds. Only time will tell how it works out for them and the zoo. They recently stated that Netflix came back to record another episode of Tiger King, but Netflix has yet to confirm anything.
One of my favorite characters out of the entire series though was the producer, Rick Kirkham of Joe’s internet show that was being run out of one of the zoo’s warehouses. He was blunt, honest, and probably should have narrated the entire thing. He was brilliant. I feel like if those producers videotapes hadn’t mysteriously burned with the alligators, Joe would probably be in deeper trouble than he already is. There is also a good chance we would have been introduced to Joe Exotic the Tiger King way before we were ready for him.
While some think that this series is just entertainment, it does shine a huge light on a current problem that many did not know about exotic animals in this country. Tigers are considered an endangered species but MORE tigers live in the United States in captivity than in the entire world’s wildlife. That fact is absolutely mind-blowing, especially when you consider that most of these tigers are as personal pets or in private zoos like the ones we saw on Tiger King. Why is this allowed to happen?
There is currently no federal law that prohibits it if you are a sanctuary. Yes, all these places are licensed Sanctuaries and therefore they can have them as “pets”. However, there are federal laws against breeding or selling big cats. Some states may require you to file a permit, register, or get a license to have a specific animal. Each state has different laws about what exotic animals you can and can’t have. For example, in North Carolina, you can’t have a lion, but you can have a monkey. Or my personal favorite, in Alaska, you can have a bear, wolf, or monkey, but that’s a negative on reindeer or llamas. There are a few states, like Hawaii and Idaho, who are smart and said absolutely not to exotic animals entirely.
Not to be left out of all of this is another Tiger Park in North Carolina that is talked about with Doc Antle leading it; he’s a doctor of Mystical Sciences in case you were wondering. He basically provides commentary and insider facts between Joe and Carole through the entire series, telling the camera multiple times he doesn’t want to be involved with their craziness…but continues to add to the Tiger King story.
It’s at the end of the series that we find out Doc Antle’s park was raided by the feds in December of 2019 for possibly euthanizing tiger cubs that were no longer making him money. This is where I’m hoping Season 2 of Tiger King comes in. Honestly, I would love to see them tackle what they originally set out to do. Find these private zoos and see why the government hasn’t shut them down. I also want updates on all these characters because it’s clear from recent interviews that Joe Exotic feels much different about caging animals now. Hopefully, if we are all good during this shelter in place, we can have it.