- Addison Aloian
Tiger King Review: WTF Was That??
To be quite honest, I don’t know that I have words to describe this show, but I’ll do my very best.
Scrolling through my Netflix queue, the “Number 1 Trending Show in America” for the past few weeks has been Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness. If that doesn’t describe America, especially right now, I don’t know what does. Naturally, I had to watch it.
The story of the “Tiger King” is completely insane, and one that I probably should have known about since part of it has to do with my hometown of Tampa, Florida. Seeing how shocked most of America was about the show reminded me that not everyone grew up here.
Tiger King revolves around Joe “Exotic” Schreibvogel, a wannabe reality star and zookeeper of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park “G.W. Zoo” in Oklahoma. He has continually plotted against Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa who has fought for the rights of big cats for years. Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, who runs a similar tiger-heavy zoo in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was also featured to help tell Joe’s narrative.
Without diving too heavily into politics, I’ll just say I don’t love the idea of animals in cages, especially endangered ones, like tigers. The fact that there are 5,000-10,000 tigers in captivity in the US and only 4,000 remaining in the wild blows my mind. It shouldn’t be this way.
In my opinion, Carole Baskin is just as bad as the rest of the zookeepers caging animals. I’ll admit that I don’t know exactly what Big Cat Rescue does to help cats, but from what was shown in the series, it seems like she loves animals but wants to profit off of them just as much as Joe and Doc do—they’re all kind of doing the same thing.
So, because Baskin is a threat to Joe’s zoo and livelihood, he has been trying to take her down for years. He’s created every scheme imaginable against her, from hiring a look alike actress to portray her in his music videos when he attempted to launch a country music career, to plotting her actual murder with a hit man.
Besides Joe’s scheme to kill Baskin, the show also covered his ~unique~ personal life. After his first two marriages ended, he met John Finlay in 2003 and Travis Michael Maldonado in 2013, both of whom he hired to work at the G.W. Zoo. In 2014, he had a three-way marriage with them—not something you see every day, right?
If you think that’s out of the ordinary, he also ran for both president and governor during 2016 as a Libertarian with a wild campaign. My favorite part? For merchandise, he gave out condoms with his face on them that said “For your protection, vote Joe Exotic.”
In 2017, unfortunately, Maldonado took his own life and he split with Finlay. He married Dillon Passage just two months after Maldonado’s death and they’ve been together ever since.
To give more insight into Joe’s motives, the docuseries also heavily covered Baskin’s life, from her childhood, to her three marriages, the second where she was thought to have killed her husband, Don Lewis.
Baskin and Lewis had an early, unhealthy marriage that ended in speculation of Baskin killing Lewis after his disappearance in 1997.
There are all sorts of rumors that she wanted to inherit his money and estate, so she chopped his body up and buried him somewhere in the Big Cat Rescue reserve. Although I don’t necessarily trust her and her interviews seemed sus, it does seem whack that she would kill him and we wouldn’t have heard about it by now.
Later in Joe’s career, he hired an angel investor to help the G.W. Zoo after declaring bankruptcy, so he began working with Jeff Lowe. But after locking Lowe out of his bank account and doing ~sketchy~ stuff with his money, Joe was completely removed from the zoo.
Somewhere along the line, Joe tried to set up Allen Glover, one of his zoo’s workers, as a hit man to kill Baskin for a few thousand dollars (that Joe didn’t have). Fortunately, Glover never killed her.
Joe is currently serving a 22-year sentence in federal prison after being convicted on a murder-for-hire charge and other animal abuse charges while Jeff and Lauren Lowe currently run the G.W. Zoo. The Big Cat Safety Act has still not passed.
This show was aiming to capture but failed to include a “so what?”. Although it’s ridiculous, hilarious reality television, it failed to make a formal statement on animal abuse, but maybe I was naïve to expect such. I was slightly disappointed that after watching, I didn’t really leave with a takeaway or having learned anything.
Regardless, if you need a way to waste time and have a couple of laughs, definitely give it a try!