‘Tiger King’ provides escape from reality

By Melvin Bui

The story of one man’s battle saving the custody of his exotic cat park from animal rights activists and financial hardships through unsettling times is liberating to see. “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” is a Netflix original that was released on March 20. 

Prominent themes that are seen through out the show are true-crime, murder mystery and satire. The cast is made up of people that own big exotic cat sanctuaries and their workers. The show took five years for producers to film. The show is suspenseful and jaw-dropping. As new information is revealed, mixed emotions can be felt toward some cast members. It makes the viewers question their ethics and fidelity.

It is hard to believe that there are more cage bred tigers in the U.S than anywhere else around the world. A great aspect of the show was that it had interviewed several big cat sanctuaries, allowing viewers to make their own judgement about proper care. The way producers primed the viewers into believing that it was alright for exotic cats to be bred for entertainment was unhealthy and irrational. Exotic cats need miles of space to roam around in order to be healthy, so breeding a cat to be cage raised is malicious. 

The dark reality of drug abuse and raising exotic cats for benefit is revealed throughout the episodes. Big exotic cats are bred for exploitation, dark market sell and trade. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are seen throughout the show crucifying animal parks that mistreat and abuse animals. 

 The show revolves around Joe Exotic, a zookeeper that is currently serving federal time at Grady County Jail. Exotic was sentenced 22 years in federal prison January 2020, after being charged with murder-for-fire, falsifying wild-life records and violating the endangered species act. Exotic was accused of hiring someone to murder the owner of a rival big cat sanctuary, Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue. They both house exotic cats, however, Baskin takes to the internet about the animal cruelty that takes place at Greater Wynewood Animal Park and causes a slew of financial hardships for Exotic. 

 Exotic makes for good press because he was bold and not afraid to speak his mind, loved explosives, had two husbands at the same time and owned hundreds of big exotic cats. He had a mullet with a profound amount of piercings and was a natural entertainer with dreams of becoming famous. He had a daily show where he spoke about conspiracies that was broadcasted on the internet, however he did not own the show. 

 People exercising their freedom of speech and finding loopholes through laws to benefit themselves is seen throughout the episodes. Baskin uses social media to team up with animal rights activists to crucify Exotic for his animal abuse and exploitation. However, Exotic uses his internet show to fire back at Baskin for her prejudice and hypocritical behavior. The feud between the two was prevalent decades before social media.

The show has one season and is made up of seven episodes that are about an hour long each. It is for mature audeinces that are interested in conspiracies and murder mysteries. It was interesting to see producers add a bonus episode after they received immense support from a successful debut. However, the show represented a few cast members inappropriately so they took to the press after it was released.

American journalist Rick Kirkham, filmed and produced a reality TV show about the life of Joe Exotic with full rights in exchange for helping him with his internet show. Although the internet show was aired, the reality TV show didn’t due to the loss of footage. When Exotic realizes he doesn’t own his name or show, things turn sour and relations start to dwindle between the two.  

There has been talk about a Tiger King adaptation. Exotic wants Brad Pitt or David Spade to play him as a character. The reason Exotic wants Spade to play him is because he strongly resembles Joe Dirt. Kate McCinnon of Saturday Night Live is going to play Carole Baskin. The cast and release date has yet to be determined.

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