This animal documentary sinks its claws into the people and tigers.
Ever since the COVID-19 epidemic, I’ve heard all the talk about how popular the new Netflix docuseries “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness” is, so I just had to see it for myself.
It’s crazy and yet exhilarating in its narrative about Joe Exotic (formerly known as Joe Schreibvogel), who has spent his life breeding tigers and other exotic animals on his establishment, the G.W. Zoo, in Oklahoma. He’s currently serving a sentence for conspiring in a murder-for-hire scheme against animal rights activist Carole Baskin and for selling and killing tigers.
That same woman runs the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa, Florida, and has been trying to stop him from exploiting tigers to the public, keeping them as pets, and holding them back from their wild open spaces. She acknowledges that more of them are in captivity than they are in the wild, and because of her labeling him as an animal abuser, a strong hatred has grown between them.
He also promotes theories of her feeding her former millionaire husband Don Lewis to a tiger; one of which features a music video with a Carole look-a-like feeding her husband to them. And she also sued him for trademark infringement, regarding her organization’s name “Big Cat Rescue,” which he calls “Big Cat Rescue Entertainment.”
We also meet a variety of characters along the way.
- Bhagavan “Doc” Antle runs a wildlife preserve in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Some of his animals have been trained for movies like “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” “Mighty Joe Young,” and “Doctor Dolittle.” And he’s also accused of slaughtering his tiger cubs to make room in his zoo.
- Kelci Saffery, a G.W. Zoo animal keeper, lost her left arm after sticking her it in a tiger cage. Despite her amputation, she felt obligated to continue working at the zoo to not let the media win in their case against Joe.
- Rick Kirkham is the producer of his reality series: “Joe Exotic TV.”
- John Reinke is the G.W. Zoo manger, who lost his legs in a zip-lining accident.
- John Finlay is Joe’s ex-husband, who reveals himself as a heterosexual.
- Mario Tabraue is a drug kingpin with a private animal zoo, who also inspired the iconic Al Pacino character Tony Montana in “Scarface.”
- Jeff Lowe is Joe’s ex-business partner, who gave him the boot for his illegal activities, and took full control of the zoo.
There are too many facts for me to grasp in “Tiger King,” like publicity stunts, drugs, politics (he failed to run for U.S. President and the Governor of Oklahoma), accusations, relationships, and business plans, but it does tell another real-life crime drama with people who have intentions of overshadowing one another. It shows us the persistence of a controversial zoo operator like Joe Exotic and the views of an animal rights activist like Carole Baskin.
Because of the perspectives of the interviewees and enemies, you get evidence to support Joe and Carole, and evidence to turn against them. In fact, articles have been conjuring up about whether or not Carole is a murderer and if Joe burned down his own studio. It’s a dangerous game in the media, but it helps reveal tragic facts about animal abuse.
This show, directed by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, is also able to sneak in the humor and drama, which keeps you involved. It may contain lies, truth, and animals, but really, it’s about the people who run the zoos and sanctuaries. And if I were you, I’d head over to Netflix right now to see what all the fuss is about.
Available for Streaming on Netflix