“There are more captive tigers in the US than there are in the wild.”
This shocking fact opens and closes one of Netflix’s latest and hottest shows from March, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness. While the title alone captivates and draws the audience’s attention, it doesn’t even begin to tell the insane story that weaves and develops throughout the series, one of the captive tigers and their abnormal owners. The documentary series aims to focus mainly on an ongoing feud between Carol Baskins and Joe Exotic, while also featuring other significant tiger owners such as Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, Jeff Lowe, and Mario Tabraue. With the recent announcement of Nicolas Cage taking on the role of the titular Tiger King, Joe Exotic, here’s an analysis of Season 1 characters.
(Spoiler Alert – I tried to be as vague about plot details but I do reveal some future details and characters that y’all may or may not want to keep secret)
Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage a.k.a Joe Exotic acts as the main “protagonist,” if there has to be one, as the crew follows the misadventures of his crew through the various accidents and events that befall his zoo. Through the 9 episodes in the series, the show continues to develop the character that is Joe Exotic, former 2016 presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party. Each episode draws varied emotions towards Joe, diving into his troubled background all the way to the controversial zookeeper he’s known for.
The series doesn’t aim to take sides, presenting a more neutral position. However, if Joe Exotic is the protagonist, then Carol Baskins is his antagonist. Carol Baskins, an anti-caged big cat advocate, has been openly advocating for the abolition of caging big cats while also running her own non-profit big cat zoo. However, that’s beside the point.
The main story that the series has to tell of the intense rivalry between these two big cat lovers, with Joe acting as the main provocateur sending snakes and death threats through the mail and on his now-defunct “tv show”/live stream. With each episode, we learn more about the rivalry and its history (through information about Carol or their interactions) as well as diving into a theory that many people in that community wholeheartedly believe in, and sparking an interesting song from the country musician that is Joe Exotic.
Of course, the show doesn’t solely focus on the clash between the above giants. Other characters are introduced throughout the series:
Bhagavan “Doc” Antle – Another big cat owner that’s mentioned and interviewed alongside Carol and Joe and portrayed as another significant big cat owner, someone who Joe reportedly looks up to. However, details slowly reveal how he runs the zoo and his interactions with his staff, casting some light into other questionable actions, external from his caged tigers.
Jeff Lowe – Initially portrayed as this sort of “savior” for Joe Exotic’s zoo and tigers, Lowe is called in later into the series as an investor and partner for Joe’s zoo, buddying up to him and building a pretty strong bond. However, possible ulterior motives begin to show up and reveal themselves and put some of his actions into context.
Rick Kirkham – If anyone’s supposed to connect to the audience, Rick’s the guy to do so. A former news reporter and previous addict, Rick was a former Inside Edition reporter who filmed his adventures and travels to various places. Coming across Joe Exotic and his dream for a sort of tv show, he helped out Joe to bring his dream to reality as he knew how successful the show would be. Unfortunately, things do not turn out well for Rick as a questionable disaster strikes towards his production and destroying his work.
What has made this show popular? The dynamic characters, the great production, and the dramatic plot all definitely factor into it. I would recommend this show, rating it a 4/5. It does dramatize some of the events to the point where you somewhat become attached. It is a very entertaining and well-produced show. It’s also only 7 episodes, which makes it an easy binge during this quarantine. With extra interview episode with Joel Mchale and a spinoff Tiger King movie in the works, there’s more Tiger King to enjoy.
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