Having watched the seven episodes that comprise Netflix’s hit series “The Tiger King,” the one word I would associate with the show above all others, would be addictive. The first time I sat down to watch it, I finished three episodes and wanted to watch more, but I had to get up early the next day for an on-line meeting for work. I had to wait until the following evening to continue following the often times absurd, as well as unpredictable, story of Joe Exotic, real name Joe Schreibvogel, and his feuds, business dealings, political aspirations and his polygamous relationships. I was curious to find out what the culmination of the series would be.
For those of you reading this who haven’t seen the show and are unfamiliar with the name Joe Exotic, he describes himself as follows: “A gay, gun carrying redneck with a mullet.” He was also, at one point, the owner of the Greater Wynnnewood Exotic Animal Park, in Oklahoma, which housed one of the largest wild cat collections in America. Joe is the type of person who craved fame. In addition to what I previously mentioned, he also produced his own country and western music, as well as his own music videos. He also twice ran for political office.
The series takes place during the years 2014-2020, and primarily concerns itself with the rise and fall of Joe Exotic from a successful zoo owner to a man who went into hiding and more. Joe Exotic, however, is not the only eccentric character the show focuses on; additionally there is Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, who owns and operates The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Antle, who is married to several women, has his wives work, according to a former employee, sixteen hour days. In addition, there is also former Miami based drug dealer, Mario Tabraue, who claims he got into collecting exotic animals to go legit; Jeff Lowe, is a business man, who will factor prominently in Joe’s life. The reasons being … I won’t spoil for those of you who haven’t watched the show yet and want to. Furthermore, featured throughout the series is Carole Baskin, the founder and owner of Big Cat Rescue, located in Citrus Park, Florida.
Baskin is Joe’s number one nemesis. He despises her, and uses a webcast he hosts to urge that the case into the disappearance of her husband be reopened. Joe believes that Baskin murdered her first husband, Don Lewis, and fed his body to her tigers. The claim Joe makes about Baskin is pure speculation. There is, however, a mystery as to what happened to Lewis, who disappeared on August 18, 1997. Don Lewis’s body was never found, nor was there any tangible evidence discovered to help piece together clues as to what happened to him.
Leaving the disappearance of her first husband aside, Baskin, makes it clear that she wants to put Joe out of business. Even though she is running a rescue zoo, she is, in essence, doing the exact same thing with her animals. Baskin considers herself different, even though she takes in a financial fortune in ticket and merchandise sales. She, however, advocates to help get legislation passed that would make it illegal for people to own exotic animals. Furthermore, unlike Joe, who pays his employees, Baskin has a large team of volunteers, who work for her.
“The Tiger King” was released on Netflix on March 20, 2020. The series was directed by Rebecca Chaiklin (Lockdown, USA) and Eric Goode. For those of you who like unusual stories, populated by eccentric characters, you will more than likely find “The Tiger King” to be worth your time. Those of you, like myself, who abhor animal cruelty, will have to cringe during certain scenes, but nothing ever gets too extreme. This review is only a small sampling of what you will see throughout the series. I intentionally tried to keep the information I imparted in this post down to a bare minimum, so as not to spoil it for anyone. I know, I was glad, that I had no prior knowledge of the story, before watching the Netflix show, because it made the twists and turns, that much more interesting for me as a viewer.