SPOILER WARNING: This article contains minor plot spoilers for “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.”
Hey, all you cool cats and kittens! “Tiger King” is the perfect distraction you need right now.
“Tiger King” is a bizarre true-crime series that takes viewers into the world of Joe Exotic, an eccentric animal park boss, as he is caught in a murder-for-hire plot. With episodes that seem to get stranger and stranger, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” stays true to its name. The chaotic Netflix series may be just what viewers need to take their minds off the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The series follows Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who goes by ‘Joe Exotic.’ This gun-bearing, mullet-adorning Oklahoma man founded G.W. Zoo, home to around 700 exotic animals. But Joe isn’t the only person in the series to own a number of dangerous wild animals. He’s also not the only one in the series that has viewers questioning their sanity.
Carole Baskin is another big cat owner, and she is widely regarded as Joe Exotic’s enemy. If you’ve seen Baskin’s name mentioned on social media it most likely had to do with the popular rumor that she murdered her husband, Don Lewis, and fed him to her animals. But you’ll have to watch the series to decide for yourself what happened to Lewis.
Baskin owns Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary in Florida, and works closely with PETA, a large animal rights organization with a history of controversy. Her public feud with Joe Exotic began with Baskin’s attempts to shut down his zoo and came to a head when he hired a hitman to kill her, sparking a federal investigation.
Mix in fellow big cat owner, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle and his beautiful, young employees and things get even stranger for the docu-series. Antle seemingly mistreats his often teenage, female employees, but convinces them to keep working for him at his zoo with the allure of wild animals. The result is a weird relationship with his workers that leans towards polygamy, but more inappropriate, as he’s their boss.
Antle isn’t the only one to use his exotic animals to lure in partners — Joe Exotic seems to use the same playbook. Exotic has had multiple husbands who were seemingly straight, and they are usually also quite a bit younger than him. Jeff Lowe, who is introduced later in the series, also brags about using his exotic pets as a pull to find partners for threesomes.
On top of the outlandish fashion choices, reckless shenanigans and dangerous run-ins with wild animals, the show also showcases some of the people who work for Joe Exotic. There’s one who loses a limb due to a tiger attack at his zoo, multiple who are married to him and one who oversees his political campaigns because, oh yes, he ran for office.
Joe has a brief stunt running for president before becoming a libertarian candidate for governor of Oklahoma, despite being unclear on what a libertarian actually is. His campaign leads to some of the show’s most iconic quotes, such as “I refuse to wear a suit. I am gay — I’ve had two boyfriends most of my life — I’ve had kinky sex, I’ve tried drugs through most of the younger years of my life. I’m broke as shit…” You get the gist.
All of this chaos seems to pull Joe’s attention away from his animals, leading to a rapid decline into complete insanity that is definitely worth the watch.