This article contains spoilers for all episodes of “Tiger King”
The Netflix documentary series “Tiger King” has quickly become the most popular show of the moment. There is no way of escaping Joseph “Joe Exotic” Maldonado-Passage’s bleached blond mullet or blue and purple sequined jacket on social media recently.
This documentary, told in a total of eight episodes, follows a host of characters involved in the selling and breeding, or rescue of big cats in America's south.
The first seven episodes of the series follow Exotic, Carole Baskin, the zoo workers, and a few other key players in the drama between selling and rescuing big cats.
The final episode, which was filmed virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic and after the enormous response to the show is a sort of where they are now, which involves new teeth and final words to the public.
Exotic the mullet wearing, gay, polyamorous, former zoo owner from Oklahoma is the focus of the docuseries. He breeds big cats, mostly but not exclusively Tigers and sells these cats to others in the industry. He also briefly owns more cats than anyone else in America.
The staff at Exotic’s zoo, The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, which he calls his “Little cult” is made up of misfits, ex-convicts and former meth addicts as well as Exotic’s husbands, a host of much younger men, who all help tell Exotic’s story and set the scene of the zoo.
Exotic’s rivalry with Baskin-a quirky, flower crown and cat prints clad, representative of the animal rights side of the debate and accused husband murderer-is full of vitriol and eventually leads Exotic to a 22-year prison sentence.
Another key player in the series is Mahamayavi Bhagavan “Doc” Antle. He owns another zoo in South Myrtle Beach California, where he sells cubs and it is mentioned he may kill them when they are too big to use in shows. He is portrayed luring young women to work at his cult-like zoo. Where they say they must sleep with him to get the higher up positions. Of all the characters in “Tiger King” Antle may be the least forgivable.
One thing that it seems all the key players in the docuseries share, despite their differing views, is an extreme eccentric sort of extroversion. The ridiculous cast of characters, full of cat print wardrobes, thrones, and personalities a bit too large for their positions give the show a bizarre and addicting quality.
There is no hero in the “Tiger King” documentary. Neither animal rights nor those selling, and breeding animals truly come out on top in the series.
The series also has no strong message one way or another. Animal rights and the commercialization of breeding tigers are both presented with a visually absurdity that makes this show the perfect fodder for memes.
The show takes no opportunity to be political or even pick a side of the debate. The creators have made equivalencies, false or not, that make the show easy to watch and even easier to make fun of.
Loreena Cain is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @loreena_cain