Tiger King: Sex Cults, Polygamy, and Big Cats

Jess Oakley, Reporter

On March 20, 2020, Netflix aired a new docu-series titled ‘Tiger King: Muder, Mayhem and Madness’. The show consisted of Seven installments, ranging from 41 to 28 minutes in length. The series follows one Joe Allen Maldonado-Passage, otherwise known as his stage name “Joe Exotic”, and to some, The Tiger King. He was owner and operator of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, also known as G.W. Zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. The series is an in-depth look at the lives of a select few of the top names in the exotic animal owners, breeders, sellers and collectors world. The seven episodes take you through the big names in the business, Joe, Doc Antle, and Carole Baskins. They all own big cats, but are on opposing sides of the argument about whether or not it is ethical to own and breed exotic animals. Carole is Joe’s arch-nemesis, or at least that is how he sees it. 


Through the seven episodes, there unfolds a tale of sex cults, murder for hire plots, Carole is thought to have killed her first husband and fed him to their 70 some big cats, polygamy (unsure if legal or not), FBI involvement, a web of lies and dirty tricks, and through it all, not a single big cat or exotic animal benefits at all. I think Saff, one of the workers at G.W. Zoo said it best when he said “Nobody wins. Everyone involved is a so-called animal advocate. Not a single animal benefited from this war. Not a single one.” Towards the end of the series, after seeing how everyone, in the end, was just doing whatever they could for their own gain, with little thought of the impact on others or even the animals they claimed to be advocating for, it became glaringly clear what the whole show was about. It’s not about Carole and her husband, or Doc Antle and his sex cult, or even Joe exotic and his three or four -still unsure about this bit- husbands. It’s not even about the big cats, in the end. Tiger King is really, in the end, just a warning about greed. That was the downfall of every single person in the series. Everyone was so focused on how they could ‘win’ or accomplish something, that they never took the time to think, even for a second, if what they were doing was bringing them joy. 


I hate to get all philosophical here, but I think we could all learn a few things from this lesson. I think we, as humans, especially college aged people, get so caught up in trying to climb that ladder of success. We get obsessed with reaching the top of the ladder, of saying “I did it!”, that we never stop on our climb to see how far we’ve climbed. We never question if the ladder we are on is the one we actually want to climb. When was the last time you did something and asked yourself, truly sat down with your thoughts and said, Is this bringing me joy? Am I doing this because I want to, or because it’s expected of me to do it? 


On April 12, Netflix added an eighth and final episode entitled ‘The Tiger King and I’, which is an aftershow where the creator of the show sits down -well, virtually at least, since we are in the time of the corona- with a few of the stars of the show to ask them about their opinions about the show, their portrayals, and their newfound fame. The show has also sparked spin-offs, or ‘investigations’ on platforms such as Hulu and Fox Nation. At the moment, I am not interested in digging any deeper into the drama. 

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