Murder, mayhem, and tigers: Netflix’s Tiger King

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Netflix recently released an original show called Tiger King, a five-year-long documentary about captive tigers, lions, and other exotic animals in America. The show mostly focuses on Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, more frequently referred to as Joe Exotic, and his zoo. The show highlights the conflict between Joe and the animal rights community, specifically with activist Carole Baskin. It also showcases Joe Exotic’s presidential campaign, murder theories, and suicide. 

Tiger King provides a deeper understanding of current popular culture in the south-west. Townsend Harris is located in New York City’s diverse, urban environment, and many students have never heard of people that have this amount of tigers and lions in America. Senior Angelina Jimenez found this show fascinating. “[It’s crazy] just knowing that all of this is happening in real life and in America,” she said. “My grandma sat in on an episode one day and asked what exotic country this was filmed in.” 

The show starts off as just a tiger war between animal activists, including Carole Baskin, and animal lovers like Joe Exotic who had zoos housing their exotic pets. The show later turns into an overblown feud between Joe Exotic and Baskin, with Joe later ending up in jail. This documentary turned reality show unexpectedly captured the audience’s attention as it defied many expectations.

The show also received a lot of attention on social media platforms like TikTok. Famous TikToker Charlie D’Amelio started the new trend of using the “Savage Tiger King Edition” sound, a remix of Meg Thee Stallion’s song Savage with a “Joe Exotic” twist on the lyrics. 

Although the show received a lot of praise, some viewers disliked it. Senior Nicole Monaco didn’t understand the hype behind the show. “I…  feel like the story was a bit unbelievable,” she said.  

Theories regarding the death of Carole Baskin’s first husband, Don Lewis, intrigued many fans, as Joe repeatedly insinuated to producers that Baskin was involved in her husband’s disappearance, emphasizing how strange it was that they never found his body. The disappearance was also suspicious seeing that Carole’s brother was a Sheriff and her husband’s car was suddenly found at a nearby airport and later moved by the police to Carole’s rescue zoo. The theory that Carole killed her first husband added on to the craziness of the show and intensified tensions between Baskins and Joe Exotic.

Freshman Arietta Xylas said, “I [definitely]…  think she killed her husband, when she talks about him she shows absolutely no emotion at all and never seems to deny that she killed her husband just denies the ways that she could have.” Senior Nicole Monaco agreed, and said that “Carole Baskin definitely killed her husband.” 

Ultimately this dual reality TV show and documentary on the exotic animal trade in America had many fans on the edge of their seats. Arietta compared watching the show to watching a trainwreck. “You can’t take your eyes off the screen no matter how much you want to because everyone in the show is completely insane,” she said.