“Hey, all you cool cats and kittens!” If you’ve binge-watched Netflix’s newest series, “Tiger King,” you’ll know that’s a quote from the (allegedly) murderous Carole Baskin. The show about big cats took the internet by storm, possibly because we’re all stuck in quarantine. Whatever the case may be, the show has gotten a lot of attention due to everything thing that happened in it. The documentary series could even make someone think it’s a work of fiction, but all eight episodes told the dark truth of the big cat industry.
This conversation can’t be had without first discussing the legend that is the Tiger King himself, Joe Exotic, and his zoo, Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. The park is home to exotic animals — tigers, lions, ligers, alligators, wolves and even camels. The zoo is most well-known for its tigers and the brand that Mr. Exotic built up while he owned the animal park.
The docuseries shows both the interesting and bad things that happen in the big cat industry, while ultimately focusing on the rivalry that Mr. Exotic had with other people, specifically with Carole Baskin. Exotic is an eccentric character and would oftentimes dress up a doll to look like Baskin and proceed to shoot it. He made his hate for her quite clear in the docuseries as well as in his online television show.
Baskin started off her cat career with her late husband, Donald Lewis. The two of them would often breed tigers. This eventually became a problem between the two, and when her husband disappeared, she changed her path and started to save the cats instead of breeding them for the purpose of selling them.
Her mission became saving the cats that she felt so passionate about, and she even tried to get laws passed in order to ban keeping exotic animals as pets.
Baskin is all about saving cats, while Exotic was mainly worried about sharing cats with the world at his park. Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue and Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park began their feud, and the two passionate people running these businesses often collided on the topic of what is right and wrong.
While Baskin preached the freedom of tigers and the protection of the endangered species, she still had tigers in cages instead of their natural habitat. Exotic was always adamant about breeding more tigers and selling them to other people.
Over the course of the docuseries, you’ll get lost in the drama between the people and forget about the cats. Both Baskin and Exotic were owners of a large number of cats that were expensive to take care of and feed.
At some points, Exotic mentioned that it was hard to feed all of the cats that he owned. It was running him into debt, and Baskin’s countless lawsuits weren’t helping the problem. The tigers should have been the main concern of the series, but the drama became too good.
The thing that pulled everyone into the series was all of the crime and legal drama between the cat owners. The most notable thing to happen was the suspected murder of Baskin’s late husband, Don Lewis.
In the third episode of the series, it was speculated that Baskin murdered her multimillionaire husband and played it off as his disappearance. His case went cold, but it is now being reopened since a Florida sheriff is getting six tips a day regarding Mr. Lewis’ disappearance, according to CNN.
The alleged murder has become so popular among “Tiger King” fans that the hype even traveled to TikTok. Creators on the app made a song that points the finger at Baskin for murdering Lewis: “Carole Baskin. Killed her husband, whacked him. Can’t convince me that it didn’t happen. Fed him to tigers, they snackin’. What’s happenin’? Carole Baskin.”
The murder plot has become so polarizing that Netflix will be releasing a spinoff series that will cover the investigation of Lewis’ disappearance and possible death.
The other major crime that happened in the series was the incarceration of Joe Exotic for his role in a murder-for-hire scheme that happened in 2017.
Countless times he was seen talking about how much he wanted her dead and how he would murder her one day. The docuseries even showed how he talked to many people to find a hitman to get rid of Baskin. The countless threats he made caught up to him, and, in January 2020, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
The end of “Tiger King” had a happy ending for Baskin, and a sad life in prison for Exotic. He tried hard to make sure that his nemesis didn’t beat him, but his ego ultimately got in the way. Joe Exotic wanted to be the king of the tigers, but his pride overshadowed the actual well-being of the animals.
Baskin might be happy with her enemy in prison; however, many people are now questioning if she had something to do with the disappearance of her late husband. If Baskin killed her husband, it will create an interesting crime series when Netflix releases their follow-up show.
“Tiger King” took the world by storm, luring people in with the well-being of endangered tigers, but the murders and crime kept the audience captivated. If the docuseries didn’t have complex characters and unbelievable drama, then it would mainly be about the dying tiger species.
However, the Tiger King, Joe Exotic, was concerned more about his fame and reputation. The man even ran for governor of Oklahoma and used his tigers as a way for him to generate a fanbase. It’s safe to say that these people cared more about themselves than the tigers they claimed to love so much.