“People don’t come to see the tigers; they come to see me.”
-Joe Exotic, former Oklahoma zookeeper turned felon turned internet sensation.
Hey, cool cats and kittens. It’s Carole Baskin. Just kidding, it’s Caroline Mahony, Deerfield student, and resident Tiger King enthusiast. Netflix’s Tiger King has become quite a cultural phenomenon. As many people watch and talk about it, social media trends have increasingly focused on the cool cat, Exotic, and his cool cast of characters, including his five husbands, and the infamous Carole Baskin. So it’s time we address the hype.
Tiger King is an American true crime documentary that brims with drama, intrigue, and absurdity. The audience is first introduced to the series’ namesake, Joe Exotic, who likes to be called by the moniker “Tiger King.” Exotic founded the G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma in 1999. It was home to around 230 tigers and other big cats, but by 2019 Exotic was arrested for charges of animal abuse.
The show revolves around Exotic’s rivalry with his arch-nemesis, Baskin. Baskin is a big-cat animal rights activist, and the owner of Big Cat Rescue Zoo near Tampa, Florida.
Exotic and Baskin’s feud began as an internet slander war, where each denounced the actions, character, and operations of the other, but this comedic animosity turned sinister as a murder plot came to life later in the show.
One of the more absurd episodes of Tiger King focuses on the suspicious disappearance of Baskin’s former husband Don Lewis and rumors that she “fed him to the tigers.” Naturally, Exotic jumped at the opportunity to rehash this rumor at every chance he got, and many viewers sided with Exotic on this speculation.
Citing the fact that Baskin is continually shown in a negative light throughout the show, while Exotic is often portrayed as an innocent victim, critics have frowned upon the producer’s portrayal of the disappearance of Lewis.
In a survey that sampled the Deerfield community, 95% of respondents believed that Carole Baskin was indeed responsible for the disappearance of her husband. Viewers in the Deerfield community recognized the value of this show, which is perfect for light viewing during quarantine.
Anne Duong ’22 said, “Tiger King is the entertainment that we all need during this time. It’s filled to the brim with unnecessary drama, irony, and just plain chaos. I love it!”
Angela Cui ’21 perfectly observed, “It’s unexpected and outrageous, just like how 2020 has been going so far.”