Why do people love Tiger King?

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is seven episodes of pure, unhinged chaos. Tiger King follows the life of the eccentric Joe Exotic, who accurately describes himself as a “gay, gun-toting cowboy with a mullet.” Tiger King explores the ins and outs of the big cat world in America, featuring guns, drugs, exotic animals, a murder for hire case and plenty of sequins. 

Exotic is the protagonist in his own make-believe world which is manifested into the G.W. Zoo that houses hundreds of big cats. Exotic’s bleached mullet and eclectic style took the internet by storm, resulting in a massive wave of parodies and memes. He is the self-proclaimed “Tiger King,” who rules over his kingdom which is a makeshift zoo run by a group of very interesting misfits in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. He has a couple husbands throughout the series, all of which are unique characters in their own right. His relationships, among his husbands, his parents and his employees seem exploitative, but to Exotic it is all part of his mastermind plan that disregards any collateral damage.

More layers are added to Exotic’s haphazard plot which grows more twisted and intriguing with every episode. He not only runs a zoo, but eventually runs for president, then once the presidential campaign gets derailed, he runs for the governor of Oklahoma. Delusion and his obsession to be great, even otherworldly, fuels Exotic’s fire that results in a compelling and jaw-dropping series. 

Bhagavan “Doc” Antle also earned a lot of screen time in Tiger King. He owns a big cat zoo called The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, (T.I.G.E.R.S.) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Antle parades his many girlfriends through his zoo, one of whom escaped and revealed the uncomfortable and exploitative working conditions at T.I.G.E.R.S. 

He seems to operate in a realm of his own, oblivious to the outside world. One of the most disturbing revelations of the series is that Antle has been accused of euthanizing cubs after they exceed a certain weight and age that would make them unsafe for visitors to play with. This pony-tailed self-absorbed zoo owner has connections to Hollywood, such as the “Ace Ventura” movies, which adds a much needed hint of relatability to the series. Antle is scatter-brained, paranoid and (not to be repetitive) but you guessed it, completely delusional. 

Carole Baskin is the owner and operator of Big Cat Rescue. This flower-crown wearing delusional hippie plays the villain in Tiger King. Bare with me, because this absolutely senseless and crazy woman has proven difficult to describe. Baskin owns a zoo claiming to save big cats from captivity… by keeping them in captivity and profiting off of it. Watching Baskin attempt to rationalize her upside down and backward mission was unbelievably fascinating and hilarious to watch. 

Her and Exotic attack each other online which only escalates throughout the series. Exotic absolutely despises Baskin, hence the murder for hire plot previously mentioned. They feud over copy-write issues, the conditions of each other’s zoos and The Big Cat Protection Act that has yet to be passed. The storyline of this knock-out series thickens with the revelation that Baskin’s rich husband, Don Lewis, “disappeared” mysteriously. He was declared dead in 2002 allowing Baskin to inherit the majority of his money and assets. After the release of Tiger King a lot of viewers believe that Baskin fed her husband to the big cats. Which, when you think about it, is not a stretch considering that Baskin seems completely off her rocker.  

Exotic, Antle and Baskin all live in their own worlds, completely disregarding how the real world functions. As the plots of these big cat tycoons become more intertwined the series grows dark and unsettling. Yet it is the absurdity of Tiger King that keeps viewers addicted. The production is at times messy and confusing, but in a way this is fitting for content and characters being covered. 

As crazy and funny as this series is, Tiger King was heart-breaking at times. Seeing the treatment of big cats along with other exotic animals, was upsetting by any standards. These massive animals are confined to small cages and forced to perform for audiences day after day. At Exotic’s zoo they are fed expired Walmart meat and at Baskin’s zoo they have to force their heads through a small slot to drink water. The only good that could come from this series is concrete action towards ensuring the safety of these exotic animals. 

Putting the insanity of Tiger King into words is nearly impossible, so one thing is for sure: everyone should watch this series. One of the best parts of this series is the online response; even celebrities have even thrown in their two cents on the series. Cardi B adamantly took Exotic’s side of the big cat feud Tiger King follows and vowed to attempt to free him from prison. The story of Exotic is still developing which also makes this series a fascinating watch. Recently, from prison Exotic has filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against his former business partner, Jeffrey Lowe. Meanwhile, the case surrounding Baskin’s dead husband Don Lewis has been reopened by Florida police. Tiger King sounds like a fictional story, but Exotic’s world is all too real. The crosshairs intersecting Exotic’s world and reality result in a captivating watch. 

Taking into consideration the state of the world, everyone could use a little distraction. What better way to distract yourself than watch rednecks try to tame 400-pound beasts and run roadside zoos? The entertainment value of this show is through the roof, I can only hope another season debuts because truthfully I, along with the rest of the world, can not get enough of Exotic. 

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