Review: ‘Tiger King’ proves that no one is innocent

'Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness' is a Netflix documentary that details the life of zookeeper Joe Exotic. (Courtesy of Handout)'Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness' is a Netflix documentary that details the life of zookeeper Joe Exotic. (Courtesy of Handout)

Josie Howell, Sports Editor

The Netflix documentary ‘Tiger King’ has recently captured all of America’s attention. There is not a single word in the English dictionary that would perfectly sum up the insane series. This documentary includes illegal tiger selling, polygamy, gay rednecks and murder schemes.

The main character of the docu-series is none other than Joe Schreibvogel, or better known as Joe Exotic. Exotic has his own zoo right in his backyard called the G.W. Zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. However, this is not the most interesting thing about Joe. 

Throughout the series, Exotic has such an eye-catching personality, that he is filming what was supposed to be a reality show. No matter how much of a mess this man is, you can’t help but look and want more. 

We learn early on in the series that Exotic was not only able to score two husbands at once, but two self-claiming heterosexual husbands. Exotic is said to be able to do this by supplying them with endless amounts of their drug of choice. John Finlay, his first husband, with meth and Travis Maldonado, his second husband, with endless amounts of marijuana. We especially see this with John Finlay as he has only about three immediately visible teeth from Meth use.

This shows us that no matter how much we want to like Exotic and his flamboyant personality, he isn’t the most innocent person. Maldonado felt so trapped in this relationship that he committed suicide just to get out, but it seemed that Exotic did not seem to feel any sort of personal responsibility for his second husband’s death and basically put on a one-man show during his funeral. 

Finlay has since gotten a divorce from Exotic and is not only in a new relationship with a woman named Stormey Sanders, but has finally gotten himself new teeth. If there is anyone in this series we 100 percent root for, it’s John Finlay.

Exotic has since married yet another heterosexual man, or more specifically, a 24-year old boy. It seems that Exotic hasn’t yet learned from his previous mistakes. 

The next character we come across is Doc Antle who is basically just an upscale, somehow more narcissistic version of Joe Exotic.  We see that both of these men own their own Zoo that have primarily big cats along with multiple spouses that help them with their businesses (Antle having about four wives compared to Exotics two husbands). 

The primary difference between Exotic and Antle is that Antle has seemingly no likeable qualities. They’re both obvious narcissists, but Antle seems to be unashamedly narcissistic. The fact that he pretty much abuses the women who work for him is just the cherry on top.

Antle demands that these women exploit their sexuality for business purposes, makes them work 18-hour days, seven days a week with absolutely no days off, not even Christmas or Thanksgiving, for 100 dollars a week at the most and puts his apprentices that don’t have sex with him in horse stalls to sleep in at night.

We see this abuse come to light in the interview of one of Antle’s previous apprentices, Barbara Fisher. Fisher compares the work environment to a cult; you can leave at any moment, but you are so brainwashed that you feel like you have no other option other than to stay.

Fisher also emphasized that all of the workers were supposed to call him Bhagavan, which is another word for “lord”. Antle may have money, but there are no absolutely no apparent qualities about him that even closely justify him being called lord.

We continue to see Antle’s abuse when we learn that he made Fisher get a boob job (again for business reasons). She emphasized that the only reason she was fully willing to do it was so that she could finally get a few days of rest during her recovery time. 

While Antle may be a more upscale, sophisticated version of Joe Exotic, he has many more evil qualities with absolutely no sense of reality.

Last but not least, we are introduced to the infamous Carole Baskin. Baskin owns Big Cat Rescue Animal Sanctuary and has dedicated her life to shutting down people like Joe Exotic and Doc Antle who exploit big cats like tigers and lions for money. 

Baskin’s main concern with people like Exotic and Antle is the breeding, illegal selling and petting of the animals. However, even though Baskin doesn’t breed her cats nor let people pet them, she still charges people to see these big cats in cages that she supposedly rescues.

Baskin goes on a whole rant about how tigers specifically need multiple square miles of space to run, hunt and just live in general. Yet, when she rescues these big cats, she sticks them right back into cages, some of these cages seemingly smaller and dingier than those at Antle’s and Exotic’s zoos.

Baskin and her husband have spent probably millions of dollars shutting down the livelihood of Exotic and Antle, but is making money in pretty much the same way that they are, all the while not paying any of her employees and continuing to make millions.

Baskin spends most of the series convincing everyone why she is the good guy in this battle against owners of big cats, but most of America is less than convinced. However, just like Joe Exotic, this is not the most interesting thing about her. 

For the past 22 years, Baskin has been accused of murdering her millionaire, cheating husband. The entire story of her life is something straight out of a soap opera. 

After a weak investigation by law enforcement, Baskin was found not guilty. However, due to the popularity of the docu-series that explains every possible theory of the sudden disappearance of her husband, the case has been reopened.

It is hard to believe that someone who added to her husband’s will “in case of my disappearance” right before he actually disappeared and threatened to kill him multiple times, didn’t actually do it. 

What is seemingly more incriminating is that Baskin did not seem to be upset in any sort of way in the 1997 interview shown in the series right after his disappearance. Baskin is seen to be laughing off the accusations more than anything, as she seems to do about everything throughout the entirety of the series. 

The last scandal out of many that we see within the series is Exotic’s attempt at murdering Carole Baskin, which he was proven guilty of through texts sent through his burner phone.

It seems as though Exotic stopped joking about wanting Baskin dead on his web show and was actually looking to get her killed once he reached his absolute lowest point after losing his zoo.

Thanks to Basket Case Baskin, Exotic was in jeopardy of losing his zoo that he spent 20 years building, and out of desperation, he basically made a deal with the devil, or in other words, Jeff Lowe. 

In summary, Jeff Lowe, a felon and swinger, becomes fed up with Exotics senseless spending (like funding his actual campaign for president of the United States then governor of Oklahoma) and takes full ownership of the zoo and kicks Exotic to the curb.

Exotic is a bit crazy in the first place and has some apparent anger issues, so the fact that he tuned to murder when pushed as far as he was, while not at all justified, isn’t surprising. 

While Joe is rightfully serving time for his murder for hire scheme and many wildlife charges, most people agree that Baskin should be serving time as well. She is anything but innocent, even if it’s just in the moral sense and not proven guilty legally. 

Hopefully in the future, we will be able to see Exotic redeem himself, Baskin be brought to justice and Doc Antle be held accountable since being called out for his cruel behavior. If so, a part two would be more than necessary.

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