It is not everyday that you find a 55-year-old redneck-turned-zookeeper married to two men and rocking a blonde mullet. Former zoo operator and convicted felon Joe Exotic leads a life full of mystery. This documentary sets itself apart from the rest because it is so far-fetched that it might just be true.
Joe Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was the ringleader of the Great Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park located in Oklahoma. He claims to be not only a caretaker but also a breeder of the tigers in the park. This causes Exotic to run into many dangerous problems along the way, which ultimately lead to his demise.
What separates “Tiger King” from the rest of the numerous documentaries found on Netflix is the chaotic nature and almost comical attitude of the show. The people involved in the story are truly one-of-a-kind. Exotic’s nose-dive from fame to disaster is also something you do not see from the typical biopic.
Early on in the seven-part documentary, a woman named Carole Baskin is brought into play. She and her husband run the Big Cat Rescue located in Citrus Park, Florida. Many people branded her as a hypocrite in the saga because of the way she condemned other zoos and animal parks for exploiting animals while doing the exact same thing at her park.
Other than Carole Baskin, Joe Exotic’s biggest enemy seemed to be himself. As big as his ego seemed to be, there always was a small shadow of self-consciousness. Exotic was larger than life, although he only stood 5-feet-8-inches tall. Sometimes, though, his large ego and self-destructive lifestyle got the best of him.
The documentary ultimately takes a turn from showing off the life of Joe Exotic to discussing his intense rivalry with Carole Baskin and Big Cat Rescue. Throughout the five years covered in the documentary, Baskin and Exotic are involved in a multi-million dollar lawsuit over the park and Exotic’s treatment of animals, as well as trademark infringement. Baskin ended up winning $1 million in settlements against Exotic.
After events like building arson, new owners of the park and political campaigns for president of the United States and governor, Joe Maldonado-Passage was arrested. He was convicted on 17 counts of animal abuse and two counts of murder for hire against Carole Baskin.
He was sentenced to 22 years in prison, where he is currently serving time. It seemed that in the end, Joe Exotic’s dangerous lifestyle took over at last.
Although Joe Exotic’s story seems so authentic, there are holes in the story. He appeared to make music and star in popular music videos that he produced, but he supposedly hired a band to sing for him. Even if this is true, the mystery behind Exotic and his numerous scandals make the documentary too good to turn off.
What makes the show even more enthralling is how torn people are between idolizing Joe and thinking he is evil. Even after all was said and done, people are still rooting for Exotic to get out of prison and continue his legacy.
If there is one thing that all fans can agree on though, it is that the biggest villain of them all is none other than Carole Baskin.