Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness chronicles a disaster you can’t make yourself look away from

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Official series poster

Just last month, right before Outer Banks was #1 on Netflix’s Top 10 in the U.S. Today, a little show called Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness was #1 for weeks. Whether this reflected people’s sheer boredom or the documentary’s quality I’ll never know, but there is one undeniable, unforeseen fact: this documentary was a success. 

Starring Joe Exotic (Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage), the documentary covers the unconventional, bizarre life of Exotic and his workers at Exotic’s big cat park: Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. However, the documentary takes a turn toward focusing on Exotic’s arrest and conviction for 17 charges of animal abuse and two counts of murder for hire in the final episodes of the limited series. 

The documentary includes extensive interviews with select huge names in the big cat industry. First up is Doc Antle (Mahamayavi Bhagavan Antle), the owner of the Myrtle Beach Safari in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Identifying as a big-cat conservationist, Antle’s interviews provide more insight into the twisted, sneaky business of the big cat industry. Yet Antle’s wildlife preserve was investigated by South Carolina state authorities in late 2019, so his words definitely have to be taken with a grain of salt. 

The ludicrous drama and scandals that taint Exotic, Antle, and Baskin’s lives are almost unfathomable, and I think that’s why viewers can’t help themselves from diving headfirst into the documentary and not coming up for air until its seventh episode is over.”

Next is Carole Baskin—the target of Exotic’s murder for hire—who is the CEO of the Big Cat Rescue near Tampa, Florida. Baskin and Exotic have been tangled in a toxic twenty-year-long feud, and Baskin’s interviews show the opposing side to Exotic’s viewpoint. However, viewers aren’t given much time to pick a side because the unsolved and mysterious disappearance of Baskin’s ex-husband is introduced to viewers in only the second episode, and it’s obvious that the rest of Baskin’s interviews and mentions unfairly revolve around that rather than her efforts to care for abused and abandoned big cats. 

The ludicrous drama and scandals that taint Exotic, Antle, and Baskin’s lives are almost unfathomable, and I think that’s why viewers can’t help themselves from diving headfirst into the documentary and not coming up for air until its seventh episode is over. The utter peculiarness of the series also sparked a widespread reaction from its viewers in the form of memes. Ranging from TikTok to Instagram, Tiger King viewers have shared their take on dressing up as Exotic and other members of the series, writing hilarious captions to describe pictures from Tiger King, and creating parodies of songs from Exotic’s point of view. 

I think Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness has blossomed into something more than Netflix ever thought it would. The disaster that Tiger King chronicles is alluring and enlightening, and if you haven’t seen Tiger King yet, grab your popcorn and your comfiest clothes. 

You will be helplessly strapped into a three-hundred-and-fifteen-minute-long wild ride.