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If you aren’t up for absurdity and ferocious cat cuddles, don’t watch ‘Tiger King’

I am a proud crazy cat lady. Anyone who knows me knows I love cats— fat cats, hairless cats, stray cats, you name it. If it has no regard for your personal space and meows, I want it. And yet, my level of feline infatuation is nothing compared to the intense obsession of several big cat owners in “Tiger King.”

“Tiger King,” a trending Netflix docuseries, briefly follows the life of eccentric Joe Exotic, former owner of G.W Zoo, once the world’s largest big cat park. The seven-part series dives into his rise in popularity and personal and professional controversies surrounding the ownership, selling and exploitation of wild cats. Suspense and scandal build slowly throughout, ultimately leading to alleged murder for hire, violations of the Endangered Species Act and a prison sentence.

 I’m not usually one to binge-watch new TV shows, but “Tiger King” is an interesting exception that grabbed my attention from the first scene. Even though at times it’s a bit obscene, I recommend adding it to your quarantine watch list.

While “Tiger King” does bring in several acquaintances of Exotic’s, including another big cat owner—Bhagavan Antle— and several employees, including one who got her arm bit off,  “Tiger King” primarily focuses on the violent feud between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, an animal rights activist.

Baskin, founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, passionately disapproves of the incessant use of endangered cats for profit. Exotic, however, finds Baskin hypocritical, as she, too, profits from rescued big cats. The only technical difference between Exotic’s zoo and hers is that Basskin’s is an accredited “sanctuary.”

Despite the drama, crime, violence and many, many character flaws of each of the individuals in the show, there is one thing about the show I do appreciate: the connection between humans and animals. The extreme affection each big cat owner has with their fellow felines is intimate and quite beautiful.

At first glance, it seems crazy; my anxiety shoots through the roof anytime one of them cuddles with a tiger. Still, the attempt by man to love animals is evident and genuine.

The docuseries effectively sheds light on the eccentric lives people lead that you otherwise wouldn’t know about. Who would have thought there’s really a gay man in Florida with two husbands and a platinum blonde mullet, who previously owned almost 300 big cats? Not me. I have, again, been shown that the world is very small and full of incredibly interesting personalities. 

“Tiger King” is vulgar, quite unbelievable and not for the faint-hearted. If you like a bit of absurdity and alleged murder mixed with reality, “Tiger King” is definitely for you. But if you’d rather not be kept up at night wondering if Carole Baskin killed her husband by feeding him to a tiger, or putting him through a meat grinder, I’d say, stick to “Friends.”

Joanna Simmons can be reached at

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