When the documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness,” was released on Netflix it swept the nation. Viewers fascinated by the crazy life of Joe Exotic; the owner of a tiger park in Oklahoma and the self-declared “Tiger King.” It is easy to get caught up in Joe Exotic’s theatrical personality and two husbands and feud with animal rights activist in Florida, Carole Baskin. The documentary even explores the question of whether Carole Baskin killed her second husband and fed him to a tiger after his mysterious disappearance. However, there are two crimes in “Tiger King” that are not given as much attention as they deserve.
The first is Doc Antle. Doc Antle is a tiger park owner in South Carolina who was interviewed during the documentary because he knew Joe Exotic. Antle has provided animals for movies like Doctor Doolittle and even brought animals onto late-night talk shows. The documentary spends time investigating Doc Antle’s park and workers which closely resembles a cult. Antle hires young women to work at his park and they work ungodly hours for little pay. A former employee talked about how Antle had many women get plastic surgery and she remembers agreeing to get a boob job–agreeing is used lightly here as she describes it more as suddenly she was getting plastic surgery she wasn’t comfortable with–just because it meant some time off of work. This employee also described how all the women lived in the park and were living in horse stables and couldn’t really leave. And of course, all the women were in love with Doc Antle. Now, this seems to describe all the makings of a cult, but the documentary doesn’t spend much time analyzing this odd arrangement Antle has with his women “workers.” You would think viewers would pick up on this but instead social media is caught up in debating whether Carole Baskin killed her husband–the majority believe she did with celebrities like OJ Simpson saying she did.
However, the real crime in this documentary is the captivity of these tigers. The first episode of the documentary begins with news clips talking about how there are more tigers in captivity in America than there are in the wild. The last episode of the documentary then ends with a montage of Joe Exotic when he was younger and how he used to fight for the animal’s rights and shows a clip of him saying, “the breeding of these tigers has got to stop.” The voice-over of Rick Kirkham, the man who was making a documentary about Joe Exotic before his footage was all lost in a fire that he believes was set by Joe himself, describes how Joe stopped caring about the animals once he realized how much could be made off of them with activities such as cub petting with tourists. It then shifts to a clip of Joe Exotic holding two tiger cubs and saying “sweet money right here baby, 5,000 right here.” The documentary then ends with a black screen that says “5,000-10,000 tigers live in captivity in the U.S.” and then another line appears “Fewer than 4,000 tigers remain in the wild.” But instead of discussing this, and trying to help pass the Big Cat Safety Act, which is a bill to govern the trade of big cats and place more restrictions on the possession of big cats, the Internet is busy making TikToks to a song with the lyrics, “Carole Baskin, killed her husband, whacked him, fed him to tigers they’re snacking.”