Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is the talk of, well, the world. The true crime series debuted March 20 while many were in the throes of social distancing and has become the subject of countless memes, FaceTime conversations and headlines.
The seven-part series followed Joe Exotic, a gay polygamist, one-time presidential candidate, and owner of hundreds of big cats and other exotic animals, and his battle with Carole Baskin, an animal activist and owner of a big cat sanctuary. The court social media feuding turned into court battles and gave way to Joe's arrest in a murder-for-hire plot. Now, Carole is speaking out against the Netflix series and Joe is reveling in all the attention—from prison.
"Joe has called me quite a few times over the last few days and weeks. One, he is absolutely ecstatic about the series and the idea of being famous. He's absolutely thrilled. I think he is trying to be an advocate for — no surprise — criminal justice reform," Tiger King co-director Eric Goode told The Los Angeles Times. "He is in a cage and of course he's gonna say that he now recognizes what he did to these animals. With Joe, we have empathy for him, but at the same time, he's someone who really knows what to say at the right moment. I take it with a big grain of salt when he says he is now apologetic for keeping animals."
Rebecca Chaiklin, co-director of Tiger King, said, "You can hardly talk to [Joe Exotic] without him mentioning the amount of press he's getting."
"He says people are asking to see his Prince Albert and girls are sending him sexy bikini pictures even though he's gay. He's over the moon. Having kept in pretty close touch with him while he's been in a horrible county prison, this has raised his spirits. Joe definitely did some horrible things to his animals. He was very abusive to them and he shot five tigers, no question about it. But what has happened to him has also been hard," Chaiklin said.
In a lengthy post on her website, as well as in a YouTube video with husband Howard Baskin, Carole Baskin has decried the series and refuted several aspects, noting they were told it would be the Blackfish of big cats. Her post touched on number of topics, including the disappearance of her husband Don Lewis, and refuted claims by those interviewed in the episode about his disappearance.
"I would just say we were completely forthright with the characters. With any project that goes on for five years, things evolve and change, and we followed it as any good storyteller does. We could have never known when we started this project that it was going to land where it did," Chaiklin said.
"Carole talked about her personal life, her childhood, abuse from her first and second husband, the disappearance of her ex, Don Lewis. She knew that this was not just about ... it's not a Blackfish because of the things she spoke about. She certainly wasn't coerced. The other thing I would say about all these people is that there was a lack of intellectual curiosity to really go and understand or even see these animals in the wild," Goode said. "Certainly, Carole really had no interest in seeing an animal in the wild.... The lack of education, frankly, was really interesting — how they had built their own little utopias and really were only interested in that world and the rules they had created."
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is now streaming on Netflix.