"In a series that is bursting with felons, cult leaders, polygamists, wife abusers, animal abusers, and cruel egomaniacs, it’s Baskin alone who is treated without sympathy," says Willa Paskin of the Netflix docuseries, adding: "You only have to look at the show’s treatment of Exotic to see the high level of sympathy it can bring to even the most extreme scuzzbuckets but that it cannot muster for a woman whom this scuzzbucket threatened to kill multiple times." Tiger King, says Paskin, "introduces audiences to a sordid menagerie of human beings. The hybrid series, a docutainment that crossbreeds the formal respectability of a long-gestating documentary with the high-octane shenanigans of the wildest reality show, catalogs the major players in America’s big cat scene, the egomaniacs and weirdos who keep, breed, and traffic wildcats in captivity. Each is ickier than the next: the former drug dealer who boasts he’s the model for Scarface and seems, compared with everyone else, pretty sanguine; the bone-chilling authoritarian who collects wild animals and women; the convicted felon who strangled his wife and uses tiger cubs to procure sex. And there’s the star of the show, Joe Exotic, aka Joe Maldonado-Passage né Schreibvogel, the outsize, gay, polygamist, gun-toting, mullet-having, fame-obsessed Tiger King, who is currently serving 22 years in jail for a murder-for-hire plot. Somehow, none of these men is the show’s villain. That ignominy belongs to the woman Joe Exotic tried to have killed, Carole Baskin. Baskin is the proprietor of the respected nonprofit Big Cat Rescue, an organization that takes in abandoned and dangerous big cats. She has dedicated her life to keeping big cats from being bred in captivity, and lobbied Congress to pass a law forbidding the breeding and petting of tigers—not that you would know this from the show, which encourages viewers to think of Baskin’s work as ethically bogus, and to see her as another dirty big cat abuser. When it’s not doing that, it’s presenting her as the creepy lady who probably killed her husband and then financially hounded Joe Exotic until he hired someone to kill her. One of the craziest things about this crazy-a** show is the bad edit that it gives to Carole Baskin, making a murderer and a bona fide reality TV villain of one of the few participants who has not actually been convicted of anything murder-adjacent."
Carole Baskin blasts Tiger King, saying "unsavory lies are better for getting viewers": "When the directors of the Netflix documentary Tiger King came to us five years ago they said they wanted to make the big cat version of Blackfish (the documentary that exposed abuse at SeaWorld) that would expose the misery caused by the rampant breeding of big cat cubs for cub petting exploitation and the awful life the cats lead in roadside zoos and back yards if they survive," writes Baskin on her website. "There are not words for how disappointing it is to see that the series not only does not do any of that, but has had the sole goal of being as salacious and sensational as possible to draw viewers."
Tiger King directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin defend against Baskin's accusations: “She knew that this was not just about (big cats), it’s not a Blackfish because of the things she spoke about,” Goode told the Los Angeles Times. “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. 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 ignores its only true protagonists -- the actual tigers: "While this bonkers-but-true seven-part profile on Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, his equally inscrutable and possibly-mariticidal nemesis in Florida, is the exact tonic needed to distract Americans from the COVID-19 pandemic, it doesn’t offer much insight into the lives on the animals in the title," says Ali Wunderman. "Even after watching Tiger King start to finish, it’s tough to get a bead on the living conditions and overall livelihood of the big cats themselves. Instead, it’s the wacky-yet-toxic personal dynamics between exotic animal owners that gets all the screen time. That approach works fine as escapism but it isn’t particularly effective at condemning the industry that it profiles. An industry that absolutely deserves to be condemned."
Trevor Noah compares Tiger King's Joe Exotic to President Trump: The new Netflix docuseries is "somehow even more viral than COVID-19," joked Noah on Monday's The Daily Social Distancing Show. Noah said he realized a couple of things binging on all seven episodes over the weekend. “One, this is what happens when white people have no black friends,” he said. “And two, Joe Exotic is not only one of the weirdest people you will ever meet in your life, he could also be president of the United States.”