There is going to be a follow-up to the highly successful documentary seriesTiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. I did not see Tiger King because I don’t subscribe to Netflix but it is the story of the conflict between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin and the big cat private zoo business in the US.
Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin are very different people with different objectives
Joe Exotic owned America’s largest private zoo (now closed) where he exploited animals for financial profit. He was unconcerned with conservation but fixated on exploitation. Carole Baskin, in contrast, is the CEO and owner of the world renowned Big Cat Rescue (BCR) in Florida and is concerned with conservation and cat welfare. For example, she dislikes the market in wild cat hybrids. She rescues abused big cats. They are two people on opposite sides of the fence.
The trouble is that the original Netflix series almost, it seems to me, paints them as similar types of people perhaps in part because of what they describe as the “chequered history” of Carole Baskin. This is a reference to the death of her first husband, Don Lewis, in mysterious circumstances.
Joe Exotic is not only an unscrupulous individual who exploited wild cats and kittens (and other animals) in any way he could for his own aggrandizement and to make as much money as possible but he is also a convicted attempted murderer and is serving a 22 year sentence in a federal prison. He tried to kill Carole Baskin; a result of their rivalry. But the rivalry was not about competing for celebrity or who’s got the best zoo. The rivalry was about Carole Baskin constantly criticising Joe Exotic for his objectionable behaviour. Mr Exotic didn’t like it so he wanted her killed which tells us a lot about his character.
I just dislike the way that the production companies are painting these two high profile “exotic individuals” in the same light. They simply are not. Mr Exotic is anything but exotic. He is the opposite to exotic. He is actually a nasty, deluded individual who deserves to be banged up for a very long time.
In contrast Carole Baskin does good work. She does cause friction and rubs people up the wrong way, not deliberately but because she is a thorn in the flesh of America’s private zoo owners a lot of whom abuse their animals.
Baskin upset with Tiger King
Carole Baskin is very upset about Tiger King. She feels “betrayal by the liars who produced Tiger King, and the lies viewers were told in the series….”. It did not portray the truth although it was meant to. It was marketed as a documentary but the truth was distorted at the expense of Carole Baskin’s reputation. Fortunately, she has many supporters. I am one of them. I believe in her and I believe that she does good work. She is not whiter-than-white but none of us are.
The new series builds upon the smash hit of the former documentary. It was surprisingly successful. Clearly it was of great interest to people perhaps because it combined a human rivalry with exotic cats. An exotic combination of events and players.
In the new series, Carole Baskin will be played by an actress whose name is Kate McKinnon. She does look a little bit like Carole. It looks as though NBC universal television have commissioned the series. We don’t know who will play Joe Exotic. They say that it will be based on true events. Tiger King was supposedly based on true events but as is usual in these television programmes true events are always slightly distorted and dramatised because the programme has to entertain people. It is not a straight documentary; cold, dry and objective.
This is why I believe that Carole Baskin will dislike the idea of another series featuring her as a major player. She is in the serious business of saving the lives of wild cats. It’s hard work and expensive. It is not frivolous and her life is not meant to be entertaining. Big Cat Rescue used to attract a lot of visitors in order to help fund its running. But the entertainment was educational.
I have little faith in the filmmakers and I believe that the forthcoming television programme will be highly popular but will not do any good for Carole Baskin and her operation.
BCR now, post-coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic shut down Big Cat Rescue to visitors which must have affected quite dramatically it’s income which in turn must put pressure on its finances. There may be an advantage to the new series in that it puts Carole Baskin and her operation in the public eye. This may improve donations and she may decide to reopen BCR.
Their website tells me that currently there are no visitors to their big cat sanctuary. They plan to resume small private tours but are not sure when this will happen. They want to play safe and do it conservatively. BCR may never open to the general public again. The coronavirus pandemic has caused them to lose a third of their income. They have had to make half of their staff redundant. She doesn’t pay herself a salary but she’s working twice as hard as is her staff to keep the sanctuary running. They have 50 hungry wild cats to feed.
Carole Baskin wants actress to contact her
Incidentally, Carole Baskin has asked the actress playing her, Kate McKinnon, to contact her to find out more about her. She has also asked that the filmmakers do not use real big cats in the making of the series but CGI instead. She does not want the big cats to suffer just to entertain an audience.
I think it’s a good idea that the actress contacts out because not only will the actress be able to learn more about her and her character, she may be able to project a more accurate interpretation, which I think is important because Carole Baskin is basically a good person.