The creators of Tiger King, Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode, have admitted in an interview with The Los Angeles Times last year that over the five years that it took to make the documentary series things changed and evolved and they “followed it as any good storyteller does”. In other words, it is clear that they have admitted that they did not stick to their promises to Carole Baskin which was that Tiger King would be the “Blackfish for big cats”. What this means is that they had promised that the series would be a criticism of the abuse of big cats along the lines of the Blackfish film which criticised the abuse of killer whales at SeaWorld resulting in one of them killing three people.
Carole Baskin was promised that the documentary series would be about the cats and expose “how the cub petting is so cruel”. That would be great, Carole Baskin said. But it is clear that over the five years of production the creators drifted away from that original objective. An objective which convinced Carole Baskin to take part in the project.
She said that they painted her as in a conflict with Jo Exotic. She has never spoken to Jo Exotic and she said that he is just one of the people abusing big cat for commercial reasons. She was originally told that Jo Exotic would feature in only ‘five minutes’ of the eight part series. But he became a notorious celebrity because of the series. A central character. He is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for his role in a murder-for-hire plot to kill Carole Baskin. Joe Exotic considered Carole Baskin an enemy because she undermined his business. He hated her but it wasn’t reciprocated by Carole Baskin. She was just doing her job of rescuing big cats and promoting cat welfare.
She was disliked by all the men who exploited these animals. Jo Exotic was one of “many who have threatened to kill me”, she said. She makes it clear that it was never personal for her and she had nothing personal against Joe.
Therefore, Carole Baskin feels totally betrayed by the creators of the Netflix series because it ended up creating a false image of a feud between Carole Baskin and Jo Exotic which did not, in truth, exist.
I’m thankful to the report in The Independent newspaper who contacted a representative Netflix for comment, yet to be received. One interesting spin-off from this fabrication of the truth by Netflix is that Carole Baskin has become more of a celebrity. In one way the documentary has benefited her. It has made her more high profile which has potentially given her more clout in achieving better big cat welfare. Although the coronavirus pandemic resulted in Big Cat Rescue closing and it has harmed organisations such as Big Cat Rescue who are reliant on the public to visit.