It’s been reported that the feud over big cats between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, the founder and owner of Big Cat Rescue (BCR), as documented by Netflix in their film “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” is the most watched show in the UK and the US only weeks after being launched with minimal publicity (The Times).
Its success is one reason why, and I did not realise this, that my articles on BCR have been getting a lot more hits than usual. It has to be said that Carole Baskin does not like the documentary because she says that it is salacious and sensationalised. It appears that she said that she was promised it would be balanced documentary but became a hyped up story in which apparently (and I’ve not seen it) she is painted in a similar light to her adversary, Joe Exotic, who conspired to murder her and who now languishes in jail having been convicted of that conspiracy.
Baskin claimed that she had been misled into cooperating with the show which she says was pitched to her as a big cat version of ‘Blackfish’ a critique of commercial exploitation of orcas in captivity. The show’s producers deny that Baskin was coerced in any way or that they misled her.
The show’s popularity may in part be due to the fact that it has attracted controversy. Another aspect of the Netflix film that Baskin dislikes is the fact that she is painted as having been involved in the death of her former husband Don who went missing in 1997.
As I recall, it’s a complicated story but Baskin never faced criminal proceedings although the documentary refers to rumours that he was fed to their rescued wild cats. Baskin said on her website’s blog, Big Cat Rescue:
The series presents this without any regard for the truth or in most cases even giving me an opportunity before publication to rebut the absurd claims.
An important point that needs to be made is that Joe Exotic hated Baskin and is the protagonist in this saga. Baskin was minding her own business saving cats. She defended herself and the cat’s welfare. That’s how I read the story.
I have never met Baskin and I’ve never been to BCR but I have done quite a lot of research in and around her story and I’m convinced that she is believable. I believe her story is credible and I also believe that Netflix have hyped up the story to make the film more successful. It has achieved its goal at, arguably, the price of Carole Baskin’s reputation. But Baskin continues to save the lives of abused big cats and other wild cats while Joe Exotic has been banged up for life. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of reputation. Joe Exotic was always a very dodgy person who said that he’d rather kill all his animals (a huge number) than close his private zoo. A morally compromised person at best.
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