If you have access to media of any sorts, you’ve heard of Netflix’s binge-worthy docuseries, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” and its eccentric cast — you can read our review of the show to read more about Carole Baskin, Joe Exotic and the rest of the figures of the show, or listen to our podcast if that's more your style.
Baskin, the nemesis of Joe Exotic and owner of Big Cat Rescue, has been one of the most talked women in the last couple weeks. She’s devoted her life to rescuing and caring for big cats that have been illegally mistreated, and yet she receives so much hate. Why?
Many believe that she had a hand in her late husband’s disappearance in 1997. “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” paints her as a money-hungry, evil businesswoman that doesn’t pay her employees and profits extensively from her animal sanctuary. Joe Exotic has profited off the accusation that Baskin is a murderer and fed her husband to tigers.
In every story, there is a protagonist and an antagonist. The docuseries is no exception, and Baskin received the short end of the stick, even though Joe Exotic is the one in prison for the rest of his life.
On her website, Baskin posted a lengthy refutation of her portrayal in the show. She claims that she and her husband agreed to be a part of the docuseries because they were told it would be similar to “Blackfish,” an expose documentary about the unethical captivity of killer whales. She also dives deeper into her recollection of her relationship with her late husband leading up to his disappearance. She follows all of her claims with links to documents which prove those claims to be true.
While it may be true that the producers framed Baskin in a way that negates her goodness, her innocence is still up for debate.
It’s important to note that Baskin is the only woman featured so heavily throughout the series. Co-starring with her are men with criminal records, men with extensive collections of firearms and men who openly speak disrespectfully toward women and make death threats to others. These men are not receiving nearly as much hate as Baskin, and there isn’t much evidence to prove her alleged wickedness.
Is this fair to her? Would she be treated the same if she were a man?
Baskin’s frustration with the show is valid. She is the good guy, the one rescuing the abused cats and fighting to end animal mistreatment. The show focuses more on her cutthroat tactics throughout her war with Joe Exotic than her nonprofit’s mission.
For these reasons, it is sexist to hate Baskin. Not only has she been made the antagonist of the show that claims to try to shut down private zoo-owners one by one, but she is also a woman declaring war with dangerous men. This exudes bravery and feminism, and she wants to be recognized for such.
Nobody is innocent in the docuseries. The private zoo-owners’ faults, and alleged faults, have been exposed. It is common sense that big cats should not spend their lives in cages, because they are very dangerous pets. All parties in the war between animal rights activists and private zoo-owners have used extremely aggressive tactics to get their way.
It's fair for anyone to be upset with either party. Baskin can be seen as a hypocrite, because her animal sanctuary does not appear to be much better for the cats than the private zoos. In her rebuttal, Baskin refutes all of the show’s depictions. The show doesn’t shy away from showing videos of the zoo-owners abusing their cats or showing evidence to support the allegation of the murdering of cats and cubs.
At the end of the day, the big cats would fare best where they belong, which is neither in a private zoo nor in an animal sanctuary. It's in the wild.