Joe Exotic is a name that rang out through the homes of millions across the world for months as the Tiger King – but why is this problematic man winning hearts whilst the Tiger Queen is dragged through the mud?
Just recently, Carole Baskin was awarded the zoo that was formerly owned by the star of Netflix’s Tiger King – Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, otherwise known as Joe Exotic, or the ‘Tiger King’.
Neither Tiger King nor Exotic himself have challenged the negative events surrounding the infamous tiger wrangler’s life. This includes plying young men with drugs and gifts in order to gain intimate favor.
So, why has America seemingly taken favor with him over Baskin – a womyn who has been credited with saving thousands of tiger cub lives and whose work has brought legal and legislative protections to wildlife in this country?
For us to unpack the historical misogynist complex that plagues our country would take more time than anyone has so let’s just compartmentalize this particular situation.
Laura Barcella with People Magazine explores the background between the two tiger titans in her piece, What Happened to the Disappeared Husband of Carole Baskin, Featured in the Netflix Series Tiger King?
Carole Baskin, an animal activist and big-cat lover who runs a sanctuary called the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., never dreamed she’d be stirring up the sorts of news headlines she is today.
But her newfound fame has less to do with her mission to save the lives of exploited exotic cats and more to do with Netflix’s popular docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, which chronicles the bitter feud between Baskin and Joseph Maldonado-Passage ( “Joe Exotic”), the now-imprisoned founder of Exotic Animal Memorial Park, a private zoo in Oklahoma that relied on several illegal practices.
Animals are, unsurprisingly, at the center of the acrimonious relationship between the two cat fanatics.
For years, Baskin, whose mission is to save big cats from cruelty and exploitation, was an outspoken critic of Maldonado-Passage, making videos about him, blogging about him, even tracking his movements and asking businesses not to work with him when he did mall tours with his big-cat menagerie.
The reason for her contempt? Though Maldonado-Passage publicly proclaimed to love the animals in his care, he killed five of his tigers, bred them unnecessarily, sold baby lemurs and more — all in hopes of turning a profit. Baskin’s mission, on the other hand, was to protect and prolong the lives of big cats.
Maldonado-Passage eventually tried to silence his nemesis by paying a hitman $3,000 to murder Baskin in November 2017. The hit did not go through, and Maldonado-Passage is now serving 22 years for the attempted murder plot. He was also found guilty of killing five tigers in October 2017 — a violation of the Endangered Species Act, NBC reports.What Happened to the Disappeared Husband of Carole Baskin, Featured in Netflix Series Tiger King? by Laura Barcella. March 25, 2020.
After the Netflix series swept the nation, memes and public outrage surrounding Baskin were quick to follow.
Namely, the internet seemed particularly obssessed with the hairbrain theory that Baskin had murdered her husband in order to gain his fortune.
Of course, there’s the whole detail of Baskin’s late husband Don Lewis becoming embroiled in a dark criminal underworld and disappearing after numerous ‘suspicious’ flights to a place known for drug trafficking.
But, of course, the white men in this country were not satisfied. Instead, they point to the restraining order filed by Lewis right before he disappeared as if it were a smoking gun.
This theory has been put to rest by Baskin herself in an open letter posted on her website, https://bigcatrescue.org, yet the internet hasn’t be satiated.
So is it really the murder that they’re obsessed with?
If we take a moment to step back and look at the situation with clear eyes we can see exactly what is going on – and it isn’t pretty.
You have the epitome of toxic masculinity personified in a man who shoots guns, talks disparagingly about womyn, and does drugs on one side whilst allegedly killing his own tigers and exploiting animals of all kinds.
Then you have a regal, graceful and selfless womyn who is trying to protect our wildlife on the other.
Care to hazard a guess which one the internet, a place filled with hateful trolls and angry white men, would take up arms with?
It is no longer disappointing but expected for the image of a strong womyn who is dominating a field over her male counterparts to come under fire by the internet brigades with their Dorito-encrusted fingers and Mountain Dew breath.
Yet, with grace and care, Carole Baskin continues in her campaign to save lives everywhere – and we salute her.