A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is a docuseries about a complicated murder-for-hire plot in the world of exotic big cat ownership. Guns, angry threats, explosions, and conversations about the disposing of bodies (animal and human) are featured, but are often downplayed despite their serious consequences. There are graphic descriptions of animal abuse and attacks on humans, and limited imagery of dead animals, and big cats feeding on animal parts. Extramarital and polygamous relationships, sexual exploitation, and other mature themes are discussed. Cursing, cigarette smoking, and references to drug addiction are also present throughout.
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What's the story?
TIGER KING: MURDER, MAYHEM AND MADNESS is a documentary series that follows the bitter rivalry between a private animal park owner and the CEO of a big cat rescue. Filmmaker Eric Goode documents the antics of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, the country singing owner of Oklahoma's Greater Winnewood (G.W.) Exotic Animal Park, which is home to over 200 big cats. The charismatic park owner has a long-standing rivalry with Florida activist Carole Baskin, the founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, who is committed to shutting down exotic cat parks. With the help of archival footage and interviews with Joe Exotic, Baskin, their partners, staff, and other big cat park owners, it reveals how the ongoing strife eventually propelled Joe Exotic to hatch a murder plan.
Is it any good?
This sensational docuseries tells a bizarre tale of a little-known world that highlights the animosity between private big cat park owners and animal activists. A murder for hire is at its heart, but much of Tiger King is dedicated to showcasing the extremely colorful lifestyles of big cat owners, including Joe Exotic, convicted drug kingpin Mario Tabraue, and Bhagavan "Doc" Antle, the mystical cult-like owner of Myrtle Beach Safari. Stories about Carole Baskin's multiple efforts to stop them, which include cyberstalking, are also combined with details about her former life as a private big cat breeder, and lurid rumors (fueled by Joe Exotic) about the fate of her second husband. This results in a distorted story that mixes in facts with anecdotes and gossip.
Overshadowed by all of this mayhem is the reality of the criminal world of the exotic cat trade in the United States, in which private parks function as financially lucrative cub breeders and animal petting operations. It's also a world in which both private parks and rescue sanctuaries use exotic species to exploit young people and other vulnerable populations looking to make connections with animals. But what's most problematic is that the scenes revealing a darker, angrier side to Joe Exotic, who is openly and unapologetically committed to destroying Carole Baskin by any means necessary, are scattered throughout the chaotic series in a way that makes his behavior seem kooky rather than worrisome. As a result, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that Tiger King sets out to chronicle a violent story about a murder for hire, and that it takes forever to do it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way Tiger King tells the tale of Joe Exotic's murder-for-hire plan. How much of the story is based on fact? How much of it is based on rumors and suggestions? Is mixing fact and fiction an ethical way for a documentary series to tell a story?
What are some of the ways media can present violent acts as something that is normal, tolerable, or funny? How does this contribute to the way people are potentially desensitized to violence?
What is cyberstalking? How is it different from cyberbullying? Is there ever an appropriate reason to engage in this kind of online behavior?
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