I, like so many others who are bored in quarantine, stooped to watching Netflix's docuseries "Tiger King." This show is a wild ride, from its colorful personalities to its murder-for-hire plot, and it has exploded into a major source of memes and TikTok content during these hard times. Joe Exotic's mullet alone is a perfect distraction from the dumpster-fire that is the year 2020.
Anyway, Carole Baskin is the flower-crown and cheetah-print-wearing woman in Florida who runs Big Cat Rescue and is the arch-enemy of Joe Exotic. I feel this detail is necessary to get a few minor opinions out of the way first. Though I think she killed her husband, it does not mean I think Joe Exotic is the hero of this series. Frankly, I am neither Team Joe nor Team Carole. I do, however, believe Carole Baskin is not as sweet as she tries to portray herself in the show, and she should be investigated further as well.
So, now we venture off into the wild world of tigers and murder. After watching the show, I am convinced something sinister happened to Don Lewis, Carole Baskin's previous husband who disappeared, and I am not alone in my opinion.
According to Danielle Garrand with CBS News, "The success of the series, which Netflix lists as their most popular show in the U.S. as of Monday, has not only stirred up questions about Lewis' disappearance in fans, but in law enforcement as well." This case is one of the main reasons I have red flags about Baskin's character.
Of course, Joe Exotic voices his opinions on what he thinks happened to Lewis. I find it interesting he has a very detailed theory on what happened, but Joe is not a completely reliable source, given his vast history of drug abuse. That is right; I am looking at you, meth.
Drugs aside, Audra D. S. Burch with The New York Times discusses how this show caused a flood of tips and gained attention from law enforcement.
Burch writes, "Sheriff Chronister, who watched the seven episodes of the documentary with his family, was holding a Facebook Live news conference in his kitchen. He wanted to discuss the disappearance of Don Lewis, who ran a big cat sanctuary in the Tampa area before he went missing 23 years ago."
Whether or not you think these murder schemes are true, this show has brought about allegations which should be taken seriously. If Lewis's case is only left to fans' theories, it could cause a lot of harm.
According to Hannah Frishberg with the New York Post, Carole Baskin says she has been receiving threats, and people have been lurking around her property. She feels the show has betrayed her. By this, she means the show focused on more drama than she anticipated, but I think she should have seen this coming.
In terms of the direction of the show, you have to look at what will get people's attention. Awareness of the big cat situation is important. However, this show mainly focuses on the wild people who own tigers and lions in this country. How can it not be borderline absurd and dramatic when you look at the personalities that make up the cast? It would have been a missed opportunity not to focus on the personal history and feuds between a gay, redneck polygamist and a possible husband killer. Honestly, my uneasiness about Carole Baskin is only a part of what interests me about the show, but still, it should not be overlooked.
There is another angle of Carole Baskin to marinate on. If she was able to put Joe Exotic in jail like she wanted, imagine what she could have done to Don Lewis with that kind of motivation. She could be the reason why his body was never found. In the show, Lewis's disappearance is highlighted as part of Baskin's and Big Cat Rescue's background. However, I am convinced Baskin is hiding something about what happened to him for a few reasons. First, Don Lewis's family is sure she murdered him. Second, why would a millionaire suddenly disappear without a trace? Third, Carole Baskin says on the show the best way to feed someone to a tiger would be with sardine oil. Is it a coincidence?
This show has brought up the dark sides of how tigers and other big cats are treated in our country, and I agree with Carole in that big cats need to be protected. However, she has similarities with her enemies as well. She also makes her living off of big cats and has loyal followers and volunteers. For comparison, Joe Exotic—though he is less ethical in regard to animals—made his living off of big cats and got support from fundraisers. Also, people actually voted for him to be president.
With all the attention this show has received, I hope it does two things: raise awareness for big cats and find evidence for Don Lewis's cold case. His family deserves an answer. If we have learned anything from this experience, this show taught us anyone can be involved in a murder plot.