‘Tiger King’ Directors Say the Series Was Meant to Reveal the ‘Horrible Suffering and Exploitation’ of Animals, Not Make ‘Joe Exotic’ a Star

There are a lot of discussions about Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness circulating. The Netflix seven-part docuseries explored the world of exotic pet ownership in America. The intent was to expose the hidden cruelties and ironies of holding an otherwise extinct tiger subspecies in captivity. Directors, Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, recently revealed their true intentions. Spoiler alert: it has nothing to do with lending Joseph Maldonado-Passage (aka Joe Exotic) notoriety or “sensationalizing” Carole Baskin.

Directors of ‘Tiger King’ share their original vision for the series

Tiger King
Tiger King | Netflix

Directors of Tiger King, Eric Goode, and Rebecca Chaiklin couldn’t have known their Netflix docuseries would disrupt the nation. With the many opinions on the content in Tiger King, Goode and Chaiklin have insight into their original intent.

“We wanted to tell the story, but at the end have the takeaway be that there was horrible suffering and exploitation of these cats,” Goode told Washington Post.

“I think you’re going to see as time goes by that it is going to be very positive that so many people saw the series, and it will hopefully make real change.”

“He continued: The reason I wanted to start filming more formally and a bit more professionally was that I wanted to expose the world. I was fascinated with it, both from the standpoint of what was going on with exotic animals and the pathology of the people involved.”

Chailkin echoed Goode’s thoughts saying they wanted to tell a story from people directly involved, “as opposed to activists.” As far as how they covered the ins and outs of what goes on in these zoos, Goode said they didn’t want to “completely bum people out.”

“But at the same time, making it hopefully clear that this was a horrible practice,” he said.

The directors explained how difficult it would’ve been to “weave” narratives from conservation biologists. They could’ve explained “genetics, bottlenecks, inbreeding, and congenital issues.

However, Chailkin wanted to leave viewers with the message that, “Wild animals do not belong in captivity,” and that “the cub-petting that people engage in at malls and fairs across America is actually a cruel practice.”

Goode said one tiger subspecies can only be found in captivity and does not exist in the wild anymore.

“The reality of our world today is not every species can be left in the wild,” he said.

Here’s why ‘Tiger King’ works, in their opinion

The series has received a lot of praise, but an equal amount of criticism. Tiger King, according to many, is so bizarre, you forget that it’s real life and there are real animals’ lives at stake.

“If you would pitch this story to anyone in Hollywood as a scripted series, they would have thrown it back in your face and said this is just not believable,” Goode said. “How could you possibly have these characters and all of these things happening in one story? But reality sometimes is stranger than fiction.”

Chailkin continued: “These characters are just exceptionally colorful, and they are who they are, and they’re uninhibited in their eccentricities. The lead characters all are sort of the kingpins or the cult leaders or the Tiger Kings or Queens of their world. And I think that’s interesting to people.”

How did the directors get Maldonado-Passage and Baskin on board with the project?

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With how absurd some of Tiger King presents itself, you might wonder how Goode and Chailkin managed to convince the key players to take part. Goode explained that Baskin first told her version of cat exploitation which led them to Maldonado-Passage.

“He and Carole both were easy to access, and they’re open books, and they wanted the attention,” he said. “Frankly, I felt that [Myrtle Beach Safari owner] Doc Antle was as interesting, and certainly more frightening. But it didn’t become a central story about Joe until the war was mostly between Carole and Joe.”

He added that he got Antle on board through people he knew, that knew Antle, for an introduction.

Goode doesn’t buy that ‘Joe Exotic is a changed man

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One thing Goode and Chailkin seem to agree on is that they never intended on making “Joe Exotic” a star. Goode doesn’t believe Maldonado-Passage loved his animals. He referred to the zoo as “extreme animal hoarding.” He also doesn’t believe the zookeeper changed his ways despite a recent interview via Netlfix from his jail cell.

“There’s a lot of crocodile tears — Joe tells people what they want to hear. But he was monetizing these animals. He didn’t care who he sold them to. He was exploiting them. And you cannot love 230 tigers. It’s absurd to think that he loved each and every one of his animals. He was making money off of them,” he said.

Regardless of whether Goode and Chaiklin produced the version of Tiger King they meant to, viewers can make up their own minds about Maldonado-Passage’s or Baskin’s guilt, and how those animals should’ve been treated all along.