Why ‘Tiger King’ Left Out Joe Exotic’s Racist Remarks
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, is many things. The Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness documentary series reveals how he kept big cats in his zoo, had affairs and eventually went to jail for wildlife violations and hiring a hitman. That’s already a lot for seven hours of streaming television. There was more than they could even include in the series.
The Hollywood Reporter interviewed directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin by phone and published the interview on April 1. During the interview, Seth Abramovitch mentioned news about Maldonado-Passage’s racist comments emerging since his Tiger King notoriety. They shared that they witnessed his racism, but chose to leave it out of Tiger King. Tiger King is now streaming on Netflix.
Joe Exotic is a racist
On March 31, Terry Jane Paul found a video on Maldonado-Passage’s YouTube page. In the Nov. 4, 2015 video, Maldonado-Paige uses the N word. Chaiklin confirmed she and Goode witnessed Maldonado-Passage using racist language during the filming of Tiger King. She didn’t qualify his behavior with any buts.
“Joe is a racist,” Chaiklin said. “I would say categorically. He said things when we were filming that were very unsettling.”
Why Joe Exotic’s racism is not part of ‘Tiger King’
Chaiklin wouldn’t elaborate on the words Maldonado-Passage used in front of them. She explained her and Goode’s decision to leave Maldonado-Passage’s racism out of Tiger King.
They were already telling a complicated story involving wildlife ethics and true crime. Maldonado-Passage’s racism was disturbing, but not directly relevant to the Tiger King story. Chaiklin also suggested that Maldonado-Passage began to self-correct once he got accustomed to people filming him.
“They didn’t have a context in the story, but he has a lot to learn,” Chaiklin said. “I think most of it was ignorance and not having a lot of exposure, and I think he even evolved over the course of the time that we filmed.”
Eric Goode has a word of caution for ‘Tiger King’ viewers
Goode commented on Maldonado-Passage’s tendency to alter his behavior depending on his audience. It’s possible he witnessed his racist comments turning off the Tiger King crew so he adapted. When playing to other audiences, he might just as well use the N word again.
“I think it’s very important for people to understand that Joe is an actor and he tells people what they want to hear,” Goode said. “As much as we have some empathy for Joe and found Joe to be such an incredible character — this mullet-wearing country singer in Oklahoma — he did a lot of horrible things.”
Tiger King has made Maldonado-Passage famous, albeit as a ridiculous character and criminal. Fans are mocking his music videos, which even feature another singer dubbing his voice. Goode said Tiger King approached him with empathy, but never minimized the gravity of what Maldonado-Passage did.
“We had empathy for Joe, but Joe did a lot of horrible things,” Goode said. “Joe committed some really serious crimes and Joe was not only cruel and inhumane to his animals, he was cruel to the people around him.”