It didn't take long for Tiger King to become a cultural phenomenon.
The seven-part docu-series premiered on Netflix last week, as an increasing number of Americans were ordered to stay at home to curb the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Tiger King quickly became a popular distraction from all the madness of the outside world, giving viewers an enthralling, disturbing look at the rise and fall of an eccentric big-cat enthusiast.
Filmed over a span of five years, the series is wild tale of murder-for-hire, animal trafficking, polygamy, and so much more. Tiger King star Joe Exotic—real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage—is currently behind bars for a number of animal abuse-related charges as well as allegedly hiring a hitman to kill his nemesis, who is also featured in the series.
Joe Exotic insist he was wrongfully convicted, and reportedly wants to use his newfound fame to advocate for criminal justice reform. This was revealed during a Los Angeles Times Q&A with the series co-directors and writers, Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin.
"Joe has called me quite a few times over the last few days and weeks. One, he is absolutely ecstatic about the series and the idea of being famous. He’s absolutely thrilled," Goode said. "I think he is trying to be an advocate for — no surprise — criminal justice reform. He is in a cage and of course he’s gonna say that he now recognizes what he did to these animals. With Joe, we have empathy for him, but at the same time, he’s someone who really knows what to say at the right moment. I take it with a big grain of salt when he says he is now apologetic for keeping animals."
Chaiklin added: "You can hardly talk to him without him mentioning the amount of press he’s getting. He says people are asking to see his Prince Albert and girls are sending him sexy bikini pictures even though he’s gay. He’s over the moon. Having kept in pretty close touch with him while he’s been in a horrible county prison, this has raised his spirits. Joe definitely did some horrible things to his animals. He was very abusive to them and he shot five tigers, no question about it. But what has happened to him has also been hard."