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The Villainization of Carole Baskin

Hey, all you cool cats and kittens. If you’re not currently living under a rock, you’ve definitely heard about the Netflix docu-series called “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”. People have been enthralled by this series due to its’ craziness factor. To be honest, the people in this series are almost too strange to be real. 

One shocking revelation I made while binge-watching the series was that Big Cat Rescue is in Tampa, only 25 minutes away from our campus at The University of Tampa. Even one of our school organizations, Paws (a volunteer organization) has volunteered for Big Cat Rescue! 

According to an article published Friday, April 10th by The Tampa Bay Times (linked below), Carole Baskin and her husband are disappointed by the way the Netflix series depicted her as a villain and neglected to showcase the animal abuse these big cats actually go through. She had closed Big Cat Rescue four days before the series aired due to COVID-19 but says she’s unsure of how the series will affect her sanctuary when they are able to reopen. 

Baskin has said that most of the backlash from the series has been aimed towards her and Big Cat Rescue while Joe Exotic, a notorious animal abuser has been glorified. According to the article in The Tampa Bay Times, “A 2011 undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States showed tigers, bears, primates and other animals living in barren cages with no stimulation; animals suffering prolonged deaths due to a lack of veterinary care; tigers punched, dragged and whipped during training; and children holding tigers that were too mature to handle safely.” I must say that I agree with Carole on this. The Netflix series did very little to show the full extent of the abuse the animals were going through rather than focusing on Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin’s feud. I think that this is a huge disservice to the animals but clearly the way this was filmed collected ratings.

One of the biggest things the series decides to focus on is the mysterious disappearance of Baskin’s first husband, Don Lewis. Baskin claims that she only spoke about her ex-husband’s disappearance because the interviewers told her it would be used as background -- rather than be the basis of an entire episode. Investigators have since begun re-looking into the disappearance of Don Lewis due to the series’ release. In The Tampa Bay Times article, the Hillsborough County sheriff's spokesperson Merissa Lynn said that she is not a suspect although they have not ruled anyone out.

With news of part two of the series possibly being released, I wonder if they will continue to largely ignore the issue of animal abuse and continue to use it as background details. I also wonder if the creators of the “Tiger King” series will be able to get Carole Baskin to talk to them after what she calls a “huge betrayal”.



Amanda Thompson is a native of Portland, Maine who is currently a Senior studying Communications at The University of Tampa. When she's not binge-watching New Girl, you can find her dancing around to Jhené Aiko, Lana Del Rey or Kehlani. If you want to keep up with Amanda, follow her on Instagram @amaandathompson
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