For some reason, rural Americans love caged tigers, perhaps because it makes them feel powerful or they saw them in childhood in those sad sinister carnivals that pass for entertainment in the Midwest.
The men of “Tiger King” look like mean children — baseball cap, T-shirt, sneakers — and act like them too. The rats’ nest contains heavily tattooed, violent, babyish men who illegally buy, raise and sell tigers in highly profitable ramshackle zoos, where they are fed expired Walmart meat and in one plot twist, possibly a missing spouse.
Joseph Maldonado-Passage (a.k.a. Joseph Schreibvogel) christens himself Joe Exotic and owns an Oklahoma animal park. A gay man who entraps and marries lost young men who aren’t gay but don’t mind, he has been targeted by Carole Baskin, a self-described animal rights campaigner with her own zoo in Florida. His hatred of her grows into a fetid and terrifying online campaign that climaxes with him hiring a hit man.
The cultists are lost souls who live at the wretched zoo, are paid little and fed less, and worship the Leader, you know, the Manson Family but cheerful.