Self-proclaimed Tiger King Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Schreibvogel, later Joseph Maldonado-Passage, was the owner of the G.W. Zoo, a private zoo that drew crowds with the promise of up-close encounters with real live tigers and opportunities, at a premium price, to get a photo taken with their adorable little cubs. Joe and his employees worked closely with the tigers, stepping into their cages and interacting with them on a daily basis. That might seem absolutely insane (and it is) but the concept of roughhousing with a fully grown tiger ends up looking like the most natural thing in the world once you've gotten through the rest of the wild stuff this show has to offer.
Joe, who posts videos of himself every day swanning around his zoo and playing with his cats, ignites the ire of Carole Baskin, the owner of Big Cat Rescue, a "sanctuary" for exotic cats in Tampa, Florida whose cats have been rescued from the pet trade, circuses, and zoos like Joe's. Naturally, Carole sets Joe in her sights, protesting his zoo and doing everything she can to put him out of business. Joe retaliates by threatening her almost daily in his videos, cussing her out whenever she's mentioned by zoo staff, and, by the end of the season, actually paying a hitman to kill her. The animal rights angle to it all -- and there is one, layered into short segments showing the cats pacing in their too-small cages, pulling at their chains, and moaning as their newborn cubs are taken from them to be acclimated to humans as early as possible -- is secondary to the sheer madness that ensues when a bunch of filthy-rich narcissists bump up against each other a few too many times.