A docuseries about big cats has opened a can of worms.
In the wildly popular Netflix show “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” the outrageous and charismatic rogue zookeeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage, known as Joe Exotic, is painted as wildly unhinged.
But not all viewers see it that way. In fact, some — including rapper Cardi B — walked away from the doc believing that Exotic, who was sentenced to 22 years in prison for trying to arrange the murder of adversary Carole Baskin, should be uncaged.
The conflict between Baskin and Exotic began with a disagreement over what constitutes cruelty to the lion and tiger cubs bred to be handled by customers at roadside zoos such as one owned by Exotic. These operations, Baskin told The Post, are part of “an industry of misery” for the animals involved.
Exotic saw it differently: He claimed to be operating a sanctuary.
And when he believed that Baskin wanted it shut down, he tried to have her killed. The murder bid was unsuccessful, but the prosecution of Exotic went off without a hitch.
Despite what the court thought, others, such as Canadian comedian Shaun Majumder (who appears in the fifth episode), view Exotic with degrees of fondness: “He was so sweet,” Majumder told Canada’s CBC. “I still, even after watching, had a soft spot in my heart for him even though he hired someone to murder somebody.”
Other obsessives of the show have joined in on the sympathy for Joe Exotic — including some famous faces. Actor Jared Leto posted an Instagram picture of himself dressed up as Exotic, and Cardi B tweeted that she is going to start a GoFundMe on his behalf.
“He shall be free,” the rapper blasted.
Supporters are severely misguided however, says the show’s co-director Eric Goode — also the owner of Manhattan hipster magnets Bowery Hotel, BBar & Grill as well as the founder of the Turtle Conservancy.
“It’s a little bit concerning for me that people who have seen the series walked away feeling that Joe Exotic should be sprung from jail,” he told “Good Morning America.”
Goode would not comment to the The Post.
One person who’s happy with all of this? Joe Exotic, of course. He’s been receiving an onslaught of prison mail from his new fans and is the subject of countless memes by impassioned viewers. And days before the release of the doc, he filed a $ 94 million lawsuit “against the feds and [asked] President Trump to pardon his conviction.”
Through it all, he’s not exactly avoiding the filmmakers who turned him into a coronavirus distraction.
“Joe has called me quite a few times over the last few days and weeks,” Goode told the Los Angeles Times. “He is absolutely ecstatic about the series and the idea of being famous … He’s in a cage and of course he’s gonna say that he now recognizes what he did to those animals.” But, Goode added, “I take it with a big grain of salt when he says he is apologetic.”