Pour out a warm Coors Light, because the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park aka the G.W. Zoo aka the zoo formerly owned by Joe Exotic, has been shut down, at least temporarily, but probably for good. TMZ reported on Tuesday that the USDA suspended the zoo’s exhibitor license for 21 days following inspections that uncovered weak and neglected animals, including a 16-week-old lion cub who was so weak she could barely stand. While Deadline is reporting that the zoo has closed for good, Jeff Lowe, the bandana-wearing new owner of the zoo, told TMZ that he’s confident he and his team will be able to produce the necessary evidence that his animals are being well cared for.
Live footage of us all waiting for that so-called evidence:
In a Facebook post on the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park’s Facebook page, Lowe clarified the situation regarding the zoo’s closure and said that he could have his license reinstated after the 21-day suspension but is choosing not to. After posting a few text convo screenshots, Lowe wrote, “I no longer want to exhibit animals to the public,” but vowing, “I will still allow my lawyers to prove the USDA is dead wrong.” He insisted that he could open the zoo up after his 21-day suspension but doesn’t want to, and said, “The animals are now in private hands and will remain in private hands.”
Never one to remain silent on an issue involving big cats, Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue responded to the zoo’s closure with a Facebook post of their own. Back in May, a federal judge in Oklahoma awarded Baskin the zoo, ruling that Joe Exotic had fraudulently transferred ownership of the zoo to Lowe.
“Thackerville” refers to Jeff Lowe’s new park, which he said will “be a private film set for Tiger King related television content for cable and streaming services”. Listen, as someone who longs to return to the days when Tiger King was in its heyday and the most pressing issue our country faced was whether or not Carole Baskin killed her husband, I can nonetheless confidently say that Jeff Lowe is really overestimating how much people are going to care about Tiger King content in a few months. I mean, just look at the reunion. I wouldn’t invest in a TV studio so soon, is all I’m saying.
But Jeff Lowe isn’t the only one who’s been trying to extend his 15 minutes of fame since Tiger King’s release. Carole Baskin may have initially tried to stay out of the spotlight and refused to do interviews, but is now making the rounds on Cameo. She also ended up in the news cycle last week after speaking out against Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” music video, criticizing its use of big cats. She said the rappers probably used “one of the big cat pimps, who makes a living from beating, shocking and starving cats to make them stand on cue in front of a green screen in a studio.” In response, Cardi B told i-D, “I’m not gonna engage with Carole Baskin on that. Like, that’s just ridiculous you know? Like, girl, you killed your goddamn husband.”
Baskin fired back at Cardi’s comments to Mirror Online, saying, “When most people are called out for their involvement in cruelty to animals they know there is no justification that will persuade others so they have to deflect the conversation to something else.” Overall, a pretty lame feud, but as far as who would win in a fight, my money is on Cardi unless Carole can bring in her cats.
Doc Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari Zoo doesn’t appear to have responded to the news about the G.W. Zoo closing, which is probably smart considering the man has been accused of allegedly running a sex cult. Best to stay out of other people’s mess.
Joe Exotic himself had plenty to say, though, despite the fact that he is currently behind bars serving a 22-year prison sentence for his involvement in a murder-for-hire plot. In a Facebook post, Joe (or someone on his team) wrote, “Happy days FINALLY. Karma is a BITCH.” In a long post, he denied ever being charged with animal abuse; alluded to Lowe’s actions with the zoo causing a woman, a schoolteacher, to lose her savings; and also called out former employee Erik Cowie.
Since Tiger King came out, Joe Exotic asked Donald Trump for a federal pardon, and a Change.org petition demanding Trump pardon Exotic has collected over 59,000 signatures. On Monday, after Trump announced he would pardon a “very, very important person”, rumors started swirling that that person would be the Tiger King himself. In fact, Trump pardoned the late Susan B. Anthony for voting illegally.
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Images: Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, Big Cat Rescue / Facebook; Courtesy of Netflix
If you didn’t already think time was a social construct, the last six months have probably changed your mind. The movie you said you watched last weekend? That was two months ago. And the tweet you thought you saw last week? It was posted today. Since we’re all online literally all day and have nothing better to do than run a new meme into the ground hours after it’s created, new trends come and go faster than ever before. While the banana bread and sourdough baking phase is probably seared so permanently into your memory that you’ll be telling your grandkids about it when they ask about 2020, there are probably a few trends and moments that have already been erased.
The Carrot Challenge
Approximately two days into quarantine, everyone was apparently already so bored that they resorted to an Instagram challenge where they tagged their friends to draw a carrot on their story. It is truly remarkable to look back at this moment in time and realize how naïve we were that we could have possibly thought that was the worst it was going to get.
This feels like something from an entirely different time, back when there was still hope (aka mid March). Thanks to one of the first TikTok trends to pop up in quarantine, people everywhere were using the 20 minutes that they’d usually spend commuting to the office to whisk coffee into a froth. Given that I haven’t heard anything about this in a few months, it seems like people have now realized that time is better spent sleeping in.
this quarantine is really testing the limits of what photos make the cut for a throwback post on instagram
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) May 8, 2020
Another long-forgotten trend is the “Until Tomorrow” era, a time when you couldn’t open Instagram without seeing a feed full of embarrassing photos, bad selfies, and baby pictures (that would be taken down the next day to avoid total humiliation). Personally I think taking your photo down is a weak move, since true Instagram baddies have had embarrassing photos up since 2010 and never took them down no matter how bad (and over-filtered) they were.
“First Photo” Challenge
As I’m sure all the other single people quarantining alone would agree, this challenge felt like a personal attack. Seriously, couples posting their first pics together? Like, did I ask for every other Insta story to remind me that I’ll be riding out a pandemic alone and getting dressed up for FaceTime dates for the foreseeable future?
Remember that week (or was it a month? Who knows) where you got a notification every five minutes that someone was going live on Instagram? Including the girls from high school “running their own businesses” showing you how to use their essential oils? My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who accidentally joined someone’s live where there were only two other people watching. Leaving one of those is almost as uncomfortable as the split second of eye-contact you make with your boss every time you exit a Zoom meeting.
“See 10, do 10?” Yeah, I’m good thanks. I haven’t done a push-up since I was forced to for the fitness test in elementary school, and I won’t be picking those back up because someone tagged me in an Instagram story.
The memory of Tiger King feels like a fever dream. Like, we were really so desperate for entertainment at that point that we just ate that sh*t up and said “NEXT, PLEASE.” It’s kind of incredible that we got desensitized to the absurdity of every single event that happened in that series so quickly. But given how f*cked up everything has become since then, it was good preparation for coping with the rest of the year.
Zoom Happy Hours
if you're still scheduling 14 zoom happy hours every weekend you can chill, we all just want to sleep
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) April 24, 2020
Realizing that having a Zoom happy hour every night of the week does not make up for real-life interaction was a breakthrough that took longer than it should have. Playing drinking games at home is fun when you have somewhere to go afterward, not when you’ll just be sitting in your childhood bedroom, totally wasted, after you shut your laptop.
The “One New Thing A Day” Phase
I’ve been thinking a lot about the people who started quarantine by saying “I’ll be making one new cocktail a day!” or “Every day I’m going to make one new piece of art!” Where’d they go? Last I heard from them it was day 14 I think. Are they okay?
Instagram challenges and TikTok trends will come and go, but you know what will never go out of style? Wearing a f*cking mask.
Images: Mollie Sivaram / Unsplash; bigkidproblems / Instagram; betchesluvthis / Twitter
Even months into quarantine, there’s no way you could forget about the sensation that is Tiger King and all of its fascinating characters like John Reinke, the former manager of Joe Exotic’s G.W. Zoo. Reinke has found a new girlfriend after his departure from the G.W. Zoo, as he reported on “The Tiger King and I” reunion hosted by Joel McHale. Unfortunately for him, Texas courts are out of session due to the pandemic, so his divorce still hasn’t been finalized. And we thought Kristin Cavallari and Jay Cutler had the messiest pandemic split. Sara Levine, Betches EIC and host of Not Another True Crime Podcast, sat down with John for a video interview.
Tiger King Experience
Though Tiger King has literally become synonymous with quarantine, Reinke never thought much about the documentary while it was being filmed. “There were so many film crews in and off the park, it was just kind of like everyday stuff, you know, I didn’t think anything of it. We had several producers come on and say ‘hey, we’re going to make a documentary out of this.’ Yeah, whatever.”
Like the rest of America, Reinke watched the show right when it came out. “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t portrayed wrong, I just know how some of the media takes it out of context and makes you look worse than what you are.” Despite some of his castmates’ complaints, Reinke thinks “everybody was portrayed right.”
Free Joe Exotic
In Reinke’s view, the story of Joe Exotic’s crimes got twisted around. “He didn’t deserve 22 years. Did he do some stuff wrong? Yeah. Was he provoked into paying somebody? He didn’t pay him to go kill Carole, he paid him to get off his park so he’d leave us alone.” Even from behind bars, Joe is campaigning to have his name cleared. “I’m really, really shocked about how much he’s actually accomplishing from jail,” comments Reinke. And Joe’s efforts are pretty aggressive. He’s even commissioned a huge bus to travel to D.C. to beg President Trump to #HelpFreeJoe, a presidential pardon (omg, can you imagine Donald and Joe together? That would be some major quarantine hair inspo.)
Though they’re not exactly BFFs, Reinke says that they had a strong working relationship. “I was close to Joe. He knew I could run the zoo and I could run the staff, and he took care of everything else.” Unfortunately, he’s now in prison for allegedly trying to “take care” of a certain flower crown-wearing enemy.
Carole Did It
Obviously, the biggest
meme controversy the show created was whether Carole Baskin, Joe’s archnemesis, really did kill her husband. Though Reinke’s never met her personally, he has met her second husband Howard when he visited the zoo during the copyright lawsuit between Carole and Joe. According to Reinke, “he was really nice to me” (and I guess you’ve gotta be pretty nice if you’ll let your wife parade you around on a leash on your wedding day dressed in a tiger print toga), but Reinke still says that “It’s been crammed down my throat all these years, not just from Joe, it’s been crammed down my throat from all the animal people in the world that Carole killed her husband. So it was just in your mind that Carole did it.”
And it looks like Tiger King won’t be Reinke’s only claim to fame. He appears in a new comedy from Full Moon Features, Barbie and Kendra Save the Tiger King, out via Full Moon Features. Essentially, the movie follows two total ditzes on their journey to save a young Joe Exotic from a plane crash. Yes, you heard me right. “It’s just something to break up the monotony from this Covid thing that’s got everybody tense,” Reinke says. And he’s right—I watched the trailer, and tbh it’s basically a crossover episode between Apocalypse Now and The Simple Life.
If you still can’t get enough of watching people who are inexplicably obsessed with big cats, you’re in luck. To hear more about Joe Exotic, real life catfights, a Tiger King movie (possibly featuring Matthew McConaughey as Reinke, which honestly isn’t the worst idea ever), watch the full interview below.
Images: Tread365.com; TMZ; NightmarishConjurings.com
This Easter, Netflix has brought us a new episode of Tiger King. This is what everyone must mean when they say He is Risen. My mom told me to find a church service to watch online on Sunday morning, and so I sent her a picture of Joel McHale on my TV screen and she didn’t question it. I’m tempted to turn it off after the joke he makes about the global pandemic (tiger fever), but nevertheless, I persisted. Besides that terrible joke, there’s a lot to be sad about right off the top. Mainly, that Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, and Doc “Bhagavan” Antle are not featured in it. Joe obviously can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because he’s
dead in prison, and I’m sure Carole and Doc don’t want to get dragged publicly anymore, which I relate to because it’s exactly why I refrain from going to family dinners. The interviews are also all done over what appears to be a Skype call, which is giving me PTSD to when I was still employed. As someone who knows people from Oklahoma, I’m impressed by the fact that this group of winners had the technological knowledge to each set up their video chats. I’m also impressed that they don’t appear to be distracted by their own reflections, which is more than I can say every time I try to have a Zoom call with my friends. For this reunion episode, our host Joel interviews each of them one at a time, and we start with Erik.
Joel asks Erik if he washed his hair today, which seems like a stupid question. We’re in the middle of a pandemic! I’m pretty sure no one has washed their hair in a month. Most people’s reasoning is that they haven’t left their bed, but Erik’s is because he gets peed on every day. Comforting to know his job is considered essential, but mine wasn’t.
OKAY. He hasn’t even WATCHED the documentary?! When I post an Instagram story, you have to count me out of any activities for the rest of the day because all I’m doing is rewatching it. This guy is so wholesome. He talks about how the cats are like his children and he doesn’t even know how to pronounce “memes.” He reminds me of my 82-year-old great aunt. Erik lets us know that getting bit by a tiger is nothing to be afraid of! It just hurts until it stops, and then you’re good! Sounds like he’s giving a sex education lesson rather than talking about a 600-pound cat clamping its jaw down on you. He wants everyone watching to know that he’s never done meth, but he used to have a drinking problem, once again reminding me of my great aunt.
Jeff & Lauren Lowe
I would argue that Jeff Lowe owning 60-70 Affliction T-shirts is one of the more terrifying parts of this show. Obviously, Jeff is mad about his portrayal on the show, which appears to be a common sentiment from all of the terrible people featured in it. He’s saying that the producers had to have a villain and he was the one that got portrayed as such, but like, did he not watch it? We had a sex cult leader, alleged murderer, and someone who livestreamed himself blowing up a mannequin labeled Carole. Usually a TV show has to have a hero, but that’s what was missing here. There were plenty of villains to go around, so he’s not special in this regard! I’m glad to know that their nanny is settling well into their weird-ass open marriage. I was worried about her! I’m also happy to know that Allen is the “sweetest hitman you could ever hire.” I’ll be sure to keep that in mind next time a manager kicks me out of the bar for trying to organize a crowd surf.
Jeff is an expert at deflecting any blame from himself by just reminding everyone watching just how crazy Joe was. It’s an expert strategy. He tells the host that Joe was his own worst enemy by posting all of the videos he did threatening Carole, and I relate to Joe because when I have access to my cell phone after a few drinks, I too, am my own worst enemy. Jeff Lowe is definitely still a snake who is absolutely hiding something, but he’s not incriminating himself further today. Sigh.
John talks about how he was loyal to the animals over Joe because they “don’t give you any crap.” I’m getting mixed signals because Erik just said he gets peed on every day. Oh well. It’s nice to know that the reason that coronavirus is continuing to spread is because people are insisting on taking a photo with these guys in every Walmart in Oklahoma in the middle of a pandemic. Stay one tiger’s length away from him please, so I can go out for karaoke before the summer’s over!
He thinks Matthew McConaughey should play him and honestly after the side-by-side, I can kind of see it. Wait, is John hot? He tells the host he doesn’t consider himself a celebrity, just a guy in a documentary. I’m impressed with his humility, because I was an extra in Spy Kids in 2001 for less than two seconds and it’s still on my resume.
Saff is truly the nicest and most genuine guy on this show. He even talks about all of the good things Joe did, which is more than I would ever do for an ex-employer. Joel asks Saff if it was awkward with the tiger after the attack like it was a one-night stand and not a beast ripping his f*cking arm off. Saff tells us that he’s watched the footage from the tiger attack over and over again, which is honestly so brave considering I won’t even look at my messages after a night out. Overall, I stan Saff. How someone this level-headed got mixed up with all of these psychos is beyond me.
What a treat! Former Walmart gun salesman turned Joe Exotic’s gubernatorial campaign manager. Josh reminds us that he knew Joe was batsh*t crazy before taking the job, but it was his dream job so how could he say no? Um, have you ever considered how difficult it might be to get a legitimate political job after running a campaign that handed out condoms with the candidate’s face on them? Josh tells us that he loved his workspace because where else can you watch someone get their finger bit off by a bear right outside of your window? Ah, the beauty of nature! He tells us that he wasn’t Joe’s type because he wasn’t
an impressionable minor young and dumb. For the record, those two characteristics are not mutually exclusive, because every man under the age of 23 is an idiot. Josh also wants the viewers at home to know that he does not do drugs and never has, and as someone who went to public high school, they probably weren’t offering you drugs anyway. Sorry, Josh!
Oh my god it’s John Finlay?! Okay his teeth look so good! Maybe I’ll get new teeth. John tells us that everyone was hooking up with everyone at the zoo, which gives it more of a summer camp vibe than a professional place of business. Probably why so many laws were broken. I hate to be that person, but listening to him talk, I’m starting to see Josh’s point about Joe liking them dumb. He says he and his wife binge watched the show in seven hours. Okay John! You and everyone else with a Netflix subscription! He also says that he doesn’t like how he was portrayed as a drugged-up hillbilly. I thought that was just his brand, but apparently, he was five years sober at the time of filming. Yet he still thought being shirtless for every interview to show off his tattoos was a good idea.
So, our boy Rick’s in Norway because fleeing the country is exactly how you appear innocent after a true crime docuseries airs. I love how he describes his initial interaction with Joe when he decided he wanted to make a reality show based on his life:
Joe: What the f*ck do you want Rick?
Rick: I want to f*cking come work for you!
Let’s hope all job interviews are that easy when the economy recovers. Rick proceeds to tell us another story about Joe involving a horse that makes us hate him even more. I’m not so sure Joe should want to be released from prison. After Jeff’s glowing recommendation, PETA will probably hire Allen to murder him the instant he steps out of the gates. Rick still has nightmares from living at the zoo and I still have nightmares from watching this show, so I think we should all form a Tiger King victim support group. I’ll send the link for the Zoom meeting.
After watching this reunion episode, we have learned that everyone on the cast thinks Joe should be locked up. Shocker! Also, that less of them have done meth than we originally thought. Basically, nothing that we care about, considering Joe is incarcerated and Doc and Carole declined to participate. But, if you live in Oklahoma, hit up your local Walmart for a chance to spot a celebrity!
Just as Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, so too did the spirit of Joe Exotic return from the meth-fueled fever dream from whence it came to grace our screens once again. That’s because Netflix finally dropped the long-awaited Tiger King bonus episode, called The Tiger King And I. If the title isn’t any indication, it’s not actually new footage, and it’s basically just like, a 40-minute version of the last 2 minutes of every Catfish episode where the hosts video chat with everyone for updates. So in the new bonus-that’s-not-really-a-bonus, host Joel McHale catches up with some of our favorite secondary players from Tiger King. We get pretty much everyone at the G.W. Zoo except for obviously Joe Exotic. Unsurprisingly, Doc Antle and Carole Baskin did not participate, probably because Doc is too busy still running his
sex cult zoo despite the pandemic, and Carole has a personal vendetta against Netflix (the filmmakers better sleep with one eye open from now on).
I’m not here to recap the entire after show, because I’m an ~artiste~ and not a transcriber. I’m here to talk about the glow-ups. Specifically, to rank the glow-ups. Unsurprisingly, once everyone got out from underneath Joe’s watchful eye(brow ring), their skin cleared up, they got better teeth, their hair grew in thick and shiny, and overall, they all just look and sound way better off. So I want to pay tribute to our Tiger King glow-ups, in order of worst to best.
7. Jeff & Lauren Lowe
Unsurprisingly, Jeff and Lauren Lowe are exactly the same. Is it because Jeff has 65 of the same Affliction T-shirt and even more nearly identical styles of leather biker jacket? That’s certainly part of it. Is it also partly because they are maintaining the same smug attitude? You bet. And I’ve got to give Lauren major props for not at all looking like she recently gave birth—I guess Jeff’s thinly-veiled threats that he would leave her for their hot nanny if she failed to snap back to her pre-pregnancy weight instantly after giving birth worked.
I guess I’ll give them props for consistency, though I hope Jeff is at least using his bandanas as makeshift face masks if he leaves the house, instead of just wearing them under his hat. Either way, I have a feeling this won’t be the last we hear of Jeff, especially considering he’s the one who broke the news on this disappointing reunion special. I predict he’s going to be riding this Tiger King wave for as long as he can, all while simultaneously protesting any connection he has to Joe Exotic. Dude, he like, made you…
This placement is by no means a personal attack on Saff. The truth simply is that when you start towards the top, there’s not much room for ascension. Saff looks exactly the same (please drop your skincare routine) and continues to maintain a levelheaded attitude, otherwise known as “be the realest one out of this whole cast of clowns.” The craziest part is probably that Saff is still sympathetic to Joe, and I don’t know if that’s extreme loyalty or a form of Stockholm Syndrome. He also didn’t really take issue with Netflix misgendering him throughout the 7-part series (and kind of again in the reunion with the name tag! Just call him Saff!), proving that he is nicer than me on my best day. Saff, never change.
5. Rick Kirkham
Rick kept his hat, changed his vest, and put the cigarette away during filming, all of which amount to a very solid glow-up. His wrinkles may have deepened from the time that being at G.W. Zoo undoubtedly took off his life, but damn it, he kept his statement piece. I respect it.
I’ve also got to give Rick big ups for getting as far away from Oklahoma as physically possible and just peacing out to Norway. I wish I’d thought of it myself.
4. Erik Cowie
Erik’s locks are still as luscious as ever, but he cut himself some ill-advised quarantine bangs, and for that reason, he’s not ranking higher on this list. However, Erik’s glowed-up attitude and outspokenness to how sh*tty Joe Exotic was to all the animals is worth commending, as is his opening line that he’s “livin’ life and lovin’ Jesus”, which I may steal to use ironically. He has not watched Tiger King because he’s supposedly been too busy working, and just may be the only person who actually does work at G.W. Zoo. I honestly love that for him, but hope that one day he can find a job working at a zoo that’s not run by complete lunatics.
3. John Reinke
Can’t really point to anything specific, but I just got the impression that Reinke was living better now, Gucci sweater now. Actually, I know—it’s the teeth. They are very white and very straight. (Yes, I know they were both straight and existent before, but now it’s just striking.) And my man’s got AirPods, and a new girlfriend! (While still married to his wife because of the pandemic. I love the messiness.) Overall, Reinke seems to be doing pretty well for himself (I can’t even find one person to
trap enter into in a monogamous relationship, let alone two), and if you think Matthew McConaughey should play Joe Exotic in the movie and not Reinke, you’re out of your f*cking mind.
2. Josh Dial
Josh, the haircut and scruff are working for ya, honey. Armed with a new hairstyle and a renewed hatred for the feds, Josh looks like he’s surviving and beginning to start thriving. But he still hasn’t given up his no-bullsh*t attitude, which earned him the nickname (at least among me and my podcast cohosts) as “the only voice of reason in this entire documentary”. He may be the only person in the history of documentaries to be satisfied with his portrayal and who found the documentary fair, but then again, Josh was one of the few people who didn’t have any shady sh*t to hide (lookin’ at you, Jeff and Carole). Hoping that Josh can get some help to deal with the fact that he witnessed Travis accidentally fatally shoot himself (can we get a GoFundMe for some therapy costs?), and let’s get this kid on the next campaign trail. But seriously, f*ck the feds.
1. John Finlay
Surprising no one, John Finlay has had the best glow-up of all time. Of all time! With new teeth that look amazing and a beard that looks like a prop you’d buy to be Amish for Halloween…or Mose from The Office…he is living a much, much better life than we saw during Tiger King. Probably my favorite thread throughout the after show, which emerged here with John as well as with Erik, was how everyone insisted that they were not on meth, despite their appearance. John in particular revealed he was four years sober during filming, and just went shirtless in all his interviews so he could show off his tattoos. Which is… a choice. And speaking of tattoos, John assures us that he actually did get his entire “Property Of Joe Exotic” tattoo fully covered up, and not just the bull head over the top part of it that was shown on the documentary. Praise be. The man is living.
During these times of self-quarantine, are you choosing not to watch the cinematic masterpiece that is Netflix’s Tiger King in order to be “productive,” or “work” because you’re an “essential employee,” or maybe you’re just boycotting it because you’ve heard about the blatant animal abuse in the show? If you identify with any of these reasons to not watch, you
are a better person than I am have a lot of willpower! My mom is also choosing not to watch because she said the title makes it “sound scary.” I wanted to tell her it wasn’t a horror show, but after binging it in a single day, I’m not so sure. Either way, your more fun less responsible friends ARE watching it, and if you’re planning on Skyping/Zooming/seeing them once this is all over, it’s all they’re going to want to talk about. So here are some talking points to give you a general overview of the chaos and help you seem like you know what you’re talking about (I wish I had an article like this when I went to a Super Bowl party sophomore year of college):
While we are living in crazy times, it’s nice to have a reminder that there are people in Oklahoma who are infinitely crazier. Joe Exotic is the star of this show. He’s a fashion icon, presidential candidate, and owner of 200+ tigers. He is our Tiger King. And he’s f*cking nuts.
My friend told me about this show because they said the chaotic energy of Joe Exotic reminded them of me. And while, yes, it was chaotic of me to slam seven different types of alcohol and attempt a backflip at Kappa formal, I like to tell myself that I’ll grow out of it.
I want to believe that a rogue Bachelor producer is behind the character that is Joe Exotic, manipulating him with endless wine to act like a lunatic, but this is just how he is! I’ve never felt more confident that I’m doing okay with my life, and I’ve seen Lizzo twice! Joe talks about how he loves the spotlight and being the object of other people’s envy, and I mean same, but I don’t think everyone necessarily envies you when they are watching you on stage with the 400-pound killer beasts, more than they are just hoping something goes wrong while their phone is out so they can go viral on TikTok. Joe is always doing dangerous stunts and telling his staff to make sure they get good promo shots, and it reminds me of myself yelling at my mom on the beach during our last Royal Caribbean Cruise. Sorry mom, but I did get a hot Instagram out of it!
Joe does a lot of questionable things throughout the series that you’ll want to be sure to mention, so your friends won’t realize you’re lying. He married two straight guys at the same time and then used one of their funerals to promote his music career (I know), he gave out condoms with his face on them when he was running for Governor (I KNOW), and he hires someone to take a hit out on his arch-nemesis Carole Baskin (I f*cking KNOW!!!). Overall, what you need to know is Joe Exotic is a bad guy and he ends up in prison!
Carole: The tigers go from being so sweet to just wanting to tear your face off and they could do it like that, it’s amazing they have that kind of range!
That’s not what I find interesting, Carole. Every single sorority girl I met in college has that same level of range. They can go from dancing on the table at Sigma Chi to sobbing into their trashcan punch on the bathroom floor in the time it takes Chad to open a Snapchat and not reply. In this instance, the tigers do not impress me!
What can I say about Carole Baskin? I’m not entirely convinced that she’s not a “where are they now?” of Dorinda from The Cheetah Girls. I wanted to love her at first, and the show initially portrays her as a hero for big cats, but if you watch (which you haven’t), you quickly learn that she’s a shady bitch in her own right.
Carole tells us that her mission is to end the captivity of big cats, as we are shown all of her big cats in captivity. We stan a hypocritical queen. It’s much like when I tell my friends I’m done drinking for a while, and then proceed to sh*tpost on my Instagram story that very same night after five vodka sodas. I’m still not sure I understand the difference between Carole and Joe’s places other than the fact that one is branded as a sanctuary and one requires a tetanus shot before entering. When talking about Carole you’ll want to talk about
her questionable fashion taste the fact that she absolutely murdered her husband. While there isn’t necessarily proof and she hasn’t been convicted or even arrested for his murder, 99% of viewers are convinced. And if she and OJ Simpson join the same spouse bereavement support group, we’ll know for sure. Essentially, what you need to know is Carole is also a bad guy, she’s just still on the loose!
Doc “Bhagavan” Antle
exposed addressed nearly as much as I believe he should be. He gives me “Founder of Scientology” vibes and I feel like after we pet the cheetah at his zoo, he’s going to pour me a glass of punch and toast to passing on to the next life. He hires impressionable teenagers, makes them work insane hours for $100 a week, and then before they know it, they are trapped in a full-on sex cult. If you’re looking for employment after social distancing, I would steer clear of this place. Just mention to your friends that you think Doc’s sex cult deserves a docuseries of its own and you will be met with a resounding “SAME!” Also, a bad guy. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
Jeff Lowe is a character I myself haven’t figured out. Essentially, he steals the zoo from Joe and he and his wife are both sleeping with their child’s new nanny. He and his wife have a very specific kink, and that kink is wheeling tiger cubs through unsuspecting Vegas hotel lobbies in order to sleep with hot young women. And that’s not even interesting enough for me to get into when compared to the overall show. Insanity!
The “Good” Guys
If you want some positivity to sprinkle into your rehearsed conversation with your friends, you can talk about the genuinely okay people on this show. There are a few! Saff, who has one arm (tiger attack); John, who has no legs (unclear); and Howard Baskin, what a weirdo. He clearly is very devoted and loves his wife Carole, but I’m wondering if it’s because she has some serious dirt on him. Who knows? (Hopefully we will when an investigation is opened on the whole Don Lewis-being-fed-to-the-tigers situation.)
If, after all of this tea that I have just spilled, you are still not compelled to watch, then I’m impressed. And honestly, a little jealous. But if I have given you enough information to lie confidently to your friends, then I’ve done my job! Happy quarantining!
Images: Netflix (6)
March 2020 will undoubtedly go down in history as a turning point for mankind. Smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic, on the brink of economic collapse, confined to our homes for an indefinite and maddening period of time—these are all very real, scary, and unprecedented events that we’re living through. And now, for better or for worse, Tiger King is inexplicably linked to all of them. The saga of Joe Exotic will forever occupy a time and space in our cultural lexicon where we didn’t know if the world was ending or what the next day would bring, but we absolutely did know the cost of a black market baby tiger.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m supremely jealous of the kind of life you’re living in the midst of this pandemic. Personally, I would give just about anything to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-myself just so I could re-watch it all for the first time. For those of you who are blissfully unaware, Tiger King is an exposé into the secret, vindictive, manipulative, and unnecessarily sexual world of private big cat ownership in rural America which culminates in a murder for hire trial. None of those words should naturally occur in the same sentence, and yet here we are.
The creators of Tiger King spend the first three episodes introducing you to this fantastical, immoral, meth-filled world in a way that makes you squirm but not feel outrightly bad for observing, and then uses the final four to dismantle it before your very eyes, injecting everything that you found entertaining mere hours before with a kind of misery that I think you can only truly experience if you live in Oklahoma or Florida. The cast of characters is diverse in the sense that they range from ethically ambiguous to straight-up f*cking criminal. Initially I had wanted to chart all of their moral alignments, but that’s not all that impactful when the majority of them are sitting on the evil access.
Trying to remember the night I started watching Tiger King is like trying to remember a particularly vivid dream—I get flashes of feelings and imagery, but the actual plot is entirely lost on me. I heard the next day that that the prime minister of the Netherlands had given a live press conference announcing new emergency COVID-19 measures, but I was unable to tear my eyes away from the screen long enough to field texts from my friends about our impending lockdown.
What I can tell you is that I did not know peace that first night, nor the following, and not even now, five days after having finished the entire series. I cried as the credits rolled on the final episode, for reasons I am still unsure of. I couldn’t identify a single emotion running through my body, only that I was feeling them at a capacity that I was entirely unprepared for. I drank a bottle of wine and watched vintage Brad Pitt movies to recover. When that only plunged me further into despair, I realized writing about it was my sole option for attaining even a semblance of closure, which brings us to the point of this article.
The only way I could think of moving on with my life was to sift through the most absolutely insane moments of this show and attempt to make sense of them. Narrowing down a docuseries made up of exclusively outrageous moments down to a top five was no easy task, but I have nothing but time on my hands these days. I would say these are ranked in some kind of order, but I’m not sure that that’s true. It’s hard to make sense of madness, to create any kind of scale when there is no such thing as a baseline for absolute insanity. I think that this is what Cady Heron meant when she said the limit does not exist, but I still can’t be sure because I refused to take calculus.
5. Doc Antle’s Sex Cult
Doc Antle is so lucky that truly illegal sh*t started to pop off after episode two, because it seemed to entirely overshadow the fact that he’s (allegedly) RUNNING A SEX CULT OUT OF HIS ZOO. The guy has a harem of woman that he recruits as teenagers, grooms into overworked, over-sexed tiger-training fembots, that he then compensates in the most minimum of minimum wages and what I can only imagine is extreme emotional abuse, and we all just stopped talking about it because Joe might have taken a hit out on someone?? Sure.
I can’t even begin to explain the energy that this man exudes, but I’m glad it exists 4,000 miles and one entire ocean away from me. I could watch an entire spin-off on Doc, his “wives”, and their children, but would be racked with guilt the entire time knowing that it would fund his zoo and alleged cub euthanizing. That being said, Keeping Up with the Antles would be a ratings boon for whatever network was smart enough to snag it. @Rick Kirkham, where you at?
I am not convinced that our man Bhagavan isn’t an old pagan God that got bored one day and decided to take up private zoo ownership in Myrtle Beach. He’s not afraid of the ramifications of a Netflix series exposing his shady practices because he’s immortal and can up and turn back into a tree any time that he pleases.
The guy is a villain, but a villain that I was very upset to find myself nodding along to sometimes. Suffice to say, I am probably the kind of person who could be talked into a cult. If Carole was built up to be a foil to Joe, then maybe Doc Antle was built to be a foil to our humanity. Also, his son has no right going round looking like that. I said what I said.
4. Saff’s Work Ethic
A moment of silence for Saff, the realest bitch at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and likely in all of Oklahoma. The soft-spoken, steadfastly loyal, army veteran turned zookeeper seems to be one of the only people on this show who truly cares about these animals, and what does he have to show for it? An amputated arm.
In an attempt to protect Joe, the tigers, and the zoo from bad press, Saff returned to work a casual FIVE DAYS after losing his arm. Alternatively, last summer my office stopped stocking chocolate covered almonds and there were whispers of a walk-out.
At the end of the series Saff is quoted as saying that “not a single animal benefited from this war,” and he’s right. Maybe if they’d had more people like him to look after them, they could have.
3. The Alligator Enclosure
I wanted to root for Joe. I think all of us wanted to root for Joe, at least a little bit. If Tiger King were a perfect, maddening work of fiction, Joe would be the anti-hero we’d all obsess over. But (tragically) this is a very real story and Joe is a a very real man with very real flaws, who very possibly murdered a bunch of alligators to spite his reality show producer.
If this were a scripted series, this would be the part that would have been cut for being just unrealistic enough to break the audience out of their awe-struck reverie. Somewhere, Shonda Rhimes is furiously taking notes for her next Everglades-based dramatic thriller. But unfortunately this is real life, and the alligator arson was the point where Joe lost a large chunk of the empathy he’d cultivated throughout the first three episodes. Not just because of the cruel death of multiple innocent animals, but also because we as an audience learned that he had deprived us of what could have been the golden age of reality TV. Remember when Rick dropped to his knees and cried? Same.
2. Travis’ Death
There were so many parts to Travis’ story that were tragic, but none more so than his untimely death. Purposeful or not, it’s obvious the kid was in a dark place, and I can’t imagine that he was getting anywhere close to the emotional support he needed at the G.W. Exotic Park.
Addiction is not a joke. Taking advantage of other peoples’ addiction for your own gain is not a joke. Using your husband’s funeral as an opportunity to promote your music career sounds like a joke that I’d get in trouble for writing, but is in fact something that actually happened.
Did Joe love him? It’s hard to say. I’d like to think so, but even if he did, love does not negate abuse or offset neglect. You can love something and still hurt it, which I think might be only moral that we could possibly glean from this train wreck of a show. Be it tigers or Travis, maybe it’s time for Joe to recognize that he doesn’t have a God-given right to own the things he claims to care about. They all deserved better.
1. Carole Baskin. That’s It.
I don’t care where you stand on Carole Baskin’s innocence. I don’t care if you love her, hate her, fear her, or like myself, harbor a healthy combination of the three. At the end of the day, whatever happened to Don Lewis is between Don, Carol, and the FBI, and I’ll accept that because the Carole Baskin episode of Tiger King was one of the most all-encompassing hours of television I’ve watched in my life.
If Carol were a man and this was an industry that didn’t rely on the illegal breeding and purchasing of endangered animals, she would a titan. She’s eccentric and bloodthirsty and just a little more insane than I’m comfortable with anyone having that much money, power, and access to tigers being. If Elon Musk and Cersei Lannister had a child, it would be Carole Baskin. I can’t explain that any further, just that I know it to be true in my very bones.
Can you imagine that mindset, that pure determination and lack of regard for anything that stands in her way, directed at something rewarding? Carole probably could have cured cancer by now if she’d grown up with an unhealthy obsession with medicine rather than cats.
It’s definitely harder to be a woman. Joe Exotic lured straight men into homosexuality with meth, sold tigers on the black market, and he cared more about his financial security than his employee losing an arm and I’m still like “Fuck Carole Baskin.”
— Jared Freid (@jtrain56) March 28, 2020
Do I think she killed her husband? I am legally not allowed to put that in writing. But do I think she’ll ever be prosecuted for it? The odds are about as good as them ever finding Don’s remains.
A shortlist of moments that didn’t come close to making this list but I still felt deserved recognition
⭐︎ Literally everything about Jeff Lowe, a human pile of flaming garbage, starting with the fact that he wheels baby tigers into Vegas hotels to lure young women into having sex with him, and ending with the fact that he told his VERY YOUNG pregnant wife that he couldn’t wait until she was back in the gym seconds before not subtly alluding to the fact that he was planning on having sex with their nanny.
⭐︎ Howard Baskin serenading Carole with Robert Goulet’s If I would Ever Leave You after Joe’s conviction.
⭐︎ The fact that there was an entire storyline centered around Joe Exotic discovering SEO
⭐︎ James Garretson’s wholly unnecessary (and at the same time extremely necessary) 30 second action movie tribute, where he rides around on a jet ski while The Final Countdown plays in the background
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⭐︎ Tim Stark’s monkey?? Which was very purposely not explained?
⭐︎ John Finlay’s tattoo. Yes, that one.
⭐︎ The fact that Joe Exotic sold pizza to real people that was made from the expired meat off of the Walmart truck.
⭐︎ The cameo from literal Scarface
⭐︎ The entirety of the Here Kitty Kitty music video
Images: Courtesy of Netflix; Giphy (5), jtrain56 / Twitter; natcpod / Instagram
If you manage to make your way past coronavirus Twitter, you’ll notice that people are talking about something called Tiger King. The new Netflix docuseries that follows Oklahoma-based, eccentric, openly gay tiger breeder and zookeeper Joe Exotic (not his government name) has been taking the internet by storm, and for good reason: it is the quarantine distraction we all need.
Everything about this documentary is so delightfully American in all the ways that America can be terrible—but like, in a mostly fun way, and not a “our country is so f*cked systemically that we should maybe consider burning it to the ground and starting from scratch” way that the current pandemic has exposed. Back when America was trash just because it was trashy, and its citizens were trashy, and not because it was a literal flaming pile of waste: this is the America of Tiger King. When a random guy in Oklahoma could buy a few tigers, recruit a local kid from a nearby public school to teach him magic tricks so he could bring a bunch of tigers to various malls throughout the country and perform magic shows with them—those were the good old days. When the same guy could decide to run for president, and then eventually governor, despite having zero experience (or shot at winning, tbh). It’s plastic sequins on a cowboy hat worn to an impromptu drunken wedding in Vegas: that’s the America we get in Tiger King.
Picture this: Three white people (all blond, to varying degrees of authenticity). All living in the South (Oklahoma, Florida, and South Carolina). All running their own private zoos, complete with tigers and other big cats, and feuding with each other. Hold up, you can do that? Yeah, I didn’t know either. Apparently, you can just straight-up buy a tiger to keep as a pet, and this is the kicker, if you’re in one of the following states: North Carolina, Alabama, Delaware, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. As far as Florida goes, you can’t have a tiger as a pet, but their ownership laws are (not shockingly if you know anything about Florida) fairly easy to circumvent.
Obviously, the fact that you can just buy a tiger to own as a pet is not fun. Neither is the pretty rampant animal abuse that is blatantly put on display, more or less unchecked (the producers show that it’s bad, rather than telling, and the only person who consistently points out the abuse is also engaging in some less-than-optimal treatment of animals herself). But if you can get past that, the cast of crazy white people in various southern states provides the perfect backdrop to the real-life soap opera that ensues. And it’s the exact train wreck we all need to distract us from the current high-speed train wreck that is life.
Without spoiling too much, Tiger King presents the best of every true crime documentary or docuseries out there, and one-ups it. It’s even more WTF-inducing than Abducted in Plain Sight. It’s got more twists and turns than The Jinx. To take a page from Stephon’s playbook, this documentary has everything: lawsuits. Jail time. FBI informants. A missing persons case. Cover-ups. Drugs. And that’s not even the half of it.
And the best part? Tiger King avoids the same error to which many Netflix documentaries fall victim (looking at you, Making A Murderer season 2, or should I say, the Steven Avery propaganda machine): it does not champion a winner. In a cast of three main characters (Joe Exotic, Doc Antle, and Carole Baskin), no one is totally innocent, and no one is presented as “The Good One” because they all have their moments of shadiness. Tiger King is a f*cking wild ride, reminiscent of a meth trip (I’d imagine, I can’t say from experience), and when it ends and you crash, you’ll be thinking about it for days.
In fact, I’m still thinking about it. I’ve still got a lot of questions. If I haven’t convinced you to binge the whole series, do it now, and then come back, because I want you to enjoy it, and I really don’t want to spoil it. Which I will be doing below. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of all the questions this docuseries left me with.
Is That Really Joe’s Singing Voice In All The Music Videos?
There’s no way it’s possible. No f*cking way. I can’t be the only one who thinks this.
What Happened To Mario Tabraue?
Positioned as a real-life Tony Montana in episode 2, this guy was f*cking wild. (To be clear, dangerous and very scary, but also, fantastic television.) I could watch a whole series just on him. What happened to Tabraue, and why did they only bring him up in one episode, never to be heard from again? I hope he gets a spin-off.
Is Jeff Lowe Going To Jail?
Probably one of the sketchiest people to ever exist, Jeff Lowe seemed to be on the verge of a federal takedown by the time Tiger King ended. But what the hell happened with that? Is it smart for a federal prosecutor to tell documentarians that she is looking into various people? Seems like it would be ill-advised to tip off a bunch of suspected criminals that you are looking into them, right? What do I know.
Did Joe Really Think He Would Become Governor?
Or was he running for sh*ts and giggles and to get the extra publicity? He can’t have thought he would win, right?
Is Doc Antle Still Running A Sex Cult?
If he ended up in a NXIVM-style bust next year, I would not be the slightest bit shocked. I’ve also got to wonder just what all these ladies are seeing there. Why is it never good-looking men running the sex cults?
Did Carole Kill Her Husband?
She did, right? Costa Rica? Come on.
Would I Take A Picture With A Baby Tiger?
Sadly, my most immediate takeaway from the docuseries was just how cute tiger cubs are. And yes, I know that petting them is bad. I fully understand that! But I was also just doing a realistic assessment of myself and wondering, “would I take a picture with one of these little guys if given the chance?” And I have to say that before watching this documentary, I probably would have. At least now I know better.
How Is Joe Doing?
I’m kind of worried for him, guys. I can only hope he’s leading his own little cult in prison.
What Was With That Jet Ski Shot?
You know the one I’m talking about. It was, perhaps, the shining moment in the entire series.
Are Joe And Dylan Still Married?
I assume Joe would have like, 600 marriage proposals by now if they are not still together.
What Is Howard’s Deal?
Watching the documentary, I couldn’t help but think that Howard is, well, kind of a dweeb. But he’s a serious ride-or-die for Carole (and, given certain theories put forth in the documentary, that could be quite literal). And I just want to know… why? But also, how can I find my own Howard?
What About All The Other Animals At The Zoos?
In addition to the big cats, Joe also had chimpanzees, bears, and a whole slew of other animals. (At one point, you see like, six little dogs running around.) Why weren’t they given any attention?
What Makes Carole Any Better Than Joe Or Doc?
This is the question that keeps me up at night. Aside from savvy marketing and an apparent mastery of Search Engine Optimization, at the end of the day, is Carole really rescuing any tigers? Are any of them helping animals at all? Or is it just a cash grab?
Images: Courtesy of Netflix; Joe Exotic TV / Youtube