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
If there’s only one thing this country can agree on right now, it’s that we’re all obsessed with Tiger King. Oh, that and stained sweatpants are officially business casual, so I guess we can agree on two things. Look at 2020 bringing us together! Now, there’s a lot to talk about with Tiger King. Obviously Carole Baskin fed her second husband to the tigers, even OJ agrees, and he’s hesitant to call anyone a murderer even
when he did it in the face of overwhelming evidence. And obviously, we could talk about the music videos, and the haircuts, and the throuple, and the murder-for-hire plot, but we’ve already done that. What I’d like to talk about today is Bhagavan “Doc” Antle. Yes, that sex-cult leading, Steve Martin in Baby Mama-looking motherf*cker that was actually born Kevin. The whole time I was watching Tiger King, I couldn’t believe that places like his existed and that there were so many psychos in America hoarding and breeding big cats. But it turns out, Doc Antle is super popular, and not just with regular people that are stupid enough to put their head inside a liger’s mouth. He’s popular with celebrities that are that stupid, too! So, without further ado, let’s take a look at all the celebrities that Doc Antle knows.
Call the police. pic.twitter.com/RYjUl8layu
— Ξvan Ross Katz (@evanrosskatz) March 30, 2020
By now you’ve surely seen this image floating around the internet. Doc Antle did indeed provide the animals for Britney’s epic 2001 VMAs “I’m a Slave 4 U” performance. Do we think that performance is what inspired Doc to get some sex slaves of his own? If that performance wasn’t convincing enough, I don’t know what would be.
You guys, BEYONCÉ has been to Doc Antle’s “safari” in Myrtle Beach. This woman, who does not let herself get photographed or filmed ANYWHERE without her consent, let someone take a picture of her with animals that have been kept in captivity their entire life for the sole purpose of making their owner a rich and famous man. Lol. Doc probably led that cub right to the gas chamber after it met Beyoncé, knowing it could die happy having met her.
View this post on Instagram
@loganpaul helping us spread the message….Save The Tiger, Save The World❗️🐯 The tiger stands as the last great sentinel of the forest, if we lose the tiger we will lose a piece of ourselves forever. But if we save the Tiger we could save the world, in order for the tiger to survive it needs clean clear skies, pristine lakes and rivers, wide open spaces, plentiful prey animals, and most importantly it needs you, people who care! Therefore if we save the Tiger, we save the world.
Well OF COURSE a problematic YouTuber would hit up a problematic zoo. I mean, when you film a dead body in a suicide forest and make jokes about it, everything else must seem harmless. He really is the best celebrity ambassador for the Myrtle Beach Safari. It’s like Jennifer Lawrence and Dior, Serena Williams and Nike, George Clooney and Nespresso, Logan Paul and the site of an alleged sex cult and tiger cub euthanizing. What a perfect match!
Look, I don’t pretend to know much about boxing. The only thing I’ll pay to view is the latest Jane Austen adaptation (what up, Emma!). But, apparently this dude is really famous, and must have seen that Mike Tyson had a tiger in The Hangover and thought it was a requirement.
Naomie is from Southern Charm on Bravo and if you’re not watching, you should be. Naomie is being dragged on the internet for hitting up the Myrtle Beach Safari (which is fair), but to give her some credit she did apologize and said she didn’t realize how much harm she was doing. That’s more than most of these celebs have said about it. Oh, and turns out the picture she’s getting shamed for is in Thailand (still not cool). If you want to see the one from the Myrtle Beach Safari, it’s here.
View this post on Instagram
💰1,000,000🏆 💥WINNER💥@marquisegoodwin with @kodyantle and I and tiger Man Durg. Congratulations on the win ✌🏻❤️ Marquise Goodwin pursued his Olympic dream three years ago. On Saturday, the 49ers wide receiver was celebrating winning a different kind of gold. Goodwin defeated Panthers defensive back Donte Jackson — and earned the $1 million prize — in the final of the inaugural 40 Yards of Gold pay-per-view event in Sunrise, Fla. Goodwin edged Jackson at the tape by five one-hundredths of a second❗️🎥 @nickb_photos
Marquise Goodwin plays for the San Francisco 49ers and even competed in the long jump in the 2012 Olympics. That’s cool Marquise, but I don’t think even you could jump far enough if that tiger decided he had an insatiable taste for human flesh. On Marquise’s own Instagram account he posted a picture with his wife and the tiger, but since he posted it after the show came out, which means he clearly doesn’t care that he participated in animal abuse, I’m showing you guys the one of him in the water with two freaks. Enjoy!
Drew Barrymore & Annie Leibowitz
View this post on Instagram
Beauty and the Beast. Photo series we did with @drewbarrymore with photographer extraordinaire @AnnieLeibowitz and our lovely lion Aslan for @voguemagazine Challenges Humans are pushing African lions out of their habitats. This cat’s populations are steadily decreasing in the wild. In just two decades, Africa’s population has decreased 43 percent and it is estimated that as few as 23,000 remain. One of the main causes is the alarming rate at which they are losing their habitats due to expanding human populations and the resulting growth of agriculture, settlements, and roads. Human-wildlife conflict is also a major threat to lions. Due to habitat loss, lions are being forced into closer quarters with humans. This, coupled with decrease in their natural prey, causes them to attack livestock. In turn, farmers oftentimes retaliate and kill these majestic big cats. They are hunted by humans. Lions are being killed in rituals of bravery, as hunting trophies, and for their perceived medicinal and magical powers. #savethelionsaveafrica
I feel a little bad for the celebrities that worked with Doc Antle and his animals, because they most likely didn’t have a choice in the matter. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to feature them here. Hi Drew! This was bad! But Annie, you probably hired him. FOR SHAME. At least you got that money shot though, right?
Even celebrity chefs are not immune to the charms of a baby chimp, it seems. They may be cute, Bobby, but they can still rip your face off. And you need that face for tasting the menu at Bobby’s Burger Palace! I’ll only get one if it has your stamp of approval. Be more careful.
Rory from ‘Single Parents’
Poppy would never take Rory here! But Angie totally would, without approval. If you know, you know.
None of this was a good idea, Hayden, but especially not the part where you put the chimp’s ear in your mouth. I’m gonna need you to take a time out and think about what you did.
View this post on Instagram
#tbt to one of my many appearances on the @tonightshow_net with Jay Leno @_the_real_jay_leno_ and @kate.winslet.official on the show with some tigers and a giant liger 2002ish. . . . . . . . . . #AtMyrtleBeachSafari for the support of the #RareSpeciesFund #WildLivesMatter #TouchTheWildSaveTheWild #tiger #tigercub #savethetigersavetheworld
We all know about this one because we did see Doc rewatching this footage on Tiger King. And look, I’m not going to drag Kate Winslet into this because it’s not like she gets to choose who is on Leno the same night as she is, but also she did marry a man who legally changed his name to Ned Rocknroll, so her judgment is skewed at best. So maybe she is cool with animal captivity. As long as those tigers have a cool name!
This list of celebrities is actually only a small snapshot of all the ones that have known and worked with Doc Antle through the years, I just thought a list of 30 people might get tedious. I beg of you to go through his Instagram, which is a treasure trove of information and atrocities. Enjoy!
Images: Netflix; evanrosskatz/Twitter; myrtlebeachsafari (3), docantle (6), commentsbybravo/Instagram
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
View this post on Instagram
⭐︎ 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
We’ve already explored the many, many questions Netflix’s Tiger King leaves its audience to answer, like “are you really allowed to just own a tiger?” and “what is Howard’s deal?” But the most pressing question Tiger King asks is if who, if anyone, are the good people here? When every single person is an animal abuser at best and a straight-up murderer at worst, it’s kind of hard to figure out who to root for in this sordid tale of tigers, betrayal, and alleged murder. But goddammit, I’ve tried. Here’s our ranking of Tiger King characters from most and least likely to end up in the Bad Place.
10. Travis Moldonado
If anyone in this show is a pure victim, it’s poor, sweet, Travis, whom I think we can all agree was actually pretty cute before Joe Exotic used drugs to coerce him into a gay polygamist relationship despite Travis not identifying as gay or polygamist. Sweet Travis didn’t deserve to get all caught up with these crazy-ass tiger people. Travis was innocent!
9. John Finlay
Joe’s first husband is also innocent in all of this. The only thing he did wrong was fall in love with a charismatic man named Joe Exotic. (And also meth.) The only reason I ranked him worse than Travis was because he was kind of complicit in bringing Travis in on this whole thing in the first place, and for his choice to conduct his interview shirtless.
8. Joshua Dial
Joshua Dial, aka Joe Exotic’s campaign manager, is a fairly empathetic character in this documentary in that he literally watches someone shoot themself. That said, I think it’s irresponsible to try to help get a guy whom you met in the ammo section of Walmart and describe as “Donald Trump on meth” elected to public office, simply because being a campaign manager is your dream job.
Props to him for getting 19% of the vote in the governor campaign, though. Mike Bloomberg paid like, half a billion for those numbers.
7. Howard Baskin
When you catch him liking another girl’s pic on IG pic.twitter.com/LBDilmpHQZ
— notanothertruecrimepod (@NATCpod) March 26, 2020
I did a vibe check on Howard and it came back negative. Something’s not right with this man. Why does he stan Carole so hard? What kind of weird sex thing is going on there? *Remembers the photo of their wedding where she has him dressed as a little tiger on a leash* Oh…right…
6. James Garrettson
View this post on Instagram
Yes, James Garrettson is a snitch, and by virtue of that, deserving of stitches. But like, who can hate a man who rides a jet ski so confidently? Yes, he turned on his own friends to avoid prosecution on an illegal lemur purchasing charge, but the result of that snitching is that another person was not murdered. So I guess he’s ultimately good?
5. Mario Tabraue
Mario Tabraue, aka “The Real Life Tony Montana,” is probably the most hardened, legitimate criminal in this documentary. Tabraue was one of the biggest movers of illegal narcotics in Miami during the 80s, and was arrested for his involvement in the murder of an ATF agent. He is also the most level-headed individual in the entire series. Go figure.
4. Jeff Lowe
Motherf*cking Jeff Lowe the zoo thief. How dare this man take Joe Exotic’s zoo and attempt to turn it into a reputable organization? That’s not why people come to G.W. Zoo! They come to pet baby tigers and have a dude with a mullet point a gun at them. That’s it. Also I don’t get good vibes from his relationship with Lauren. What’s going on there? Who openly tells their wife they want to hire a f*ckable nanny, and that she has to get back in the gym immediately after giving birth to his child? I don’t care what kind of open arrangement you have, that’s disrespectful.
And I am definitely not convinced this new zoo he’s building is going to be up to code.
3. Doc Antle
So Doc Antle may not be an alleged murderer like some of the other people on this list, but he still snags third place because this motherf*cker just casually had a sex cult!!! Can we get another Netflix doc on the tiger sex cult? You can’t just like, introduce a sex cult for one episode in a docuseries and then just go back to having that guy in interviews like everything is fine. I need to know about the sex cult, and I need to know about it yesterday. Netflix, you know what to do.
2. Joe Exotic
What is there to say about Joe Exotic that hasn’t already been said? On the one hand, Joe Exotic is a hilarious character about whom I would (and did) happily watch 7 episodes of documentary footage. On the other hand, he’s a violent psychopath who tried to have a woman killed. This is a man who has personally killed multiple tigers. As entertaining of a character as he is, he is not a good person.
I know this decision is going to be controversial. In trying to figure out whether to make Joe or Carole number one, I had to ask one crucial question: What’s worse, actually attempting to murder someone, or allegedly actually murdering someone?
After much thought and peer review (I asked my fiancé), I have decided that, if true, Carole murdering her husband and feeding him to her questionably “rescued” tigers probably makes her the worst person in Tiger King. It’s very, very stiff competition, but I think it’s the alleged feeding of his body to the tigers that sends Carole over the edge here. Absent the fairly credible case that she killed her husband and fed him to tigers, Carole would probably be around 4 or 5 for just being home-wrecker who abuses both tigers and interns.
Image: Netflix; natcpod / Twitter; natcpod, oklahoma_zoo / 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