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
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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