What a time to be alive in the middle of a cultural shift. Here we have not just a country, but most of the world on high (and some not so high) alert with many staying indoors. People who casually watched Netflix because of their busy lifestyles are suddenly almost forced to see Tiger King. Amid horrible news constantly being pumped into us there was a light and that light was…Joe Exotic?
I should do my duty and explain a few things as the author; I live in Oklahoma, but am not from Oklahoma. Everybody I have ever met here has done a very good job of keeping this man a secret from the world. It’s not a selfish thing either, nobody would want to claim Joe Exotic to their state. I believe it was just goodhearted Okie nature to spare y’all having to learn about this insane character.
The only thought I had watching everything unfold was “what the fuck”. A trans man gets his arm ripped off by a tiger and the first thing Exotic does is grab an EMT jacket? This does speak volumes to the intro here and bring us right back to the Joe Exotic underwear, condoms, and anal lube. The focus, at all times, had to be on Joe. At no time should you ever, in any circumstance, give Carole Baskin any attention. I felt that the internet clung to hating Baskin much like they did with Skyler in Breaking Bad. A woman just trying their best to do what they believe is right, while being chastised in defense of the scumbag lead. It is not that extreme seeing as how Skyler is a fictional character and Carole Baskin is a grifter who abuses nonprofit status and also totally fed their husband to a tiger. I do believe she is on par with being just as bad a person as Joe, or the polygamy sex cult leader (waiting on that separate documentary), or somehow makes the influencer for “Scarface” seem like an angel. But we should ignore the fact that this hatred is stemmed mainly from misogyny and less from animal treatment.
Eric Goode, our esteemed director and…a famous underground NYC club owner has always been behind the scenes of Hollywood and evil capitalism just like the big cat dealers. It’s people like this who have connections only maybe 10 people probably have who both offer good entertainment when one of their own slip-up or just perpetuate this idea of a free market. This documentary coming out during a pandemic where we all had to sit and learn that there is little to no regulation on not just big cats, but exotic animals in general. Own, Breed and Sell. There have always been so many loopholes in place since bootleg times, the product just changed.
One of my biggest upsets about Joe as a person is that he is a predatory drug abuser in the gay community. It can get touchy speaking about this but people like Joe Exotic have been in the Oklahoma “PNP” or Party N Play scene in a way that I have not seen in my travels. Logging onto Grindr is either going to be the best choice you made that day, or the absolute worst. This behavior is not indicative of the queer community and is a very good example of why healthcare focus on substance addiction is so important. There is nothing to do in these small rural Oklahoma towns besides doing meth and go to a tiger zoo. Of course the actual combat against “war on drugs” would be healthcare.
I believe this documentary did so much in exposing animal abuse, the evils that come with being the “boss,” what happens when state and federal laws allow capitalism to overshadow basic rights. It seems strange to think about sometimes, but who goes unchecked here? Lawmakers should have had a grasp of this community before it became a sensationalist dream. The internet took over the job of every critic it seems to tell us, “Fuck Carole” and “Free Joe” and not miss, but blatantly ignore the bigger picture here. Is this the free market that we, as a country, defend so vehemently? No regard for the well being of the product, if we have to word it this way, the safety of your employees and patrons and the worst of all, having the funds and the feeling of indestructibility to hire a hit man to murder a woman that you just…don’t like as a person. Ayn Rand would be proud to see such perfect use of the free market.
As I am writing this it has been announced that a new episode is going to air. IS this going to close the story for us? Did Carloe Baskin rightfully kill her creepy older husband who picked her up on the side of the road and had her join a cult? Is Doc Antle that shocking of a guy to parade women around like the tigers he may or may not have performed sexual acts on or near? Will they address the misgendering of a trans man the entire documentary? Will we finally see that documentaries are both pieces of art that dive deep into human nature while also being solution-based narratives? If we continue to fund projects for people like Eric Goode, whose sole goal here is personal gain, then we will become far more desensitized to serious issues. There should always be a goal to shock media and that goal is progress. Talk to your lawmakers, talk to your family, talk to anybody about the injustice that you witness regardless of how you witness it. Your rage is validated, this form of art is not.