So I’m actually a little nervous about publishing this. It’s not the sort of thing I typically write. If you click my profile, you’ll see I normally write silly things or critiques of movies. And it’s not like I have a B.S. in Psychology or anything. I’m just shooting from the hip is what I’m saying. (Great start, Harrison. Way to reel them in. F@#king idiot…)
Like evvvveryone else in the world I binge watched Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness on Netflix this past weekend. I was mesmerized, transfixed, and simply gobsmacked at the ridiculous details surrounding the lives of Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, Jeff Lowe, and the other characters in the documentary series. I say characters because boy howdy are they some characters! Ahem…
JOE EXOTIC VS. CAROLE BASKIN
The vast majority of people in this documentary are not good people. That said, let’s focus on the two main characters, Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin.
Joe Exotic is an animal abuser, illegally sold tiger cubs, and pushed drugs on straight people to coerce them into gay relationships. His staff is barely paid, they had to live in rundown trailers, and were forced to eat the same expired meat they gave to the tigers. He’s a narcissist and was shown to have emotional outbursts simply for the sake of the cameras filming him. Joe is a very legitimate suspect in an arson that not only burned down a building but killed alligators within. And finally, he hired a hitman to kill another person. Those are some reasons off the top of my head as to why someone might consider Joe Exotic to be a bad person.
Carole Baskin claims to be an animal lover but keeps tigers in a questionable environment. She does not pay her staff — even though they work long hours and even forces them into a caste system. She has a questionable past and is strongly suspected to be involved in the disappearance (murder???) of her former husband, Don Lewis.
To be clear, they’re both bad and have their issues. Curiosity got the better of me so I put up a poll on my Twitter.
These results both surprised me and didn’t surprise me.
I’m not trying to chastise you if you think Carole Baskin is worse than Joe Exotic. But maybe you should take a step back and examine why you might choose Carole over Joe Exotic as the worse person?
Here’s my theory: We as a society are more accepting of a bad person if they embrace or even celebrate their bad qualities over someone who has bad qualities and tries to gloss over them or hide them.
We love Joe Exotic because he celebrates himself. He’s loud. He’s proud. He doesn’t give a fuck. He’ll shoot of guns and blow shit up. We hate Carole Baskin because she tries to act holier than thou even though she has her own set of problematic behaviors.
My question is why are we like that? Why are we okay with a bad person who’s comfortable in their skin rather than someone trying to do good? I don’t have an answer for that. I’m legitimately asking.
Let me lay my cards on the table: I think Carole Baskin’s aims are good. She’s not going about it in the right way. People shouldn’t be able to privately own exotic animals! We should be trying to stop that!
(Even the documentary itself kind of fails to highlight this point. After seven episodes of fever dream, LSD tripping plot developments we are given the briefest lip service about how there are only 4,000 wild tigers remaining but upwards of 10,000 in private captivity.)
As we are wont to do in 2020 the memes have been pouring in nonstop about Tiger King. A lot of them are fucking hilarious. I haven’t laughed at memes that hard in a long time. Good job, memes.
However, I want to call attention something I noticed about the memes though. Here’s a link to a Facebook Group that has hundreds of memes about Tiger King. (I wanted to link the entire photo album so I wasn’t accused of cherry picking.)
It seems like to me that a lot of the memes about Joe Exotic are jokes about his appearance or some sort of ridiculous absurd joke involving his personality. There seems to be a net-positive vibe to the memes about Joe. Conversely, the memes about Carole seem to be meaner in tone and accusatory in nature.
Again, why are we okay with Joe’s behavior but not Carole’s?
The thing about memes is that the more that are posted, the more the “language” of the meme is refined, and the more that attitudes and beliefs are cemented due memes. In other words, memes are re-writing the narrative of Tiger King in real time. There’s the narrative presented in the documentary and now there’s this new narrative being extended by the audience who watched the documentary.
That new narrative is Joe is a fun kooky guy and Carole is shrill drag who definitely killed her husband.
THE MEME THAT BROKE MY BRAIN
Warning: We’re about to take a hard left turn.
My cousin (Hi!) posted this meme on Facebook and it completely broke my brain.
Here we have one person who has toxic behaviors but revels in them and another person who has legitimate issues but tries to hide/gloss over them.
Which one will win a presidential election?
I feel like people’s attitudes towards Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin explain why Trump won over Hilary.
There are people who 100% legitimately believed in H̶i̶l̶a̶r̶y̶’̶s̶ ̶c̶a̶m̶p̶a̶i̶g̶n̶ Carole’s conservatory and gladly worked for and supported her message. But there were a lot more people who reluctantly had to reluctantly say, “I guess H̶i̶l̶a̶r̶y̶ Carole is on the right side of wrong, but it doesn’t quite feel right.”
With Trump and Joe you might not always know what you’re getting but it’s going to be a wild ride. Each has a sort of magnetic personality that pulls people into their orbit and makes you stop and gawk. We even saw this in the documentary!! The sideshow of Joe Exotic netted him 19% of the Libertarian primary for Governor of Oklahoma. Like, WTF? How?!
It’s mind blowing but these types of people make for good candidates. Note I said candidate and not politician or leader.
I didn’t walk away from watching Tiger King thinking it was a metaphor for life in America but now that’s all I’m thinking about.
I don’t know, man. I felt compelled to write this because I feel like some people are walking away from Tiger King with the wrong lesson. And hell, even I’m guilty of that too because I spent a couple of hours (yes, really) writing this instead of writing about how to make a meaningful impact to help the tiger population from going extinct. Or even making a meaningful impact to stop the private ownership of tigers in the United States.
I guess my parting words are this. 1) Remember damn near everyone in Tiger King sucks. 2) Don’t let memes dictate your worldview.
What do you all think? Agree? Disagree? Am I completely out of my mind? Let me know in the comments below!