Why we don’t want to hear about Carole Baskin or ‘Tiger King’ anymore
Every now and then, the internet becomes obsessed with something to the point of exhaustion. This obsession starts innocently enough, a joyous communal celebration: “Isn’t it cool that we all find this funny/interesting/ridiculous/worthwhile?”
Then, slowly, the longer it goes on, it drains all the fun out of the proceedings and we find ourselves burned out. And still, we can’t stop and we keep beating that dead horse over & over.
Currently, one of those horses is Tiger King, along with anything and anyone associated with it. You know this, we know this, people who haven’t even watched the Netflix documentary series know this. We, as a virtual nation, have driven ourselves into a Tiger King overdose. What an utterly 2020 thing to do.
Not that you need a recap, but . . .
The world at large fell under the spell of Tiger King mania in March 2020, partly due to lockdown (we had to watch something besides The Office for the umpteenth time). However, there was something to be said about the wackiest seven-part true crime docuseries released by Netflix.
The show focuses on the small, deeply interconnected, and extremely colorful society of big cat preservationists & collectors. The instant breakout stars of the series were Carole Baskin & Joe Exotic, two names you must have heard & read a gazillion times by now.
The deal with Baskin & Exotic is they hate each other. Baskin is a preservationist, allegedly looking out for big cats raised in captivity. Exotic, on the other hand, is a collector and the owner of a zoo in Oklahoma. Their escalating feud is the stuff dream binge-watches are made of. When Exotic claimed Baskin was involved in the disappearance of her second husband, it was just the cherry on top of a viral sundae.
Ironically enough, Exotic himself ended up in prison when it was discovered he hired a hitman to murder Baskin. He’s currently serving a 22-year federal prison sentence (his conviction also included violations to the Lacey Act & the Endangered Species Act). While we don’t know if Exotic has Netflix access in the slammer, it has been reported he’s ecstatic about his newfound popularity.
We’ll never know what would’ve happened in the alternate timeline where the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t shut the U.S. down for months on end. Maybe, in a world where people aren’t kept home by a sudden quarantine, Tiger King wouldn’t have gained enough purchase to become a viral sensation. In reality, however, it was released at the perfect time.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness hit Netflix on March 20, 2020, just as Americans everywhere were starting to settle in after stockpiling toilet paper & canned goods. Whether you thought the novel coronavirus was a deadly threat or just another flu, you were probably itching to watch something that would take your mind off current events.
There is something to be said for escapism and, if nothing else, Tiger King provided it in spades. As we laughed at its outlandishness and wondered if Carole Baskin had actually murdered her husband, we didn’t have to worry about the global pandemic preventing us from going outside. With that in mind, it’s understandable that the online community kept going back to the Exotic well time and again. 2020 has been quite a year.
Netflix recognized Tiger King was a hit right away and didn’t waste time in adding an eighth episode to the series: an aftershow wrap-up hosted by Joel McHale. Baskin & Exotic didn’t take part in it, but it was still a sign of things to come. We were just not going to let these characters be. In a coronavirus-related press conference at the end of April, a reporter actually asked President Trump if he would pardon Joe Exotic.
While Trump took a look at the case (he hasn’t decided yet), Animal Planet decided to offer a more compassionate look at the animals Exotic had been collecting. The documentary Surviving Joe Exotic debuted in July 2020 and focused less on Exotic’s quirks and more on how much he sucked at caring for big cats. Not quite what America was asking for, but it still somewhat qualified as Tiger King content.
Sensing that she was being eclipsed by the Cult of Exotic, Carole Baskin joined Season 29 of Dancing with the Stars in September 2020. Her stint on the show was short-lived – she was eliminated after three episodes – but the online videos of her dancing to “Eye of the Tiger” will live on forever.
Oh, but there’s more
Inevitably, Hollywood pounced on the potential of Tiger King as a source of endless entertainment. The most anticipated Tiger-King-inspired project at the moment is also the only one officially listed on the Internet Movie Database so far. Known only as Untitled Joe Exotic Project, it’s a TV miniseries starring Nicolas Cage as Exotic. There’s no release date listed, but you know it will take over the world when it comes out.
Carole Baskin also has celebrities eager to play her. Kate McKinnon, of SNL fame, reportedly plans to be the executive producer of a TV miniseries where she will play Baskin. If that doesn’t sound wacky enough, fret not: Tara Reid has also been reported as being in talks to play Baskin, this time in a feature film.
It wouldn’t be an epic criminal saga if American Crime Story producer Ryan Murphy didn’t at least consider adapting it into a miniseries as well, so that’s also happening. It’s only in talks right now, but Rob Lowe seems to be attached and posted a picture of himself as Joe Exotic. Again, the internet lapped it up.
Aren’t you worn out just from reading the list of upcoming Tiger King projects? Be honest: when was the last time you were truly amused by anything related to Joe Exotic or Carole Baskin? (Hopefully it was while reading this article, but you know what we mean.) It might be time to close the door on this particular craze and find a new weird show to turn viral. Let’s not allow Netflix to rest on its laurels.
Let’s all get over it before Trump pardons Exotic.