What if Joe Exotic Had Won in 2016?
With the country being brought to heel by COVID 19 and little respite from the devastating reality of our collective buttholes being in the proverbial cheese grater, Netflix has found it's rightful place as a safe haven for millions of us. Who knows? Maybe pre-pandemic America would've been less enthusiastic about a show like 'Tiger King.' But we don't exist in that America. So, here we are.
In case you're among the uninitiated, 'Tiger King' chronicles the exploits of a maniacal, mullet clad, gubernatorial candidate, gay zoo keeper who has a modest harem of straight, meth addicted husbands, and an insatiable hatred for “that bitch Carole Baskin.” The sad reality is that this show will be heralded as a diversion during a global crisis, instead of the absolute masterpiece of human interest that it is.
The man is Joe Exotic.
When a political junkie of the highest order spends his time in isolation, he begins to wonder about a few things. So far, my most consuming thoughts have been how Grover Cleveland can be both the 22nd and 24th President of the United States when he's the same person despite his second term being interrupted briefly by Benjamin Harrison, and what a Joe Exotic presidency would be like.
The first of these is a journey in semantics and not worth a lot of time. But the second is something that I can't help but be consumed by.
The former isn't a complete flight of fancy. Exotic ran the same year that we (sort of) elected an unhinged pseudo-billionaire whose entire success balanced precariously on his ability to brand his last name. The other option wasn't much better. So, what would've happened if Exotic would've gotten more media attention than just being a snippet on Jon Oliver's show?
The first thing to understand about the political prowess of Joe Exotic is that he got an alarmingly formidable 19% of the vote for Oklahoma Governor. While this is nowhere near enough to clench an office, 19% is a serious block for a first time candidate in a state wide election. Of course, he got 0% of the presidential vote, but still.
One of the most compelling points made by Exotic during his bid for governor, which was featured in the documentary, was when he said “Get all of the potheads out of jail and put them crooked bastards where they belong!” This speaks to me on two fronts. Not only would the tassel-festooned tiger magician have an interest in prison reform, but there would be an added emphasis on accountability for corporate corruption. Point for Joe.
Now, the cons are considerable, so we'll get them out of the way. He's insane, shoots guns way too close to his own mother-in-law, spends too much of his time focusing on “that bitch Carole Baskin,” would be completely deferent to gun manufactures and their lobbyists, and would more than likely attempt to classify meth as a food group.
But it's not all bad. As a collector of husbands, it's almost a guarantee that he'd look out for the LGBTQA+ community. He's also a polygamist, so the dictations of hetero normative religious institutions seem irrelevant to the man.
By his own account in his presidential candidate video (which took place in a tiger pen) Exotic is “Broke as shit.” While this doesn't automatically mean that he would resonate with the plight of working class Americans, it does naturally increase the likelihood. It at the very least presents an empathetic nerve to the millions of people in the US who are just scraping by.
Speaking of tiger pen videos, there's almost no chance at all that a President Joe Exotic wouldn't have fireworks, tigers, and pedestrian level magic at every State of the Union Address. While people are entertained by the lowbrow and unimaginative ramblings of the current POTUS, some of us understand the not-so-subtle art of true production.
We're also talking about a guy who got two straight white guys to marry him at the same time using nothing but meth, tigers, and charisma. Much of Congress and Senate is reigned over by straight white guys, meth is cheap and made in America, and Exotic already has the tigers. You do the math on that kind of negotiating power!
Exotic also spent his time running the zoo finding people who were destitute or recently released from prison to employ. While some of this was no doubt a bid to find desperate workers who were happy to be paid in expired Wal-Mart meat (seriously, watch it), this act shines some light on the culmination of opportunism and opportunity. A veritable win/win (kind of) variant of the capitalist endeavor.
How about Medicare for All, you may ask? Well, there's a point when a zoo employee named Saff (one of about two and a third redeemable personalities in this whole shitshow) gets her arm torn off by a tiger. Shortly after informing his gift shop patrons of the incident, Exotic remarks “I'll never recover financially from this.” This remark is undoubtedly callous, but it portends the understanding of a small business owner's need for socialized healthcare.
He also shows an ability to speak on tragedy. When one of his husbands shoots himself, Joe tells a heartwarming story about that husband rubbing his balls in his face. During the eulogy, Exotic proclaims “Them balls was like golden nuggets to that boy.” Sadly, this is more empathy and respectful tact than the current president has shown any of the victims of our current crisis.
But how would a President Joe Exotic handle a crisis like Coronavirus? After all, that's certainly the issue of the day. It's my belief that the answer is simple. He'd release a survival video called something like “Treat this virus like it's that bitch Carole Baskin!” It would show you how to find the dates and times that your local Wal-Mart is throwing out their unsellable bologna, how to speed load magazines for your pink zebra print AR-15, and how to not wind up buried under a god damn septic tank! And, frankly, if we're comparing responses, the latter sounds good to me.
But the best part of a Joe Exotic Term is his unintentional ability to unite a very fractured US. Even though he's slated to spend the next 80 years is prison on a murder for hire wrap, the memes have been amazing, the speculation of if and how “Doc” Antle fucks his tigers, and the armchair detective work regarding the disappearance of Carole Baskin's first husband, has brought us all together in a way we haven't felt in years. We have found collective unity under the tasseled, sequenced animal print banner of The Tiger King.