JOE VS.CAROLE is Peacock’s dramatization of the real life people behind the Netflix sensation TIGER KING’s Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic. Carole Baskin, owner of Big Cat Rescue, a company looking to save animals who are being mistreated, sets her sights on shutting down Joe Exotic’s Awakening Enterprises, an animal act that entertains audiences with poorly trained animals.
What ensues is a 10-year feud so volatile it took drastic measures to stop. All eight total episodes are available to view now on Peacock.
JOE VS.CAROLE stars Kate McKinnon, John Cameron Mitchell, Kyle MacLachlan and Brian Van holt. It is written by Etan Frankel, Noah Diaz and Stephen Lancelotti and produced by Justin Tipping, Natalie Bailey and Etan Frankel.
Carole grew up in abusive situations. From being sexually abused as a young woman, she flees from an abusive husband, she walks the streets looking for a place to live. A man pulls up and asks if she needs a ride. He says he was just thrown out of his home and asks if she’ll come with him. The two get married and quickly discovers Don, her new husband is wealthy. Wanting to go to work too, she starts her own real estate company and makes more money her husband. Don, jealous of her accomplishment, steals her money wand wants to buy land in Costa Rica. He says he is leaving the next morning, never to be seen again. Declared dead, Carole is out of money and out of options for her and her daughter from her first marriage. Breaking into his office, she is accused of killing Don, but it is never proven.
On a mission to save animals who are abused, she starts Big Cat Rescue and vows to shut down many of the traveling animal shows around her area. She quickly discovers many of the shows are under a different name by the same owner, Joe Exotic. She vows to take him (and other animal show owners) down by taking away their permits to run those shows. What ensues is a feud that quickly spirals out of control. Carole vows to spend her life rescuing tigers from abuse.
Joe Exotic has also been a victim all of his life as well. Secretly gay but afraid to come out, he tries to kill himself by getting in a car accident. At a rehab facility, he befriends a gay couple who has a young cub that lifts their spirits. Giving the tiger to Joe as a gift after leaving rehab, they encourage him to be the person he really is. A year later, he walks into a bar with that grown tiger and as an openly gay man.
He first owns a pet shop with his husband, but when the landlord kicks them out for putting a gay flag on the building, Joe buys land to buy a zoo. The workers he hires not only help him around the land, but also perform sexual favors for him. After his husband dies of cancer, Joe pursues a relationship with two of his workers and they marry. One husband cheats on him with a woman, the other dies tragically by accidentally shooting himself in the head. Once Carole shuts down Joe’s zoo, he goes online asking if anyone knows anything about Carole, and a disgruntled volunteer from her rescue facility hands him her personal diary entries, which he reads online to gain an internet presence.
The two become embroiled in a lawsuit, trying to shut the other’s businesses down. When his lawsuit is dismissed, he is afraid Carole will get his zoo. When an accident happens to one of his employees, a reporter catches it on camera and he sells it to an online magazine. This makes Joe’s zoo go viral and they begin to make a TV show from his zoo. Hence, TIGER KING is born, but it’s an initial miss with major networks. With police on his heels for animal abuse, killing animals and threats to kill Carole he makes creative ways to not get caught but to no avail.
JOE VS. CAROLE has a strong mixed worldview. There are some elements of biblical values, as both Joe and Carole are on quests for justice, but for different reasons. Carole wants to save animals who have been abused because she was abused herself. Joe wants justice and seeks revenge on Carole to stop her from embarrassing him and making him feel like less of a person. Carole’s catholic upbringing plays a role and says, “saving animals is doing the Lord’s work,” although there are several references to Christianity Joe says in mockery. Carole’s Catholic upbringing seems to drive her quest to seek justice for animals who don’t have a voice.
However, there are strong romantic and humanistic tendencies, as Joe pursues whatever makes him feel good, despite the legal or moral ramifications of it on others’ lives. Joe marries two men illegally. Joe exploits his employee’s accident by selling the footage and putting it online to make a name for himself.
JOE VS.CAROLE has excessive foul content, with explicit language, rude gestures, and multiple profanities.
It has a moderate amount of violence such as threatening to kill someone, someone getting punched someone’s arm getting chewed off and someone accidentally shooting themselves in the head. Partial nudity including several scenes of men with their shirts off and in their underwear.
Excessive sexual content including a graphic scene of sexuality, glorification of homosexuality and adultery and scenes of both hetrosexual and homosexual couples kissing. Drug use is also glorified and not rebuked, as well as drinking and smoking (neither is rebuked.) There are also several other questionable elements such as greed, revenge, exploitation, lying, stealing, poor role models and dysfunctional family systems.
One of the few positive elements of this show is the cinematography. The show does a great job of separating stories told in flashbacks and current time by rotating the camera shot 90 degrees before the scene changes, which is a unique effect and great way to separate the story’s timeline. This eliminated any confusion to the viewer of what story they are watching. The producers do a great job of fleshing out both Carole and Joe’s stories, portraying both the good and bad sides of them. This leaves viewers believing neither Joe nor Carole are the bad guy in this story. Producers also did a great job with camera work and lighting, flashbacks in different, faded lighting and current plot lines in brighter colors. This helps tell a full, vibrant story from all perspectives.
Overall, Movieguide rates JOE VS. CAROLE as abhorrent, with content including intentional blasphemy, evil, gross immorality, and/or worldview problems. Homosexuality, adultery and exploitation of violence as well as excessive language, sexual content and violence make this show inappropriate for children and adults of all ages.
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