I get it, but I’m tired.
Our society values people who present themselves less as a person and more as a caricature of a person. We find real, human emotions to be boring, because we already experience and deal with them on a daily basis. We turn to media for an escape, and that escape is even better when it comes in the form of a completely ridiculous living, breathing person that we can reference and meme until we collectively agree that the joke’s over. The best part? We never feel bad about it, because we feel no true connection to this person or their emotions.
“Tiger King” is nothing more than a mass case of schadenfreude. No one really cares about Joe Exotic — he’s the moment, sure … the white boy of the month, if you would. But no one is invested in Joe Exotic as a person, and as soon as we have other things to talk about besides a global pandemic, his name won’t even ring a bell.
Admittedly, I did not watch “Tiger King.” I tuned into the first episode and found myself frequently bored. I didn’t like how the entire show was centered around wild animals trapped in cages, and I also didn’t like that within the first hour, I was subjected to watching dead cow carcasses being fed to wild animals. On top of that, Joe Exotic is literally racist.
Like I said, I get it. As someone who will do everything in my power to not be left out of a cultural moment, it’s taking a lot in me to not swallow my pride and throw on “Tiger King.” If you find yourself in the same boat, I’ve put together this list of titles currently streaming that I consider to be healthier options. They’re all available on one or more major streaming platforms, they all come highly recommended (by me) and by streaming them, you will not have to stomach the guilt of giving a racist animal abuser criminal attention and notoriety.
- “Schitt’s Creek” — Netflix, Hulu
On Tuesday, the television world lost a true gem when “Schitt’s Creek” aired its final episode after six seasons. The show tells the story of the Rose family, who suddenly lose their wealth and are forced to relocate to a classic middle-of-nowhere rural town. Unlike most scripted series, it only got better as it progressed, which made its early bow seem that much more untimely. A comedy through and through, it managed to find humor in the most unlikely situations, and never once relied on offensive or targeted quips to get a laugh.
As a bonus, “Schitt’s Creek” handles LGBTQIA+ representation better than any comedy show I’ve ever seen. Showrunners Eugene and Dan Levy created a world where queer characters are unquestionably accepted, and though it may not mirror our reality, it is undeniably refreshing.
- “Unorthodox” — Netflix
Coming from an area with a growing ultraorthodox/hasidic jewish population, I’ve always wanted to know more about the religion, which has always existed with an air of secrecy. “Unorthodox,” which is loosely based on Deborah Feldman’s autobiography of the same name, answers a lot of those questions. The miniseries places viewers in the shoes of 19 year-old Esty, who was born and raised in an ultraorthodox community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and at the show’s start, is in the process of escaping and fleeing to Berlin.
“Unorthodox” is an emotional, jarring look into a religion that is very commonly associated with cult-like behavior. By drawing on accounts from a first-hand source, it exposes the dark side of being a woman in the community — or worse, a woman seeking liberation.
- “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” — Netflix
I know it’s not 2012, and the simpler days of “aesthetic” Tumblr blogs are a fleeting memory, but can’t we pretend? When it launched on Netflix earlier this month, many were reminded of the youthful, carefree nostalgia of “Perks,” while others — myself included – were subjected to its charm for the first time.
An emotional story, great performances and an iconic soundtrack make this the perfect film for a time when, let’s be honest, none of us feel “infinite.” If you’re like me, you’ll watch it three times in a week, staring at your bedroom ceiling wondering where your youth has gone as the credits roll.
- “I, Tonya” – Hulu
Maybe you’re using “Tiger King” to satisfy the white trash desire in your heart, and to that, I raise “I,Tonya.” Based on the true, completely ridiculous story of Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding’s involvement — or in her version of the tale, lack thereof — in the attack of teammate/competitor Nancy Kerrigan, the film offers a perspective that has rarely been included in previous tellings.
Not only does it teach the valuable lesson that you can’t always assume you know the full story based on one-sided accounts, it’s also hilarious, dramatic and — most important of all — the perfect acting vehicle for Margot Robbie who, mind you, deserved the Oscar!
- “The Farewell” — Prime Video
Don’t let comedian Awkwafina’s starring role confuse you — “The Farewell” will make you cry. That’s not to say it isn’t funny, because it is, but it will also have you ugly crying and — should you be lucky enough to still have her in your life — running to the phone to call your Grandma.
Director Lulu Wang recounts the true story of her trip back to her native China to see her Nai Nai, who had been diagnosed with cancer, under the guise of a family wedding. The film offers heartfelt, smart takes on family, tradition and morality, and in-part thanks to stunning performances by Awkwafina and Zhao Shu-zhen, is one of the best of the last year.
- “Frances Ha” – Netflix
Before she was crafting masterful films of her own, Greta Gerwig was in front of the camera, and delving into this era will only make you fall further in love. Teaming up with director Noah Baumbach on a screenplay co-written by the pair, “Frances Ha” is a modern masterpiece. It’s a film about growing up, and the all too familiar feeling of watching those around you seem to do so at a faster pace.
The script is quintessential Greta, with hilarious one-liners, masterfully-written characters and juicy monologues, while Baumbach’s decision to tell the story entirely in black and white only adds to the intimate magic of France’s world.
- “Elite” — Netflix
Ah, the subgenre of dramatic, horny high schoolers getting wrapped up in lies, deceit, murder and a slew of other themes far too mature for literal 16 year-olds (or, people in their twenties playing 16 year-olds). Truthfully, “Elite” is only a step above “Riverdale,” but you will feel immensely smarter as the show is entirely — or like, 99% — in Spanish.
You’ll find yourself constantly on the edge of your seat as life at Las Encinas enfolds. You’ll love some truly evil, horrible characters simply because they’re hot, and you’ll hate some truly good one’s just because they’re not (see: Christian). Sure, it’s vain, but vanity is literally the foundation of “Elite,” so let yourself have this one!
- “Happy Death Day” — HBO
Sometimes, you just have to indulge yourself in some good, old-fashioned, campy horror — look no further than “Happy Death Day.” Anchored by an incredible performance from future Academy Award winner Jessica Rothe (bookmark this), the film follows Tree (Rothe), a college student that finds herself stuck reliving the same day over and over, only to get killed in brutal, and occasionally ridiculous, fashions. Think “Groundhog Day” meets literally any slasher film ever.
As a bonus, Tree is one of the most refreshingly well-written female horror protagonists that I can personally think of. If you’re as gagged and gooped by the mid-film montage set to “Confident” by Demi Lovato as I constantly am, then you get it — and you’ll thank me later.
- “Miss Americana” — Netflix
This is really just me advocating for Taylor Swift. Some of us love her, some of us hate her — I get it. Despite your feelings towards the subject, “Miss Americana,” Swift’s documentary that launched on Netflix earlier this year, is a worthy watch.
Directed by Lana Wilson, it’s an intimate — and oftentimes tragic — look into being a woman thrusted into the spotlight at a young age. Swift candidly opens up about navigating through fame, feminism, her struggle with body image and politics. While the section of the film on the latter straddles the line between politically aware and tone deaf, it’s still nice to hear Swift’s explanation of her longtime silence and sudden activism.
- “Parasite” — Hulu
I don’t have anything to say about this past year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture that you haven’t already heard. It’s the grandiose thrill of a blockbuster combined with the intelligent intimacy of an arthouse flick, and if you can’t, in the words of director Bong Joon-ho, “overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles,” then you might just be a lost cause. Sue me.