That’s right: There’s a direct line from the pop queen to this viral true-crime show about the world of big-cat parks—and, more specifically, Doc Antle, the founder and owner of The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) in South Carolina.
We all remember Spears’s famous performance of “I’m a Slave 4 U” at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards, which prominently featured a large python and, yes, a tiger. Guess who that tiger’s handler was? One Doc Antle with long, dark hair. He was even onstage during the performance, as you can see from these photos. Look to the upper-lefthand corner of the images.
In this one, he’s getting up close and personal with the tiger—which will not be shocking to anyone who has watched the Netflix docuseries. And here’s a backstage shot where you can truly see Antle’s face.
Tiger King‘s main subject, Joe Exotic, counts Doc Antle as one of his inspirations for opening his own big-cat park. But both have come under fire from animal rights activists, including Carole Baskin, in Tiger King.
People on social media were blown away by the Spears revelation. “This 2001 britney performance was a defining moment in my life and i’m losing my mind knowing that doc antle was there also,” one person tweeted.
“DUDE. I was watching Britney performance videos this weekend and I was like OMG ITS DOC ANTLE WITH A TIGER during her Slave4U performance! Lol,” another wrote.
This latest revelation raises the question: What will the internet discover during self-quarantine this week? And also: Does Doc Antle have a favorite Brit song? I need answers immediately.