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How to know if YOU are a Karen : A Meme History

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Oh Karen, you take so many forms, yet only have one haircut.

A perfect example of the ‘Karen haricut’ by Kate Gossling, of ‘Kate plus 8’ 2007 – 2017).

You have probably seen the ‘Karen’ Memes, or the Karen hashtags (#AndThenKarenSnapped) or people calling each other ‘Karen’ on social media lately, and wondered to yourself;  “Who is Karen, and where did she come from?”

With the right haircut you can turn anyone you want into a Karen on the internet.

Bellow we’ve listed our favorite Karen memes, and looked into the origins of this domestic antihero.  To begin, the rules of Karen involve more than a short haircut…

You are a Karen if:

1.You are very self entitled, and demanding about it.

2. You see yourself as an authority figure, despite the fact that no one gave you any authority.

3. You are far less informed than you think you are.

4. You are the perfect storm of arrogance & stupidity with a ‘can I talk to your manager’ haircut.  

The Rock as Karen Meme

The ‘Karen’ moniker, has been used in many different ways, but the first memes began in the 2010’s, and were about women in their 50s-60s, (a very common name in that age group), who were often found complaining to managers at restaurants and retail stores, with an irrational ‘the customer is always right’ attitude, and an overly demanding tone.  This is the type of customer who is a nightmare for service industry workers, and for the customer service department.

If you send food back, several times, blame your server, then ask to get something for free…you might be a Karen.

A Group of Karens is Called ‘A Complaint’

 

Karen The Destroyer

Karen at her most powerful and dangerous

Don’t let her assume her Ultimate Karen form. from FuckYouKaren

 

‘KOVID Karen’ knows what YOU shouldn’t be doing!

A Karen finds a nurse in a grocery store, (the grocery store is a Karen stronghold by the way) and the irrational “I’m going to get the manager’ behavior ensues.

In England, a nurse being harassed by a Karen for simply being in a store in her nurse uniform; Karen claiming she’s "spreading germs" due to the uniform and shouts at her (before she started filming) then, in true Karen style, threatens to talk to her manager from FuckYouKaren

Kovid Karen knows what SHE doesn’t have to do

Here is a ‘Karen’, talking about how she will not wear a mask during shelter in place.  If you can stomach her tirade, you will see that she is simultaneously very assertive and sure of herself, while also admitting that she is ignorant of the facts and that she will not listen to them if given to her.  It is the Covid version of the ‘anti-vaxxer’ Karen.

karen has a temper tantrum over face masks from FuckYouKaren

Male Karens

When Twitter began warning readers that some of Trump’s tweets contained blatant misinformation, Trump put on his Karen wig and began threatening social media companies not to censor him, or else!  Trump has really strong Karen energy.

Karen Musk

When Elon Musk threatened to move his Tesla factory out of California, unless they let him re-open his factory in the Bay Area.  The ‘Elon as Karen’ meme began to flow.   In this instance, ‘Karen’ is someone who doesn’t believe that social distancing is needed, and/or that the laws should apply to them.  This is the ‘selfish, self-entitled, arrogant’ Karen being applied here.

Remember, although people may appropriate Karen to serve their political purposes, Karen, at her heart, is apolitical.  She is just always wrong.

The K.a.r.e.n. System

The dog choking Karen

Here is a Karen trifecta.  A white lady exhibiting incredibly irrational behavior, (racism, animal cruelty, panic) while also overreacting and manipulating the authorities to serve her unfounded demands.  This is a ‘Super Karen’ in the wild.   The man shooting the video is black, and a bird watcher. He asked Karen to put her dog on a leash, and then this happened.

The Karen in this video was fired from her job shortly after the video went viral.   We have no doubt that Karen is appealing this decision, and contacting several lawyers.

WHO was the first ‘Karen’?

First names have become ‘memes’ on the internet before.  For example the name ‘Becky‘ was selected by the black community, and made famous by Beyonce, to mean a ‘basic white lady with straight hair’.  A ‘Chad’, for example, became the the default label for a ‘ young bro in his 20’s’.

It is rumored that the original Karen came from a reddit subgroup started by an angry divorced man who wanted to vent about his ex wife, named ‘Karen’.  The group was called ‘/Fuck_You_Karen’ and a version of that subgroup still exists today!  It happens to be a great source of Karen Memes.: reddit.com/r/FuckYouKaren. 

No really one knows the original author of the first Karen meme, what we do know is that Karen was a very popular baby name for American girls in the 1950’s and 60’s.  So it was a very common name for ladies in their 40’s and 50’s during the popularity of the Karen haircut in the mid 2000’s.

The history of Appropriating a name

To put this ‘Karen’ phenomenon in a historical perspective; a much earlier version of this ‘name appropriation/memefication’ can be exemplified by the popular name of ‘Dick’ in the early 1900s.  ‘Dick’ is short for ‘Richard’, just as ‘Karen’ is short for ‘Katherine’.  But ‘a dick’ over the years has also come to mean ‘a penis’, or ‘a jerk’, and when you put the word ‘private’ in front of it, it means a ‘detective’.

So making a meme/re-appropriating a popular name like ‘Karen’, is nothing new.   American culture has been reusing names to symbolize a particular group or a particular behavior for quite some time.

Am I a karen?

If, after reading this you still do not understand what a ‘Karen’ is, and you feel personally insulted by this article, that means you, are a Karen.  Feel free to email customer service.

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

I'm the managing editor here at Broke-Ass Stuart. I enjoy covering Bay Area News as well as writing about Arts, Culture & Nightlife (not so much nightlife anymore).

If you're a writer, artist, or performer who would like to get your work out there, or if you've got a great product or service to promote, we've got 120k social followers and really fun ways to reach them. We make noise for our partners, and for our community. alex at brokeassstuart.com

6 Comments

  1. A Knot of Ennui
    May 28, 2020 at 10:43 am — Reply

    The first Karen for me goes back to the mid 90s—the character in David Sedaris’ Christmas elf story, Santaland Diaries, who tells Crumpet the elf that she’s going to have him fired:

    – – – “And one woman, after asking me 1,000 questions already, asked, which is the line for the women’s bathroom? And I shouted that I thought it was the line with all the women in it. And she said, I’m going to have you fired.

    I had two people say that to me today. I’m going to have you fired. Go ahead. Be my guest. I’m wearing a green velvet costume. It doesn’t get any worse than this. Who do these people think they are? I’m going to have you fired. And I want to lean over and say, I’m going to have you killed.”

  2. J
    June 27, 2020 at 2:02 am — Reply

    As funny as it it, the meme is unfortunately incredibly sexist and extremely mean to women named Karen and middle aged white women that are not entitled jerks. And why do we need to make President Dump or Musk into a woman in order to hate on them? Their actions are plenty enough to make them the true owners of the entitled jerk category. It’s also sad to hear that this meme came from online bullying of someone’s ex wife.

  3. Self-Professed Genius
    July 14, 2020 at 8:15 pm — Reply

    Bro…after months and months of extensive research and intellectual conversations, I finally arrived at this article…written on a journalists URL called “Broke Ass Stuart”…and this particular article is almost identical to my own words describing all of the hilarity of the “Karen Phenomenon”….

    Basically:

    I’m pretty sure we’re the same person in alternate universes. 😂😂

  4. Serenity Factual
    July 24, 2020 at 3:55 pm — Reply

    Karen: a meme used by people too lazy to more effectively label behavior they don’t like, and the parrots that follow them.

    “Hey, Karen, it’s all good. It’s only a meme, a shield, a scar. We really are nice people, you know…”

    My advice to people who use or help perpetuate this meme:

    Enough of this childish name-meme mania already. People need to stop hiding behind memes, and just use the terms that fit, whatever they are. I’m sure the name-callers would feel different if it were their names, or their spouse/child’s name, or some ethnic/etc label that matches them and that they care about. Grow up, people. The emotional trauma that this callous behavior causes is real. And it will come back to you. Use your words, not some cop-out meme.

    This may seem to many just light entertainment, just swimming in or reflecting on the cultural context we find ourselves in. Well it sends and amplifies messages far beyond that, and you are responsible for your part in it. Please help the end-result of whatever you do or say in relation to this meme to have a more positive result for the specific people affected, and the maturity of our society in general.

    • September 14, 2020 at 10:49 am — Reply

      You forgot, “Or I WILL call the manager”

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