Does she even exist (in non-Lana Del Rey form)? Or is it just another conveniently file-able stereotype for “men” to classify women so they don’t have to think so hard. Technically speaking, the evolution of “Karen” as a catch-all term for upper middle class white women with anti-science, anti-“the help” “values” did arise from a real person. And, like all things, the Karen trope existed long ago, not just in 80s-era terms like “yuppie” or “richie,” but, as is the case with most memes that go viral well after it already made the rounds on Reddit, Karen was born there. Specifically from a bloke who was basing the stereotype on the ex-wife of a fellow Reddit user, telling his internet brethren all about how she took the kids and the house. It’s the exact sort of entitlement Karens have come to exemplify to those looking for the perfect witch to burn in the endless American trial called rampant inequality and injustice. Which Americans seem ostensibly more enraged about on a regular basis as their Constitution has falsely claimed life could be otherwise, where other countries appear to be more realistic about the inherent life cycle (under pretty much any economic system) of one party being subjugated and the other doing the subjugating. A classist yin and yang balance, if you will.
And yet, what’s most odd about Karen taking such flight in all facets of where pop culture is disseminated is that “men” are the ones who seem to derive the most pleasure from wielding the “insult.” That Karen was, indeed, sprung from the rib of a “man,” so to speak, could have some accounting for why they seem to be more obsessed with her than women. Or, it’s simply the age-old story of “men” naturally getting off on anything that debases women, even if only a “subset” of them. Then again, Karen is also debasing herself by being the sort of broad who marries a CEO, a cop (or chief of police), a corporate defense lawyer, etc. What’s more, there’s no denying that the most frequent users of the trope are those who embody the spirit of the Karen class themselves, though, of course, they would either 1) never admit it or 2) think this form of self-deprecation gives them a pass for having privilege.
The hard-on for turning a “white woman’s” name into something derogatory comes at a time when contempt for white folk is at a fever pitch, and, indeed culls from some of the same inspiration Keegan-Michael Key took in the Key and Peele sketch, “The Substitute Teacher,” transforming white people names into pronunciations that suit his own “culture” (namely, subverting the way Jacqueline, Blake, Denise and Aaron are said) in the spirit of what was done to “ethnic” students in the past by their white teachers. The payback factor in this shoe on the other foot parody feels especially salient in the joy of calling out Karens. Even if the majority seeming to do so are self-hating whites themselves (after all, you have to be pretty self-hating to treat others the way whites with power do). More to the point, “men” who are obsessed with Karen. As if they wouldn’t take plenty of pleasure in turning her around and fucking her up the ass if she let them. Alas, she’s too prim for such things. And that’s part of why “men,” especially, love to hate on her. It’s merely grounds for misogyny (you don’t see no “man’s” name getting dragged even half as much for being a white stereotype) under the guise of being a “social advocate.” Just as much as Karen thinks she is.