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‘Karen’ Is a Cinematic Assault on the Intellect

It's as dumb as you think it is...

By MovieBabblePublished 3 years ago 3 min read
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The slang term ‘Karen’ represents the racist, entitled white women of suburbia. A creature from the lagoon of (usually) far-right misinformation. Stereotypically, you can see a ‘Karen’ donning a bob cut with blonde highlights. As per usual, a ‘Karen’ doesn’t consider herself a racist despite outing herself as one in any debate concerning the subject of race. Notably, she’s instantly suspicious of Black people and doesn’t hesitate to call the authorities on them for even the most innocuous of offenses.

Some have taken umbrage with the term, stating that it’s inherently sexist against women. Whatever your position may be, it has resulted in countless fodder for clickbait articles and silly memes. And now, due to the popularity of the term, somebody out there thought it might the ideal foundation for a motion picture.

Is this a stupid idea? Oh, very. Could it work? Sure it can. You could use the character of a Karen in a darkly comedic subtext. Charlie Brooker already did this brilliantly with last year’s mockumentary, Death to 2020, in which Cristin Milioti plays a hilarious version of this stereotype. A deftly comic writer could use such a character to expose the racial divide of America.

In a more dramatic context, one could even create an in-depth character study of one particular Karen. Expose the culture of such entitled women and how they could become so misinformed. There’s a lot of interesting things you can do with a stupid subject. Plenty of stupid ideas for movies became the inspiration for great ones — 21 Jump Street or The Lego Movie for instance.

Writer/director Coke Daniels (yes, that’s his actual name) had the bright idea to create a psycho-thriller around the concept. Which might not be the dumbest idea, but again, with the proper writing, you could have something interesting.

Taryn Manning plays the titular Karen, a recently widowed woman with two children. As president of the Home Owner Association of her suburban neighborhood, she wields her power with an iron fist, reminding people whenever they make the tiniest infraction, such as not picking up their trash on time.

But her protected existence is threatened by the sudden arrival of a married Black couple, Malik and Imani (Cory Hardrict and Jasmine Burke). Even though Karen’s fellow neighbors are happy with the added diversity, Karen is immediately distrustful of the couple, Imani in particular. Initially, Karen seems awkward but unassuming. Yet with each encounter, Karen’s unconscious bias turns extremely blatant and her behavior increasingly hostile. It’s clear that Karen is one disturbed woman and that the couple should stay far away from her. But after a humiliating video involving Karen goes viral, her position in the neighborhood is significantly downsized. Karen takes out her frustration against the couple, perceiving them to be the corrupting influence of the neighborhood.

Look, I didn’t expect a subtle film by any means. But I didn’t expect this film to be this ridiculously flagrant. The opening scene alone conveys the nature of the whole film, with Karen cleaning up a Black Lives Matter graffiti sign. The film is actively trying to destroy whatever nuance is possible from such a storyline.

Picture the dumbest version of this movie you could think of… and your vision is probably pretty close to the actual finished film.

Karen, as played by Taryn Manning, is not a character, rather a composite of all the stereotypical aspects of a ‘Karen’. I had hoped her racism was less upfront, to be closer to the unconscious white liberal racist, as shown in Jordan Peele’s Get Out. (“I would have voted for Obama for a third term if I could”.) But nope, even in her first encounter with the Black couple, she jokes about how she first thought they were “casing the place”.

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