The march of the ‘Karen’: Who is she and what does she want?

Jul 16, 2023

We do not know from whence she came. We do not know where she’s going. We don’t even know why she’s here or what greater purpose she serves.

We know only that she walks among us – her fists clenched in rage, her eyes red with fury, her march into our lives unstoppable, unpredictable, unrelenting.

And her numbers are swelling.

She is Karen – and if she hasn’t intruded into your life yet, she soon will.

Widely noted across the vastness of the internet is how “Karen” rhyming so euphonically with “Kraken” is no coincidence, for they are but slightly different forms of the same beast. 

In legend, The Kraken would rise from the ocean depths and lay waste to all before it, dashing ships, cities, and entire societies into oblivion.

In everyday life, The Karen will emerge from nowhere with no notice and lay waste to your day over an immensely heinous violation of her rights. Such as taking too long at the checkout.

We’ve all encountered Supermarket Karen. She’s always in the queue behind some poor soul who’s misplaced their credit card or is short a few dollars or is trying to cope with a crying baby.

Forget your excuses. Karen won’t stand for it. What’s the hold up? Why didn’t you have your card ready? Why couldn’t have left that thing in the car? You’re wasting her time, don’t you know?

Taking your pooch for a walk? Beware of  Dog Watcher Karen because if your dog comes anywhere near her precious pet again she’s calling the vice squad. And why doesn’t your mutt have a muzzle? Where are your poop bags? Is that leash strong enough to keep Karen safe from your chihuahua?

Heaven help those in the service industry because Food Delivery Karen is going to tear your head off for being five minutes late, and if she doesn’t get the three varieties of sauce she ordered it’s going to be no stars, no tip and an official complaint to head office.

One of the greatest threats to a peaceful life is What Are You Doing Here? Karen.

Seen in public parks and playgrounds she will confront anybody she doesn’t recognize and demand to know why you are sitting on a bench sipping coffee while pretending to be looking down at your phone. You look suspicious. What are you up to? Answer her now. Oh, forget it. The police are already on the line.

Then there’s You Can’t Enter the Building Karen, the self-appointed guardian of apartment buildings who will assume anyone she doesn’t know at the front entrance is a criminal. No, she doesn’t care that you have a key and that you have ID. You’re up to something and you’re not getting in, even if it means barricading the elevator doors with her shopping cart.   

Is there any street in any suburb anywhere in the world that doesn’t have at least one Council By-Laws Karen living amongst its unsuspecting ratepayers? 

She can hear your party? Complaint. There’s a tip of a tree branch flapping over her fence? Complaint. You’ve parked three millimetres over her property line? Complaint. Yes, we could talk the matter over like reasonable adults, but Karen has called the council, just in case. An officer will be here shortly.

Nobody innocently exercising in a gymnasium is safe from Fitness Centre Karen. If you’ve used the equipment for long enough she’ll let you know. Panting too loudly on the treadmill? She’ll let you know.

And should any male person dare cross her eyeliner or glance in her general direction, well, that’s clearly the behaviour of a predator. Gotta report it.   

Yet of all the different types of Karen you can encounter as you try getting on with your life, undoubtedly the worst has got to be Airplane Karen.

Arguing with fellow passengers who were served before her, scolding parents over a playful child, berating a flight attendant because there’s not enough ice in her soft drink she’s the treat everyone needs when they’re locked in a pressurized cabin 36,000 feet above sea level.

Karen wants only one thing in this world, and that is for every man, woman and child to bow to her philosophy of life, which can be boiled down to two words: Me First.

While many competing theories have tried to account for her origin, Karen is generally seen as the embodiment of middle-class entitlement, the culture of complaint in human form whose right to point out the faults of others overrides everybody else’s right to get on with their day.

Everybody’s business is her business – and pity the fool who challenges her righteous wrath as she tells you what’s what.

In fairness, it’s important never to assume anyone whose name actually is Karen is a Karen. Real Karens are invariably sweet, lovely, decent human beings. How unfair an irony is that?

The big question, of course, is how best to deal with Karen once she intrudes into your life.

Thankfully, the remedy is simple.

When Karen gets in your face over some microscopic infraction, throw that presumptuous attitude back at her, threefold.

Works every time. Scares the bejesus out of Karen – and such a glorious sight that is to behold.

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