Life can be tough if you’re named Karen—the internet now associates this name with some women who are entitled and want to speak to everyone’s managers. Keep in mind that the term 'Karen' isn't meant to insult all women; it's used to poke fun at super-entitled problematic people. The Karen meme is the female equivalent of the Kyle meme and you can check out our post about the times that the internet destroyed fragile masculinity right here. Now, we know that most women named Karen out there are probably awesome people in real life, but the name has become a part of internet and meme culture.
The ‘Eff You Karen’ subreddit is one of the places that is dedicated to “the hatred of Karen” as they put it. We’re not fans of hating other people, you can’t deny that this online community makes some hilarious Karen content. We’ve collected some of the best Karen memes, so scroll down, upvote your faves, and check out the ‘Eff You Karen’ subreddit when you have the chance.
Bored Panda reached out to Matt Schimkowitz, Know Your Meme's Senior Editor, and spoke with him about Karen memes, and how some people find them offensive and insensitive to women. "As [the meme] grows from a parody of a common social experience of someone demanding to speak to a manager to a statement about white privilege, the stakes over the meaning of the meme grow as well. So I think that users of the meme should be cognizant that what they're meme-ing might not be their intent anymore. It's very possible that the meme could grow even farther to exhibit misogynistic tendencies, which are somewhat already present." Scroll down for the rest of our interview with Matt.
Some people have even stated that Karen memes allegedly promote so-called 'incel culture.' However, Know Your Meme's Senior Editor Matt doesn't believe that this is the case. "I don't think statements about white privilege necessarily align with most of that philosophy. I could see those with sexist beliefs using Karen as a catchall for all women, which is where things get really ugly and suddenly 'Karen,' a meme we all enjoyed and used with abandon is connected to something many would find offensive," he said.
Matt pointed out that most meme humor has a certain level of maliciousness to it. It's an inbuilt 'feature' of memes, in other words. "Meme-ing can be nihilistic artform and rewards really ugly behavior in some cases. Sometimes, what starts as a fairly inoffensive meme can grow into something really hateful, like Pepe the Frog. I could see that happening to Karen—though, I'm not really sold one way or the other on the debate."
He continued: "Personally, because I'm kind of iffy on the intent of the meme and where it's going, I probably wouldn't call someone a Karen or use the Karen meme, judging the trajectory of its meaning. The meme's meaning will change depending on who is meme-ing it and what their intent is, and that could alter how we all view Karen. As I tell most people, you should always meme with caution. These images, nicknames and jokes frequently have unknown origins and could be connected to some really hateful areas of the internet."
Matt said that it's been hard to pin down the exact origin of the Karen meme. However, he personally thinks that the most convincing origin story is Dane Cook's 2005 comedy special bit "The Friend That Nobody Likes" which names Karen as the friend no one likes. "This is one of the earliest examples that we have to using a specific name to stand in for a whole type of person, and it's a comedic trope that we've seen dozens of times over the last 15 years," Matt stated his position.
“Every group has a Karen and she is always a bag of douche," Cook said during his stand-up routine. “And when she's not around, you just look at each other and say, 'God, Karen, she's such a douchebag!'”
One alternative theory is that it all started with the hit 2004 movie Mean Girls (I still rewatch it every year) which had the ditzy and insensitive character, Karen Smith. This sparked the ‘Oh My God, Karen, You Can’t Just Ask Someone Why They're White’ meme and things snowballed from there.
Another theory about the so-called rise of Karen states that things got started with the character Karen from 1989’s Goodfellas.