Before Danielle Wheeler founded the Krewe of Karens in 2019, she had never gone topical. She’d always been in the “cinched corset and glitter” camp of Carnival costumers. Though Wheeler admired clever people who dreamed up outfits that meshed with current events or social fads, such ideas didn’t pop into her head.
Until she had an epiphany.
“Karen” is a pop culture code name for a certain type of self-assured, SUV-driving, sunglass-wearing, suburban White woman who is often aggrieved about life’s inconveniences and imperfections.
“A woman is deemed a Karen for her repeated attempts to demand to see the manager of an establishment,” Wheeler said, “more often than not issuing a complaint that we might refer to as a ‘first-world problem.’”
A Karen, Wheeler realized, was the perfect antithesis to the anything goes, laissez-faire attitude of Carnival. The question was, would anyone understand the character?
“The concept of the Karen was still a relatively new term,” Wheeler said. “I hoped that enough friends knew exactly what I was talking about when I presented them with the idea of dressing as a Karen to help make the Krewe of Karens become a reality.”
Wheeler’s friends understood perfectly, and the costume was simple to produce. A reverse-bob wig, sweater, sunglasses, a Starbucks coffee cup and a Karen name tag was about all that was necessary to produce the look. There was a touch of performance as well. Instead of smiling, the Karens posed imperiously for photographs, and they developed a call and response chant: “What do we want? Managers! When do we want them? Now!”
No one appreciated the gag better than the bartenders and other service industry employees that the Karens encountered on their first march through the Marigny and French Quarter on Lundi Gras 2019. A few onlookers were confused by the Karen persona. A woman whose name was actually Karen felt she’d found her flock (though Wheeler said it was uncertain if she fully grasped the satire).
Ms Wheeler seems to have a good grasp on the Karen phenomena in all its irritating wretchedness, but I believe the author of the article may not be quite as, umm, astute:
A few months after Mardi Gras 2020, a White woman walking her dog in New York’s Central Park quarreled with a Black man who was birdwatching. She subsequently called the police, claiming she was in danger. The woman was widely described as a Karen.
At about the same time, women who refused to wear coronavirus-suppressing masks were often referred to as Karens.
Well, actually, no. Karens were the ones who were mask-shaming, berating, and even physically asssaulting Mask Of Submission resisters, in truth. But no matter. Hats off to Ms Wheeler and her compatriots for coming up with a brilliant new wrinkle for the Mardi Gras festivities.
Although I must admit that cinched corsets and glitter are still just fine with me, too.