According to IMDb, “Karen” is the story of a “racist and titled white woman in the South” who “terrorizes her new black neighbors”, which doesn’t sound so fictional. Said “racist woman, titled White Woman” is, unsurprisingly, named Karen, and played by Taryn Manning of “Orange is the New Black” fame.
After the release of a second trailer for the film on Monday, many are comparing the film to Peele’s critically acclaimed horror flick, “Get Out” – but not in a good way. Like “Get Out,” “Karen” is very clearly a film about white supremacist violence targeting black people – but it doesn’t seem to carry the same nuanced commentary and depth, simply portraying more white violence for shock and shock. indignation.
Similar criticisms have recently been leveled against Amazon’s ‘Them,’ an anthology series that will explore the horrors of racial terrorism and, in its first season, shows repeated graphic violence against a black family and d ‘other black characters with no real purpose except, presumably, to tell people that racism was and is real and bad. Of course, black audiences and audiences of color know this and aren’t shocked. It’s a storytelling like this, and apparently in “Karen,” that makes it clear who the target audience is based on and who might still be shocked by the racist horror.
As the internet continues its scathing reviews of “Karen,” mostly calling it a knockoff of “Get Out,” it’s worth remembering what made Peele’s 2017 film so unique and spooky. At first, “Get Out” appears to be a movie about an interracial couple spending the weekend in the woods with the family of white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). But the Armitages have another plan for Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), Rose’s black boyfriend, which literally involves harvesting the bodies of blacks that the Armitages will transplant their brains into.
When not done right, racial horror – a relatively new genre that ‘Get Out’ has paved the way for – can simply be offensive, reducing the very real trauma and ongoing white supremacist violence to tropes and shock factor, and often responding to white ignorance. What made “Get Out” special was its more in-depth commentary on the insidiousness of white liberalism, the underlying racism and performativity of many liberals who could – like Rose’s father – cite their support for former President Obama to deflect accusations of racism. In fact, it’s biting cues and moments, just like Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) proclaiming, “I would have voted Obama for a third term,” that make the film so haunting, as black audiences and audiences of color who had to quietly put up with the occasional racism of whites can relate to it so deeply.
Of course, all we’ve seen of “Karen” so far are trailers, which might not be enough to assess all of her depth and story, but her name and premise alone is. doubtful. Last summer, when the term “Karen” became popular as slang for white women who call the police when they see black people in their neighborhood – or blacks watching birds in the park, or blacks organizing a barbecue – some academics and racial justice advocates have expressed concerns about how dangerous reducing white women’s racism to a joke could be. There is, after all, a deeper, more layered story for white women who wield white femininity to harm black people. At the height of white supremacist lynchings targeting blacks, it was the supposed fear of white women of “dangerous” black men that frequently drove mobs of lynchers to kill black men.
To reduce “Karens” to a joke with no real insight given this very real and not so distant story, and the fact that even today a white woman could call the cops and have a black person killed, is in bad taste for say the least. And joking about “Karens” seems to be at the heart of the upcoming movie, “Karen”.
“Karen” naturally causes all kinds of controversy with its first trailers, although we might not know the full story until it hits theaters on a date that has yet to be announced. You can watch the latest trailer below.