The 2021 American crime-thriller film ‘Karen,’ written and directed by Coke Daniels, stirred a notable response due to its central character portrayal. The film starred Taryn Manning as Karen Drexler, focusing on her role as a racist white woman who takes it upon herself to target her new Black neighbors. The plot revolves around Karen’s harassment of her neighbors, Malik and Imani, which escalates into a dangerous confrontation.
The movie’s title itself alludes to the ‘Karen’ stereotype prevalent in the U.S. In recent times, the term ‘Karen’ has been associated with a particular kind of middle-class white woman, often depicted as entitled and demanding. This term emerged as slang, highlighting those perceived to go beyond normal levels of entitlement. The film ‘Karen’ explores this stereotype through the lens of the main character’s actions.
Upon the release of the film’s trailer, it faced a strong backlash from the online Black community, particularly on platforms like Twitter. The term ‘Karen’ had lost its cultural appeal due to its association with real-world racial tensions and dangers. The concept of the film was criticized as trivializing a serious issue. Some critics claimed the film’s premise was damaging and divisive, rather than shedding light on important matters.
Manning, who portrayed the main character, faced significant criticism for her involvement in the film. She responded to the backlash in a clip of her Mr. Warburton magazine interview, saying:
“I was, kind of, taking it on head first and, like, responding to people, you know, ‘I’m so sorry you feel that way.’ I was attacked a lot by white women who felt that I had betrayed my own race.”
She also admitted in the same chat that she took on the role to highlight societal issues, despite the negativity it generated. Taryn acknowledged the challenges presented by the backlash but stood by her decision to take on the role. She expressed her belief that the film could contribute to initiating conversations about crucial topics, even though its reception was far from universally positive.