0178 - Out of the sun - 2021.03.01
I really dislike that "Karen" became a slang term for "bitchy white woman asking to speak to someone's manager" or what-have-you. It's really a nasty thing to do to literally everyone named Karen (not to mention the ethnic group in Myanmar), most whom, I assume, are perfectly lovely people.
Of course, this certainly isn't the first given name to be assigned a slang meaning. Spare a sympathetic thought to all the Chads out there, not to mention Berthas, Poindexters, and Fauntleroys. I am, fortunately, somewhat insulated from this phenomenon, as "Mason" is already a noun.
Part of the reason why using "Karen" as slang sucks is that, as all slang does, it gradually genericized and flattened out to just mean "bad person"... and, along the way, tagged certain haircuts and accents that really have nothing to do with someone's behaviour. Regardless of the term's originators insisting that no, they weren't trying to shame certain aesthetic choices or discriminate against certain regions or gender presentations, you don't get to retroactively police what a given word in a living language "should" mean. This is the danger of creating any concept and setting it free on the world (I'd use the term "meme", but, of course, that word now just means "funny stock image with text on it that I saw on Facebook" - such is the aforementioned nature of linguistic drift.)
Anyway, I don't necessarily think that people should be judged by their worst moments, by times when they're angry and frustrated and flustered and confused. The screaming harridan insisting that no, she doesn't want a cheeseburger, she wants a hamburger with cheese on it, any idiot should know the difference, and she'll escalate her complaint to Ronald McDonald himself if she has to... well, she's probably going through family troubles and financial difficulties and medical problems that we, standing in line behind her, don't see. That moment isn't who she is. I've certainly had my share of bad incidents, and I hope you judge me, if not by my very best moments, at least by my average performance.
But then, doesn't that let nasty, inexcusable behaviour off the hook? Michael Richards only got riled up enough to scream the N-word once, but I'd wager he's still not invited back to the Seinfeld reunion. How bad of a bad moment is enough to outweigh a lifetime otherwise unmarred by assholery?
...and now we're getting into discussions of sin and punishment, justice and retribution, deterrents and proportionality. The public shaming of blustering blowhards asking to see managers is not merely a slap on the wrist that the individual "deserves" (whatever that means), it's also a warning to others to think twice, to not be that kind of jerk.
...but hang on... doesn't the retail ecosystem need a certain percentage of that kind of jerk customer? Without that 1% of (correctly or not) entitled people insisting that they have a right to their whims being met, surely the corporate machine would feel they could just roll over their customers. Without that 1% of (correctly or not) entitled people insisting that the system should accomodate them, surely systems would never accomodate anyone other than the owners, the stockholders, the rich and powerful and entrenched.
...I'm getting off-track.
Is Lee Caldavera a "Karen"?
They are certainly in the wrong here, in their reaction to Otto, but is the thing that Lee is wrong to be? Lee is selfish and short-sighted and flighty, yes, but they are also passionate and impulsive and loud and stubborn... qualities that are, if not meritorious, at least useful. If Lee were using their powers for good, here, if they utilized this exact same irritating volume to advocate for better psychological help for Caleb or a better life for Zoa, you'd root for them, wouldn't you?