“The internet will bring us closer.”
Said, or very similar to what was said, by my high school science teacher. But that is not always accurate, in fact, one could argue that the internet’s continued misuse threatens humanity.
Take the ”Karen” meme, for an example.
The Karen Meme is a phenomenon most of us are familiar with. This usually depicts an angry middle aged woman, most often white, displaying fits of rage and intolerance while demonstrating a sense of entitlement. It is also called the “Can I speak to the manager,” meme. Sometimes they are funny, and they most certainly are a point of conversation.
But like a lot of internet culture, few stop to consider the effects on people named Karen who do not act like an immature brat.
The Karen we are talking about is 22 days younger than me. A very beautiful person, she has always been liberal and caring. One of her first boyfriends came out in 1992. This was not a time or place where displaying courage allowed you to be met with supporters easily. Texas, especially “Oil, Texas” in the early 1990’s was a very rigid place.
But Karen did not care. She supported him publicly. She stood up to teachers, administration, even the school board, who at that time wanted him banned from sports, which they eventually did. Their solution was to offer a role as a male cheerleader, which he did not accept. Karen won my heart and we started a relationship of sorts. We spent a lot of time together but I was not very Marlboro-y, if some of the X-ers know what I mean.
That is to say most of the guys doing well in the dating scene were very masculine in features. I was boyish. Still am. So we became friends, very close, and one day I told her how I felt. That went, well, we stayed friends put it that way. To her credit and with my gratitude, we became even closer after that.
She was always trying to set me up with another girl. I found out later that it is a sign a girl likes you but for whatever reason, does not feel she can be with you. I also found out, with my new wife by my side, from her mom, that I was her first true love and all she talked about in high school. Note: I had not discussed that with Val, because it came as a shock to me. The car ride to the hotel was, colorful. I did not know why if she felt that way, knowing how I felt, she never told me.
Recently she explained. Her popularity had taken a major hit after defending the young man mentioned above. Hers had fallen, and mine rose as I started playing sports. In high school, popularity is currency. I had struggled throughout junior high, indeed I had been bullied before I grew and filled out, and she had been there for me. Karen flat out told me that she did not at that time, want to drag me into the literal danger she then faced.
Her house was vandalized. Her name was sullied. Her reputation was literally re-cast into that of a, her words now, “whore.” She had become such damaged goods she became dangerously depressed.
But Karen was tough. She would overcome those obstacles, then took it upon herself to turn those experiences into a career path. That is why today, she is a doctor specializing in behavioral health and addiction. She is aldo an adjunct professor. She has won accolades, and is considered an expert in her field. She also can’t easily get a job.
You see ever since the Karen meme poured out onto the scene, she has been stuck in her career. she has tried to move up in her hospital organization and is blocked. She is being denied the opportunity to be a full professor as well. She has lost friends on Facebook, been disinvited to functions, and is even, her words, “getting no more credit offers in the mail.”
She truly believes it is because her name is Karen. One of her interviewers told her that her name was becoming a problem, because it is associated with a certain kind of person.
A person Karen has never been by the way. She was fighting for liberal causes even before me, and marched for LGBTQ rights as a teen-ager, organized political rallies, and counselled depressed kids pro-bono from home.
She has made it her life’s work to be anything but a Karen as the internet defines it. And this if you think about it, is so scary. Karen is just a name. Like Todd is just a name. But somewhere online, and it is commonly “credited” to Dane Cook, the name itself became a pejorative.
“The origins of Karen are kind of really hard to pin down,” Schimkowitz said. Schimkowitz said the most convincing theory is that the character originated from a Dane Cook comedy special that aired in 2005. “Every group has a Karen, and she is always a bag of douche,” Cook said in the routine. “And when she’s not around, you just look at each other and say, ‘God, Karen, she’s such a douchebag!'”
This is where I get truly riled. The idea that someone like Dane Cook, a man who specialized in the comedic sexualization of women, could have launched messaging resulting in good Karens, the kind of women who live their lives as a model to live up to, being abused and discriminated against is nauseating.
I do not like Dane Cook. I do not find Dane Cook funny. Everyone is low hanging fruit to comedians like him. And I believe this kind of popular culture ushered in the era of Trumpism, which is getting worse, not better.
Karen is a name. But my sweet friend of over thirty years Karen, is a person. A sweet, loving person who has spent her whole life doing the hard, unpopular things, a political Barbara Mandrell, so to speak, who while not country before it was cool was certainly progressive before it was cool, and paid the price for it. She does not deserve to have her name put her in a box she desperately tried to culturally empty.
So now she goes by Karrie. She actually changed how she is addressed to deal with an internet meme.
This portends a bleak cultural future. This portends the further division of a people.
Does that sound like progress to you?
“The internet will bring us closer together.”
And dynamite was meant to only be used to build roads, too.
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