On August 5 2020, a popular Imgur post appeared to show a headline reporting that not one baby in Canada had been named “Karen” since November 13 2019:
That post was titled: “Well that was unexpected and quite hilarious. Name choice dropped due to a meme,” and it received tens of thousands of views and comments.
Commenters typically appeared to believe that the source material was accurate:
“A lot of names are sort of generational anyway. It’s not like anybody’s naming baby boys Frank or Otto anymore either.”
“Yeah. But you know why this trend is happening. Next generation the Karen’s will be “Stephanie” or something.”
“Yep. Karen peaked in the 1950s, and was out of fashion by the 80s. https://namerology.com/2019/12/17/the-2019-name-of-the-year-is-karen/”
“And just like that, the world began to heal.”
“Adding to the list millenials have allegedly killed: the name Karen”
“I can already see the Buzzfeed headline 10 years from now: ‘Meet the last Canadian Karen'”
‘Karen’ as a Meme
Most readers are likely aware of the meaning of the “Karen meme,” due to its enduring popularity. An Urban Dictionary entry for “Karen” from May 2020 explained the moniker was the “stereotypical name associated with rude, obnoxious and insufferable middle aged white women”:
Karens take everything wrong with the typical over entitled western woman and crank it up by several thousand percent. They are a mutated subspecies that descends from the Soccer Mom, and have many of their traits. Such as a short temper, a crown bowl haircut, an unnecessarily large SUV to take her kids to soccer practice and be a menace on the road, etc etc. But Karens have developed their own unique characteristics /antics as well. Including but not limited to;
-Reveling in making the life or retail workers a living hell by constantly making a scene over nothing and demanding to “speak to the manager” (a near universal battle cry among Karens).
-Threatening to sue someone for a minor misdemeanor they may or may not have committed and may or may not have even involved Karen at all.
-Treating the drive thru line like the set of a Mad Max film by cutting in line and honking at anyone who tries to get in. Even willing dent other people’s cars to save 45 seconds in getting her $1 muffin. (Karens in this situation may or may not ask to speak to the drive thru worker’s manager and / or threaten to sue the drivers of the car she just rammed.)
-Being a part of the anti-vax crowd and relying on Essential Oils for the health of their children because of a Facebook post she saw.
-Reading erotica that makes 50 shades of grey look like Hamlet by comparison in public.
And Many Others.
KnowYourMeme.com added an entry on “Karen” in 2019. In its “About” section, the “Karen” page explains the meme’s association with white women harassing Black people:
Karen is a slang term used as an antagonistic female character in memes. “Karen” is generally characterized as an irritating, entitled woman, sometimes as an ex-wife who took custody of “the kids.” In 2020, the term was broadly applied to a swath of white women who had been filmed harassing people of color, including dialing the emergency services on them for no criminal reason.
As the site indicates, there is no clear line between any particular Karen (fictional or otherwise) and the name’s memefication. Some notable Karens are proposed as the possible original Karens:
While it’s unclear where exactly “Karen” began seeing use as a pejorative character, it perhaps started with the Oh My God, Karen, You Can’t Just Ask Someone Why They’re White meme from Mean Girls. Others believe that the popularity of the name may come from the character Karen from the 1989 gangster film Goodfellas (clip below).
Some believe that usage of the name as a perjorative stems from the Dane Cook standup comedy routine “The Friend That Nobody Like,” which first appeared on the album Retaliation, released on July 26th, 2005 and recorded 2004.
The origins of the Karen meme date back to at least late 2017, when the subreddit r/FuckYouKaren was created.
We quickly located the original article depicted in the screenshot, published on July 12 2020 and titled “Stats Canada Reports Not One Baby Has Been Named ‘Karen’ Since November 13 2019.”
Ottawa – Statistics Canada has reported an astounding and sudden drop in parents naming their babies “Karen”. The study reports that the name, which was previously ranked the 36th most popular baby name amongst immigrants from former USSR satellite states, has plummeted so far in popularity that not a single baby has been named Karen since November 13 of last year.
The drop in naming is presumably associated with the “Karen” meme, which associates the name with white women who demand to speak to managers, have that really weird mid-2000’s reverse mullet haircut thing, and more recently have become board certified experts on the many dangers involved in wearing a mask for 13 minutes while grocery shopping.
However, the very next line was suggestive the content was not sincere news reporting:
“The Last Karen”, as she’s been referred, was born at Toronto’s Western Hospital in November of 2019. Much like the relatives of Hitler who made a pact to change their name and not procreate in order to end the bloodline, The Last Karen is expected to bear the burden throughout her entire life of ending the Karen name permanently.
The item was published to the website thetorontoharold.com. One of four navigational tabs was “Disclaimer,” and that page read:
All content on this site is intended for parody and satire purposes only. All information presented is fictitious. Any resemblance to real-life events and names is unintentional. Please don’t sue me I have no money.
As is often the case with lesser-known satirical sites, the headline “Stats Canada Reports Not One Baby Has Been Named “Karen” Since November 13 2019” was shared in the form of a screenshot on Imgur, decoupled from contextual indicators the site was intended as humor, not news. At the same time, awareness of the “Karen meme” and the name’s negative connotations enhanced the plausibility of the headline to people seeing only the screenshot. Nevertheless, the story was created as a joke.