If imitation is the highest form of flattery, the upcoming horror flip “Karen” might as well be an ode to legendary storyteller Jordan Peele. And yet, for fans of Peele, at least and much of the Internet, the Coke Daniels-directed film is more disturbing than flattering.
Per IMDb, “Karen” is the story of “a racist, titled white woman in the south” who “terrorizes her new black neighbors”, which actually does not sound so fictional. The “racist, titled white woman” is surprisingly named Karen and is played by Taryn Manning of the “Orange is the New Black” fame.
Following the release of another trailer for the film on Monday, many compare the film to Peele̵
Similar criticisms have recently been leveled at Amazon’s “Them”, an anthology series that explores the horrors of racial terrorism and in its first season shows repeated, graphic violence perpetrated by a black family and other black characters for no real purpose other than presumably telling people , that racism was and is real and bad. Of course, black audiences and audiences of color know it and are not shocked by it. It’s storytelling like this and apparently in “Karen” that makes it clear who the target audience is based on, who can actually still be shocked by racist horror.
As the Internet continues its scathing critique of “Karen,” mostly by calling it a knockoff of “Get Out,” it’s worth remembering what exactly made Peele’s 2017 film so unique and relaxing. At first glance, it looks like “Get Out” is a movie about a couple of racing couples who spend the weekend in the woods with the family of white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). But Armitages has another plan for Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), Rose’s black girlfriend, who is literally harvesting the bodies of black people, in which Armitages will transplant their brains.
When not done properly, racial horror – a relatively new genre that “Get Out” paved the way for – can just be offensive and reduce very real trauma and persistent white supremacist violence to tropics and shock factor and often provide white ignorance. What made “Get Out” special was its deeper commentary on the insidiousness of white liberalism, the underlying racism and performativity of many liberals who may – like Rose’s father – mention their support for former President Obama for refuting accusations of racism. In fact, it’s lines and biting moments like Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) that proclaim, “I would have voted Obama for a third term,” that make the film so haunting because of black audiences and audience colors that have had to be quiet. up with white people’s casual racism can be related so deeply to it.
Of course, all we have seen so far is of “Karen” trailers, which may not be enough to measure its full depth and history, but its name and presuppositions alone are questionable. Last summer, when the term “Karen” became popular as slang for white women calling police at the sight of black people in their neighborhoods – or black people bird watching in the park, or black people hosting a barbecue – some scholars and advocates about racial justice raised concerns about how reducing white women’s racism to a pure joke could be dangerous. After all, there is a deeper, more layered story to white women who have white femininity to hurt black people. At the height of white supremacist lynchings targeting black people, it was white women’s alleged fear of “dangerous” black men that often drove lynch mobs to kill black men.
To reduce “Karen” to a joke without real insight in view of this very genuine and not so distant story, and the reality that a white woman even today could call the police and have a black person killed, is in bad taste for to say the least. And the fun of “Karen” seems to be at the heart of the upcoming movie, “Karen.”
“Karen” understandably causes all sorts of controversy with her first trailers, though we may not know the full story until it is released in theaters on a date yet to be announced. You can watch the latest teaser trailer below.