Karens: Social Justice, Entitlement, and Evolving Labels
The “Karen” is not a new concept but it is evolving and expanding in definition, especially during the COVID and BLM time that we are living in.
The ‘Karen‘ stereotype illustrates an entitled, middle-class white woman whose signature line is “I’d like to speak to the manager.”
Or at least that is what a Karen was. The term is a great example of the evolution of language and how slang terminology can rapidly change. While originally the term Karen was most closely associated with “Let me speak to your manager”, the entitlement conveyed currently is more closely associated to anti-maskers and racism.
Gun toting Karen and Ken during a Black Lives Matter Protest in St. Louis
Calling someone a Karen (Ken or Kevin for the male equivalents) on video when they are acting entitled or racist now is akin to yelling “World Star” years ago when a fight would break out. The memeification of this term is meant to amplify the spread of these videos. #Karen has over 2.6 Billion TikTok views, 800,000+ Instagram posts. Some Instagram accounts like @KarensGoingWild have shot up in popularity over the past few months gaining 5,000+ followers daily according to SocialBlade.com.
“Memes have power above and beyond just humor,” says Brock. “We often use metaphor, which is often at the heart of memes, and emotion or affect to make shorthand of things which deeply affect us. A lot of times, it’s funny; a lot of times, it’s cathartic; and other times, it’s racist. I try to push back on the idea that memes are frivolous way of articulating a particular phenomenon because in many ways, it’s much more potent shorthand than me trying to explain to you exactly the way people are reacting to a certain situation...Social media is a platform for communicating feelings and the stronger the feeling, the more viral things go.”
– Dr. André Brock, associate professor of Black digital culture at Georgia Tech Time Magazine
The Karen/Ken labels and associated hashtags are creating a language and location to elevate critique of racism and overall entitlement that people are experiencing. Combining the label with the massive growth in social media popularity demonstrates both the evolution of these labels and the change in the zeitgeist around entitlement that has never been addressed on this scale before.
And now for my favorite Anti-Karen Medicine joke commercial
Retail TikTok Warps The Idea Of Personified Brands
Brands are being personified on TikTok, but unlike the friendly faces of Brand Twitter (Wendy’s, Planters Nuts, etc.), they’re not run by actual brands and the personified brands appear in videos that are strange and off-putting. A subset of Alt/Elite TikTok known as Retail TikTok consists of anthropomorphized brands represented by eye and mouth emojis pasted onto retail storefronts and products. The personalities of Retail TikTok have names like @theburlingtoncoatfactory, @headandshouldersofficial, and @officialgeicoinsurance. These so-called brands interact with each other by going on “dates,” starting friendships, and feuding. Videos are often highly edited with creepy music and effects, making for footage that might not be fun to watch unless you’re in on the joke.
Retail TikTok along with Femboy Hooters, Goth IHOP, Cottagecore Panera, etc. are prime examples of Gen Z’s subversion of ad campaigns and corporations via absurd humor and deep parody. Other than keeping an eye on how TikTokers may be impersonating your brand, we recommend that brands approach this trend with care. That being said, Hooters got a positive response for their semi-subtle nod to the Femboy Hooters meme. We’ll keep our 👀 out.
Spammy TikTok Comment Trends Are A Growth Strategy
There are many different ways to grow an engaged audience on TikTok. Many users jump on the latest trends paired with popular hashtags in hopes of landing on the “For You Page.” Others are creating their own unique means of garnering attention. Instead of leaving a message relative to a TikTok video, some creators are asking their followers to leave specific messages that lead back to their account. TikToker Austyn Brown employed this method in January 2020. He asked his fans to comment “Austyn already did this” under popular videos on their “For You Page.” The strategy worked, as his video was filled with comments from other creators. This sort of activity is reminiscent of TikTok cults. Followers literally follow any instructions given to them by their “cult leader.” This includes changing their profile image or leaving spammy comments that provide the leader with more exposure.
@ajrbrownLet’s confuse all of tiktok! 😂 ##fyp ##foryou♬ original sound – ajrbrown