Have you ever seen a pack of Karens in the wild?
It’s a terrifying thought, which makes it perfect for October—our spookiest month. For New Orleans citizens, this frightening prospect has already proved a reality several times over. Thankfully, the horde of Karens they witnessed is a group making a satire of the oft-mocked personality type.
The Krewe of Karens, as they call themselves, have marched in the Mardi Gras parade for the last two years. In 2019, Danielle Wheeler created the group following a burst of genius. Since then, her group’s reverse bob blond hairstyles, sunglasses, cardigans, and judgmental eyebrows have become far more commonplace in pop culture.
These days, “Karen” is a broad term for anyone who displays blatant entitlement and a demanding, boorish nature. Often, they are seen calling the police on people for, you know, existing. Over the last six months or so, they have come out in droves to noisily protest the necessity of face masks, which are proven effective in slowing the spread of coronavirus.
Wheeler’s idea was a brilliant, topical joke when it occurred to her in 2019, but her costume wasn’t recognizable to all. When she proposed it to her group of friends, she was concerned that not everyone would be familiar with the term. “The concept of the Karen was still a relatively new term,” Wheeler told NOLA.com. “I hoped that enough friends knew exactly what I was talking about when I presented them with the idea of dressing as a Karen to help make the Krewe of Karens become a reality.”
Wheeler’s group found the idea immensely appealing and soon transformed into a mob of well-dressed, contemptuous blondes dripping in entitlement. Add a name tag and some performance art and you’ve produced peak Karen energy.
These days, anyone can spot a Karen a mile away. They’ve become a constant—and unfortunate—part of life. The Krewe of Karen’s titular chant certainly doesn’t hurt, though: “What do we want? Managers! When do we want them? NOW!”
When the group first made their way through the Marigny and French Quarter on Lundi Gras 2019, they were instantly recognizable to members of the service industry, who found particular joy in the group’s satirical take. By the end of the day, they’d collected nearly 50 Karens of all varieties, including a few male Karens (often referred to as “Kens.”)
Wheeler, who relocated to Alaska for her work as a park ranger, was forced to miss the Krewe’s 2020 march. Thankfully, her Karens maintained the tradition, this time adding a few additional Karen-esque touches. A portable sound system blasted several Karen-curated tracks to passersby, the women’s costumes became even more flawlessly identifiable, and their performances perfectly captured the image of privilege their names indicate.
Perhaps the most spectacularly nuanced part of the persona came when members of the group began “boisterously” complaining whenever they encountered an opportunity. The food at each restaurant came far too quickly, tasted delicious, and the service was excellent. This demands a conversation with the manager!
As the idea of Karens becomes even more commonplace, Wheeler believes her group will continue to wring laughter from onlookers. “Karen is tied to such a solid, visual image that a gaggle of them is still cause for laughter as a reaction, and not anger,” she told NOLA.com.
The Krewe of Karens is already looking ahead to a hopeful 2021 march. If they do manage to hit the streets, Wheeler said the group will toss Krewe of Karen COVID-19 face masks. One member of the group, a physician, assured fans that all members will be appropriately masked and socially distanced should they march next year, telling NOLA.com: “Our egos need the 6-foot space.”
We’ve reached out to Wheeler.
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