What can we learn watching videos of these privileged meltdowns?
During my long “work-from-home” isolation forced by COVID-19, I have found myself wasting time on YouTube a lot. One of my most recent obsessions is the hundreds of “Karen Meltdown” videos posted there.
Compiling the videos of indignant women and, in a few cases, men going ballistic after being told they can’t do this thing or that thing has become a cottage industry. A vast majority of these videos are of “Karens” trying to enter stores without wearing masks. Predictably, they throw a tantrum and, in some cases, physically attack store workers and/or the merchandise in the store itself.
In one video, after being told she would not be served if she wasn’t wearing a mask, a woman began knocking products off shelves and finally throwing store fixtures at the helpless employees.
She, like many of these people, was arrested and then tried to explain to the arresting officers why she should be let go, claiming of the workers she threatened and attacked that she “pays their salary” and “they work for me.”
In a few of the videos, the man or woman even pulls the “sovereign citizen” ploy, refusing to obey any laws at all. In the end, they are all hauled, kicking and screaming, off to the police station where they can assert their sovereign rights from inside a jail cell.
What I find compelling about these viral videos is the overwhelming anger expressed by these “Karens” and “Kens.”
They throw uncontrolled tantrums, fueled by blind anger and often peppered with racist slurs.
Why are they so angry?
Most of these people are white, cisgender folks who are exploding over the minor inconvenience of having to wear a mask to protect their fellow citizens from a potentially deadly disease. So why the big kerfuffle?
I can only surmise they have led lives of such privilege that they have never been told “No.” And the act of wearing a mask, which is a little thing to most of us, becomes amplified in their minds into something much greater. They are being forced to be a considerate person, and that is a step too far for an over-privileged white person.
I guess I find that amazingly petty, since as a queer man I have been forced to wear a metaphorical mask much of my adult life. I know many of my friends feel that way as well.
We wear the mask of heteronormativity daily, so as to not make the straight folk feel uncomfortable. It is a small sacrifice we have made for years in the interest of maintaining some kind of safety for ourselves and to avoid unwanted attention. I still am uncomfortable holding my partner’s hand in public unless we are in a LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood.
I can only imagine how people would react if I unleashed all my pent-up frustration in an uncontrolled tantrum. I guess I am too vain to let that happen. It would be far too unattractive, and, quite frankly, my mother raised me better than that.
I learned as a child that sometimes the world does not cater to your every whim. Things are often unfair, and whining about it and pounding your fists on the ground won’t change things
I also learned that I could take all that frustration and use it to fuel something much more productive. Writing has been that outlet for me.
So, consider this my very own Karen meltdown:
The COVID19 pandemic sucks!
Wearing masks and social distancing sucks!
Not seeing my friends sucks!
Not going out to concerts, the theater and movies sucks!
Not being able to travel sucks!
Working from home all the time, sucks!
But you know what sucks more? Seeing people taking their frustrations out on others who are just doing their job, trying to get by and keep others safe. Seeing Karens and Kens blasting their rage at civil servants who are just trying to keep our cities safe and preserve the peace — that REALLY sucks.
If all those Karens and Kens took that wasted energy and used it to convince their friends to wear masks and get vaccinated, this whole mess would be over much faster. I want to see those viral videos start showing up — videos of Karens pleading with their friends and family to get vaccinated so we can all get back to some kind of normalcy sooner.
Might not be as good at becoming a viral video as seeing an adult behaving like a spoiled child, but it would damn sure be better for the world.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.