You may have heard about the Karen meme. It’s been spreading like wildfire but if you’ve missed it here’s a quick summary:
Karen is a slang term that is used to typify a woman perceived to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary. One of the most common Karen stereotypes is that of a white middle-aged woman, typically American, who displays aggressive behaviour when she is obstructed from getting her way; such women are often depicted as demanding to “speak to the manager” and sometimes have a variation of the bob cut.Karen (slang) – Wikipedia
This has the Trickster/Hermes/Gemini archetype written all over it, the use of humour to expose absurdity through collective stereotyping. This archetype challenges the natural and social order by poking fun or mocking it. At best the intent here is to disrupt order and reform it based on new principles, at worst it’s a way of projecting ones own disagreeable nature onto others to divert attention away form the self.
(From here on in I will simply refer to this archetype as Gemini but I am refering to a general character disposition)
Gemini is the comedian pushing the boundaries in order to entertain; or the metaphorical Jester who was a valued confidant of the King. Both able to use their position to publicly expose hypocrisy and truth. Gemini’s use humour and charm to gain a position whereby they’re able to function outside of the normal limits of social acceptance. They are the comedians who tread a thin line between inclusion and exclusion, able to incite fits of laughter one moment, only to be egged off stage the next.
Gemini’s thrive in being able to assert themselves through their freedom of speech. They learn to wield language like a sword and, as we well know, a sword is a symbol of justice but it also has the power to maim. Through the Karen meme are we seeing the power of humour being used to push boundaries and expose absurdity or are we witnessing it being used to veil ill intent?
Gemini’s ability to see and expose truth is not always welcomed and this is largely dependent on two things:
- Their intention
- The audiences understanding and acceptance of the intention
We can’t blame Gemini for stereotyping. In fact they are by nature nonjudgmental and incredibly accepting of diversity. Stereotyping stems from a natural need to reduce the amount of energy involved in thinking about something:
That thing is big, it has large teeth and is looking straight at me therefore I should be on my guard!
You see it doesn’t matter what the animal is specifically, in this instance our survival depends on our ability to stereotype something as dangerous. The nature of stereotyping belongs no more to Gemini than any other archetype, it is a natural human defence mechanism. What is specific to Gemini is the ability to draw attention to potential truths underlying specific stereotypes. When the intent is well placed this can have a profoundly liberating effect but it is usually met with an element of resistance from those standing accused, or those positioned to benefiting from the situation. We only have to look back at social justice
Daring to tread where others dare not.
Disparaging humour can be said to belittle or demean a social group or its representatives in an attempt to amuse others. It can make prejudice appear ‘harmless’ and can serve to trivialise the mistreatment of others. Alternatively, humour can be a route into otherwise dark or ‘out-of-bounds’ territory, in order to bring light to topics that are considered difficult to breach, as alluded to here:
Black humor is best described as the kind of humor that treats threatening or disturbing subjects (i.e. death, combat, disease, deformity) with levity or amusement. This humor is typically employed to somehow convey the absurdity, illogicality, or helplessness of a situation. In essence, it juxtaposes a morbid element with a farcical one.An Awful Joke Can Feel Pretty Good – Psychology Today
So is the Karen meme trivialising mistreatment and disguising prejudice as humour or is it poking fun at absurdity? Many would say that it’s dependent on the social position of the targeted group and the harm that can result from it. Perhaps the subjects of the joke need to reflect on their behaviour, or maybe the jokers need to rail in their commentary because it’s doing more harm that good.
I found it very interesting that the Karen meme spread so quickly via media around the Gemini new moon. At the time we had 4 planets and the north node in the sign of Gemini. Both the archetypal narrative, the manner and speed of it’s coming to public attention can be attributed to this sign.
This scenario also brings to light the tension of the mutable square between Gemini and Pisces. The use of language to bring universal themes to light, and the tension that this often involves. It also shows the strain that we often feel when trying to marry our logic and our feelings. It speaks of our ability to lie to ourselves so as to negate pain, or to disassociate with the collective in order to avoid collective responsibility.
The Karen meme serves to highlight the power of language to influence mass perceptions. The new moon square Mars demonstrates how the rise of this meme has invoked a lot of anger in people. Those who associate with being on the receiving end of the joke feel powerless to counter-attack, either due to the strength of the claim or the power of mass-media. Either way the jester has the upper hand in this scenario.
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