Karen

Movie review by
Jordan Elizabeth, Common Sense Media
Karen Movie Poster Image
White woman terrorizes Black neighbors in unsubtle drama.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 89 minutes

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Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Lots of manipulation, discrimination, and racism here -- but also positive examples of perseverance and resisting injustice.

Positive Role Models

Imani and Malik display perseverance against racist police officers and civilians who use violence and intimidation to try to  manipulate them into moving out of the neighborhood.

Diverse Representations

Main characters are a White woman and a Black couple. While ethnically diverse, they are designed to represent shallow stereotypes of their identities.

Violence

White police officers beat, punch, shove Black characters. One Black character is shown with a black eye. Two characters wrestle each other to the ground, try to strangle each other. In incident involving police and civilians, multiple characters are shot and shown with bleeding bullet wounds.

Sex

Characters shown in their underwear, embracing and kissing. Cleavage.

Language

Occasional use of "f--k" and "s--t." Also "damn," "oh my God," "ass," "bitch," and "hell." Insulting/derogatory terms like "these people" and "boy" (in reference to a Black man).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adult characters smoke pot. Social drinking (also by adults) at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Karen is a drama/thriller about a racist White woman (Taryn Manning) who terrorizes her new Black neighbors (Cory Hardrict and Jasmine Burke) in an attempt to force them to leave the neighborhood. When they refuse to leave, she enlists the help of her brother, a racist cop. The title/character name "Karen" is a reference to popular memes exposing White women who use their privilege to make unreasonable demands and to inflict violence on others, namely minorities. Expect several scenes of racist violence -- beating, punching, shoving, strangling -- as well as gun use resulting in death (bleeding bullet wounds shown). Other mature content includes occasional use of the words "f--k" and "s--t," drinking and pot smoking, and underwear-clad characters kissing and embracing. The Black couple display perseverance against Karen and her brother but are also portrayed in a way that's drawn from stereotype, somewhat undermining their characterization.

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What's the story?

In KAREN, Imani (Jasmine Burke) and Malik (Cory Hardrict) buy a home in a suburban neighborhood where the majority of residents are White. Their White neighbor, Karen (Taryn Manning), quickly begins waging a campaign to force them to leave. She installs surveillance cameras that point directly into their home, chastises them for not adhering to the homeowners' association policies, and accuses them of being a poor influence on her children, among other manipulative tactics. When they refuse to be intimidated and vow to stay in their home, Karen enlists the help of her brother, a racist cop named Officer Wind (Roger Dorman). Wind has a record of racially motivated violence against Black people and decides to frame Malik for marijuana possession. With both Karen and Wind terrorizing them, Imani and Malik must decide whether to surrender -- or to fight back.

Is it any good?

Karen is a kitschy representation of a very real threat: White women who are aware of their Whiteness and weaponize it. Manning plays the stereotypical "Karen," who's entitled, righteous in her racism, and convinced that her way is the right way. And Dorman plays his part, "racist White cop," with very little subtlety -- using phrases like "these people" and referring to Malik as a "boy." Even Hardrict and Burke's characters are drawn from stereotype: They have African art on the walls, smoke pot, and are sexualized throughout the movie. Like many of the popularized Karen memes, Karen displays the unbelievable lengths that some White women will go to in order to establish and maintain their superiority. Those memes, however, depict actual Karens. Fictionalizing this behavior, while satisfying and affirming to the experiences of many, runs the risk of creating a cartoon villain out of a real-life one.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Karen handles the topic of police brutality. How does it compare to other movies you've seen that address that issue?

  • Does Karen expose viewers to the threat of a "Karen," or turn the idea into a joke? Is there a risk in laughing at topics like this?

  • How does the violence in this movie compare to what you might see in an action movie? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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