A Karen is “usually” a middle aged woman, who is very rude to customer service staff in retail, fast food, etc and they feel entitled to have anything they want, even though they are usually in the wrong.
As an example, one Karen I witnessed… She was upset and screaming that she wasn’t getting a coupon like the lady at the next register had received. The supervisor explained that in order to get that coupon, you have to donate a coat!
The lady didn’t donate a coat, but she felt entitled to have a coupon, even though she didn’t earn it by donating a coat. The supervisor, bless her and her heart of gold, gave that evil bitch a coupon. Then the Karen had THE NERVE to say she was so sorry for yelling and that she “works retail” and she understands what retail people have to go through.
Which was obviously a lie because retail workers know what it’s like to be yelled and screamed at by Karens all day, so they obviously wouldn’t do the same when they’re a customer.
People debate on what the male version of a Karen is, some say Kyle, Kevin or Carl. But at the same time, gender is just a social construct created by people to control others, so why not just call rude people Karen in general?
Karen joins a trend on the internet in the 2010s of using a first name to make fun of certain kinds of people. A Becky, for example, is a stereotype for a basic young, white woman, while a Chad, in other corners of the internet, stands in for a cocky, young dudebro
But, why the name Karen? One suggestion is that it comes from a 2007 bit by Dane Cook called “The Friend Nobody Likes.” (The friend was named Karen.) Another explanation is that it comes from the character Karen in the 2004 film Mean Girls, who’s the subject of the popular quote: “Oh my God, Karen, you can’t just ask someone why they’re white.” It’s even been put forth that Karen comes from the even earlier 1990 film Goodfellas, in which one of the characters is named Karen.
Whatever the origin of the slang, the name Karen, apparently, is popularly thought of as a generic-seeming name for a middle-aged white woman of a certain generation.
Karen appears as early as September 2016 when a Tumblr user, joematar, made fun of a promo for Nintendo Switch in which a white woman (appearing to be in her late 20s or early 30s) brings the gaming device to a party. The user refers to this supposed kill-joy as Karen: “Oh shit, Karen brought her stupid Nintendo thing to the party again. We’re DRINKING, Karen. We’re having CONVERSATIONS.”
The character was further developed in December 2017 thanks to a subreddit dedicated to mocking the imagined Karen (somewhat like Cook’s “The Friend Nobody Likes” bit). Tropes that developed about Karen here were that she is an annoying (and always annoyed) middle-aged, suburban, minivan-driving white, divorced mother of poorly behaved boys (of whom she has custody) who has a so-called “speak to the manager” haircut.