Arts & Culture News

The 2021 Karen Awards

Kid Rock got his "Karen" on during a canceled string of shows at Billy Bob's in Fort Worth when half of his bandmates came down with COVID.
Kid Rock got his "Karen" on during a canceled string of shows at Billy Bob's in Fort Worth when half of his bandmates came down with COVID. Mike Brooks
There are awards for all sorts of art forms: movies that suck, reality shows, poorly written sex scenes in fiction (which is still more accurate than any reality show). In the last few years, a new trend has emerged that deserves just as much recognition even if that's a super low bar to clear: being a Karen.

The Karen way of life has slowly been rising for years, but it earned its brightest spotlight during the coronavirus pandemic thanks to two healthy scoops of selfish thinking and white privilege. As long as there are awards for reality shows that fail to even pretend to reproduce actual reality, the pioneering working in Karen-ing or Ken-ing deserves special recognition.

So we present the 2021 Karen Awards recognizing the best (and by that, we mean the worst) in the complaining arts.

click to enlarge Kid Rock got his "Karen" on during a canceled string of shows at Billy Bob's in Fort Worth when half of his bandmates came down with COVID. - MIKE BROOKS
Kid Rock got his "Karen" on during a canceled string of shows at Billy Bob's in Fort Worth when half of his bandmates came down with COVID.
Mike Brooks
Best Musical Karen: Kid Rock
Few people complained more these past years than the aptly named Kid Rock, who acted like a spoiled child most of 2021.

We're referring, of course, to his performance (well, half of it if you want to get technical) at Billy Bob's in Fort Worth last August where his legions of unmasked fans packed the place and were free to breathe COVID on each other because America. This is after he and his band performed at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip in Sturgis, North Dakota, in an outdoor concert that became a super-spreader event the previous year.

So when Kid Rock announced on his website that he'd have to cancel the second half of his Billy Bob's shows because, as he tweeted, "over half the band has fucking covid," he did exactly what a Karen would do if they had a blog followed by thousands who care little about proper grammar or capitalization. He tried to school his haters (aka "shit for brains bloggers and media trollers") by claiming that many of the people in his band and himself were vaccinated, which schooled no one because vaccines are designed to lessen the effects of the virus to prevent hospitalization and deaths.

Then instead of wishing his band a speedy recovery, he turned a "PS" toward the military by referencing recent deaths in Afghanistan and wishing, "We bomb the shit out of those fucks and send a clear message ... But I am worried Biden is too much of a woke pussy." We hope the infected members of his band at least got a "Sorry I gave you COVID" Edible Arrangement.
Best Response to a Karen: This American Airlines manager at DFW Airport
Responding to a raging Karen has also become an art form. It requires a cool head to match an unhinged brain, plus a quick wit and the guts to make a good quip sting like a jab from Muhammad Ali.

One video posted in July at an American Airlines terminal didn't capture the Karen in action, but it did catch the aftermath of an American Airlines terminal manager confronting the Karen who called a ticket attendant a "bitch." The manager is heard explaining that the Karen won't be traveling with them.

"We don't tolerate that crap with us, at all," the manager says. "So you can find another carrier to fly. I'd suggest Spirit."

Ouch! Being told to take a Spirit Airlines flight is the aviation equivalent of being told to go to hell.

Best "Turn That Rap Music Down" Karen: The person who complained about Auntie AJ at the Haltom Theater
2021 saw a resurgence of live music, which means there was also a resurgence of entitled people complaining about music with inane requests to make them forget the things they just heard.

Someone who went to the Haltom Theater in Haltom City for a rap show complained to the management about rapper Auntie AJ's satirical song "Fuck White People." They even posted an out of context video of the song's choral chant that has since been taken down, hopefully because they learned an important lesson.

But probably not.

The venue posted an apology on its social media and banned the rapper from its venue for saying "something evil against white people" and promised to "act faster to cut the audio if an act crosses the line." Come on, most white people have even used the phrase. If you haven't, then clearly you've never watched an episode of The Handmaid's Tale, almost been killed by someone on an electric scooter or paid your legally required taxes.
click to enlarge Gov. Greg Abbott is laying out a conservative agenda for the legislative session - LYNDA M. GONZALEZ-POOL/GETTY IMAGES
Gov. Greg Abbott is laying out a conservative agenda for the legislative session
Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images
Best Political Karen: Gov. Greg Abbott
Our governor took Karen-ing to a new level in the governing arts either because he thinks he's on his way out or he thinks his hold on his job is iron-clad. It's equally terrifying either way.

Abbott enacted and secured the most restrictive abortion ban since before Roe v. Wade thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court with a conservative majority. It not only cuts off women's access to abortions at six weeks, including for victims of rape and incest, but allows citizens to become abortion Texas Rangers and sue anyone who participates in helping a woman take control of her own body.

Then, for no discernible reason, Abbott started pushing to ban books that he deems to be pornographic in school libraries โ€” without giving any substantive examples or any legal guidance โ€” to the Texas Association of School Boards. He's basically become Saturday Night Live's Drunk Uncle but without the "drunk" part, and he's clearly not joking.

Best Ken: Scott Eli Harris
The name may not lunge at you, but you'll want to lunge at him when you hear the stunt Scott Eli Harris pulled against a doctor advocating for vaccines.

The Aubrey man faces federal charges for a text message he sent to Dr. Leana Wen of Maryland for daring to suggest that people get vaccinated against COVID. His message included racist, sexist and violent rhetoric including, "I can't wait for the shooting to start" and "Where's your fucking office?"

Harris may not know the doctor's address but he definitely knows where the local federal court is located, since a grand jury returned an indictment against him last October for making threats, a charge that carries a five-year prison sentence if he's convicted.

Best Karen in an Airport: The Homophobic Disney Fan
Every year, airports are filled with angry people who just want to get where they are going. Some think they own the plane because they bought a ticket, and that people around them have to put up with their racist, sexist or homophobic rants. The only thing they are doing besides making the world a less happy place is costing us our ability to drink on flights.

Take this woman who, back in July, got kicked off a flight out of DFW Airport for screaming at and assaulting passengers. A viral video showed she yelled at one woman about how the gay community has ruined Disney (the movies and/or the parks, we assume) for her children because, "Do you think I talk to my kids about same-sex marriage?"

Are we sure she's watching "Disney's" Inside Out?

She's eventually dragged off the plane to the sounds of applause and (we hope) rounds of free drinks being ordered across the cabin.
click to enlarge Real estate broker Jenna Ryan said she was following former President Donald Trump's orders. - "DALLAS SEO/SEM MEETUP - LINKBUILDING TIPS" BY LEVELTEN INTERACTIVE IS LICENSED UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
Real estate broker Jenna Ryan said she was following former President Donald Trump's orders.
"Dallas SEO/SEM Meetup - Linkbuilding Tips" by Levelten Interactive is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Best Overall Karen: Jenna Ryan
There's no way we could La La Land the envelope this year's Best Karen winner. The Frisco real estate broker and convicted Capitol stormer took the trophy for Best Karen of 2021 with a grip made from the same metal that forged Thor's mighty Mjolnir.

Ryan started digging her hole to Hades by filming herself in the middle of the mob that trashed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 shortly after a rally led by former President Donald Trump and his whiny band of sore losers. After receiving federal charges, Ryan dug her heels deeper into the dirt by tweeting that she wouldn't go to jail because, "Sorry I have blond hair white skin a great job a great future [sic]." The post proclaiming her white shield of immunity is still up on Twitter, by the way.

Of course, things didn't go her way, and Ryan got a 60-day sentence after entering a guilty plea. But she wasn't done torturing us with her stubborn whiteness: She also released a song.
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.