This Publix Karen Is Going Viral On TikTok

Years pass, but some phenomenons withstand decay. Karen videos, for example. Those seem set to find an appreciative audience in 2022, as evidenced by a viral TikTok video from late December.

The video's creator watches from the Publix checkout line as a woman who went to the bathroom is shocked she can't simply return to her previous spot on line. In the comments, the recorder explains that the woman didn't tell anyone she was leaving or ask if someone could hold her spot.

"Unbelievable," she exclaims. "Are you just letting two people who were behind me in front of me? I have to stay in line all over again?" The cashier continues to assist the customer at the front of the line, giving the unspoken answer of "Yes." So, she turns to go to the end of the line and notices she is being recorded. "You can't do that," she says, to which the recorder responds with language that the Mashed style guide does not allow.

Naturally, people online lapped up the video. "I love the way the cashier just ignored her. You left the line," one commenter wrote. "The camera lady is on point...." another stated, with awed and laughing emojis trailing. A third found the encounter most instructive: "THIS is how you handle Karens." So, yeah. It seems like the appreciation for calling out Karens will probably extend into 2022. 

Why do we enjoy Karen videos?

Saying that Karen videos, like the TikTok recently filmed in Publix, will continue is not a hard prediction to make. But untangling the pleasure the genre seems to deliver requires a tad more work.

The current boom in Karen videos seems spurred by etiquette's decline during the coronavirus pandemic. In August, The Atlantic covered how workers in public-facing roles like cashiers and flight attendants have noticed increased aggression amongst their customers. "Yeah," a flight attendant told the writer. "It's way worse." The reason is that consumers, who for years have been trained that their whims are eternally valid, now see such actions as one of the only ways to assert their agency in an increasingly indifferent world of isolation.

If Karens need to control beleaguered workers, the people who make Karen videos go viral need someone they can easily rage against. "Karen already had so much anger attached to it and resentment, because people need something to hate or blame," the YouTuber CrinkleLuvinASMR told Vox, noting how getting angry over these videos is an easier release than dismantling the structures — such as systemic racism — that help spawn such situations.

In short, Karen videos give people a space to be righteously angry without the consequence of frothing against a person they actually know. So we can with some certainty expect more in the future.