“I WANT A REFUND!,” the woman in the TikTok video shrieks at top volume, throwing a glass of water in the bartender’s face. “I didn’t like it. I sent it back three times because you don’t even know how to cook a steak. I said slightly pink, that is between medium and medium well. How hard is that?!” She tosses the glass again and, despite the protestations of the man behind the camera, keeps ranting at the hapless server.

At first blush, the clip has all the hallmarks of a viral video featuring a Karen, the term used to describe a demanding middle-class white woman raging at someone in a position of less power to get her own way. It also has the metrics of a viral Karen video, which has become one of the most dependably high-performing subgenres of viral content on the internet: before it was quietly deleted, the video had more than 2.9 million views and thousands of comments, most of which were sympathetic toward the waiter in the video and appropriately irate at the Karen. “Find her,” said one. “GIVE THIS GUY A RAISE,” said another.

Vaguely discerning internet connoiseurs, however, will be able to suss out the slight deviations: for starters, that the setting is oddly quiet for a restaurant, or that there are only two people clearly visible in the video, unusual for a busy bar. Add to that that the Karen’s line delivery is about on par with that of a cuckolded spouse in a gay porn video, and there is reason to be suspicious of its origins.

Zoom out even further, and the context is even more clear: the account that posted the video is exclusively devoted to reposting content from the Vu Squad, a Las Vegas-based group with more than 900,000 followers on TikTok that makes videos staging various, sure-to-go-viral scenarios, such as airplane altercations or pregnancy reveals. The account is seemingly working with a fairly limited budget, as videos frequently recycle actors, sets, and even costumes; the woman who plays the Karen in the restaurant clip, for instance, appears in a number of other Vu Squad videos, such as one where she can be seen berating a fellow airline passenger. Rolling Stone was able to identify her as a Las Vegas-based actor who has Paul Vu, the head of a company called Paul Vu Media, tagged in her Instagram bio. (Vu did not respond to Rolling Stone‘s requests for comment, but the video has since been deleted.)

Welcome to the world of Fake Karens, an emerging subgenre of content that is taking the internet by storm. The Karen is a reliable stock character in viral videos, whose smugness, entitlement, and outrage-inducing behavior is likely to garner hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of views. Large accounts like KarenClips, which has more than 393,000 followers on X (formerly Twitter), and Super Krazy Karens on TikTok, take a curatorial approach to such content, posting videos with captions such as “Karen at Starbucks Strikes Again!” and “Karen taking Ls!” In so doing, they capitalize on the current cultural appetite both for righteous outrage and, in some cases, for retribution, with many commenters working diligently to try to identify the Karens in the videos for public shaming purposes. (The fact that they’re big meme accounts that do not credit the source material also accomplishes the goal of obfuscating their origins.)

One would assume that, in the real world, there is no shortage of entitled white women with bad haircuts behaving badly in public. Yet seemingly, within the viral ecosystem, the demand for genuine Karen videos outweighs the supply, as there’s increasingly been a number of viral Karen videos that were clearly produced under professional (or, at least, semi-professional) circumstances.

Back in 2021, for instance, a video of a middle-aged blond woman loudly protesting being seated next to an unvaccinated airline passenger, and subsequently being chastised by a strapping pilot, went viral on TikTok and Twitter, and was even shared by the right-wing YouTube channel Turning Point USA. Yet as Rolling Stone reported, the video did not capture an authentic viral meltdown, but was instead produced by content creator Richard Williams, a.k.a. Prince Ea. And even though the caption for the video did not explicitly identify it as a sketch, those involved in its production didn’t exactly hide it, either: the video has its own IMDB entry, and some cast members even posted photos of shooting it on Instagram.

Most of these videos are fairly easy to peg as inauthentic, even if you don’t try to track down their provenance. There are a few telltale markers: the unusually good sound quality, the absence of bystanders in a public setting like a mall or a restaurant, meandering back-and-forth dialogue that’s more reminiscent of an amateur college improv troupe than an actual exchange between human beings. Tellingly, they very rarely depict men, even though guys are presumably just as likely to engage in shitty or ultra-entitled behavior as anyone.


But even on platforms like TikTok, which are supposedly dominated by media-savvy, hyper-critical zoomers quick to sniff out bullshit in virtually any other context, the obvious inauthenticity of some of these videos goes largely unremarked upon. Occasionally, someone will point out that the acting seems unusually stilted, or that they’ve seen the Karen in question in another video. But for the most part, the communal thirst for outrage appears to trump any potential skepticism. Perhaps more to the point, commenters rarely request more context for the behavior depicted in the video, or any explanation as to why a person’s behavior could escalate from zero to 100 in such a short amount of time; something that would, in almost any other circumstance, be perceived as a sign of mental illness. Nor does anyone ask why we, as a culture, seem to feel such a profound need to capture total strangers at a moment when they seem to have lost all self-control.

There is no defense for treating someone in a position of less power and privilege like shit, and there’s certainly no shortage of real-life white women who do so for self-serving or compensatory reasons (see: this TikTok on how conservative white women become Karens, which is probably a more effective form of social analysis than anything you’d learn in a college-level sociology class). But what the phenomenon of fake Karens demonstrates is that no one particularly cares about seeing any of these people held accountable, or what accountability looks like. It’s the spectacle, above all else, that reigns supreme.