the best friends you’ll never have

Within the fandom, people who like Karen Brewer are few and far between. Usually, when a character is unpopular among readers, it’s on purpose: the character was written to be unpopular, to provide a foil and a challenge to the more positive characters of the novel. This is not the case with Karen Brewer, though. It’s a well-known fact that Ann is a big fan of Karen–enough of a fan, in fact, to give Karen her own series.

So if the author loves her, why do so many fans hate Karen? I know that for me, personally, it’s because I don’t like kids very much at all, and the kids I can tolerate are of the quiet, seen-and-not-heard variety. Noisy Karen, who needs attention and is always correcting everyone and making up stupid stories and demanding that everyone play with her? Not my kind of kid. But obviously some people do like children for the most part, and still hate Karen. Now, in lots of other children’s books, I like precocious, loquacious, mischievious kids. Pippi. Eloise. But Karen seems to view the world in such rigid standards (No, you CANNOT say something that way!) that she just comes off as abrasive. And I suppose that like with many parents with terribly annoying children, Ann, as Karen’s parent, loves her more than anybody else is capable of.

What are your thoughts? Why do you think Karen is so unpopular if Ann loves her so?

26 Responses To This Post

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Sadako said, April 27th, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Your theory about Ann as an indulgent parent works pretty well. Though when I was eight, I adored Karen. I read as many of those Little Sister books as I could, I even bought the Karen doll. Ugh.

Reading BSC books today, I’m just so irritated by Karen. She’s spoiled (the manicure on the cruise ship?!), she’s bossy, and she’s rude (I feel bad for Morbidda Destiny, er, Mrs. Porter). Also it bugs me that she never used contractions.

andreajean said, April 27th, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I don’t have a strong like OR dislike for Karen. But I never related to her, even when I was 7 and 8 reading the books. I suspect that (like me) maybe a lot of BSC readers were shy, quiet kids of the Charlotte Johanssen variety who were annoyed by loud, bossy Karen.

bananabomb said, April 27th, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Karen of the regular BSC series isn’t so bad. Little Sister Karen is…well, every one of her flaws from BSC is magnified like 1000 times. I think she’s over-indulged and under-disciplined. So, to make things easy for myself, I just try not to read any Little Sister books.

HelenB said, April 28th, 2009 at 12:28 am

I never read Little Sister, but in the BSC books what irritates me about Karen is basically that her behaviour is constantly being enabled. While Kristy is constantly bossy, she actually gets called on it by her friends when she takes it too far. Karen is seldom told, “Actually, why don’t we ask Andrew what he wants to do for a change? Maybe he doesn’t want to be your dog while you wear all your mothers clothes and trop around telling everyone else what to do?”

Oh, and that book where she pretends it’s her birthday at Disneyland and her parents don’t even tell her off? Ugh!

WickedWonder said, April 28th, 2009 at 12:30 am

I think it’s because in real life, Karen would be the kid you had to play with, and she would boss you around and tell you stupid stories and not let you play with her toys, and her parents would basically cosign her behaviour. And your own parents would always tell you to be nice to her. Ugh! Plus, as adults, she would be your friends’ bratty daughter that always interupted conversations and touched the one thing you didn’t want touched. Can you tell I’ve thought about this?

Taren said, April 28th, 2009 at 1:44 am

That’s a really good question. I really loved Karen and the Little Sister series when I was little. I guess I saw a little of myself in her. Now that I’m older and I’ve re-read a bunch of the books I can’t believe what a jerk she could be! It’s not even that her behavior was enabled. It was the way she both treated people and talked about them. What could be fun in a snarky teenager is annoying in a 7 year old.

Roxy said, April 28th, 2009 at 5:35 am

Sadako – The dolls never really took off here in Aus (I don’t think?). But…a Karen doll? That must be terrifying!! I never liked Karen. As a kid she reminded me of the girls at school I hated and now she reminds me of the annoying kids who come into my work. No doubt in the future she will definitely remind me of the annoying daughters of a few of my friends.

angsty_otaku said, April 28th, 2009 at 9:43 am

I’ve always hated HATED Karen. She was so incredibly spoiled and over-indulged. And it seemed that everything in the world had to go her way. No Krusher for her, that’s spelled wrong. Yet, her “Let’s All Come In” game had to be played by all or else she’d get pissed. No one ever got angry at her, except Kristy in the Little Sister books, and those were always slanted to make Kristy seem a bit bitchy. It’s unbelievable really. When she gets older, she’s either going to get a serious reality check or have a bunch of superficial friends.

ashley said, April 28th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

I don’t care, I love Karen. I totally related to her when I read the Little Sister books when I was young, and I still have a soft spot for her now, because of that.

Plus, she’s a fictonal character. Really, I just don’t put *that* much thought into any BSC books while I’m reading them.

abby said, April 28th, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I think the biggest problem with Karen is she did a lot of shit she shouldn’t have and rarely, if ever, was punished for it…in fact, she usually was commended for it. (Ex. the time she burst into Ms. Porter’s house during a party, and accused them all of being witches. Lisa and Watson told her that while she would have to apologize, since she was doing it to save the neighborhood it was still a good thing).

nikki said, April 28th, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Sadly, my Karen hatred knows no bounds. She reminds me of Michelle Tanner. They are pretty much the two worst little girl characters in all fiction media. I hate over-indulged children.

And I love kids, I have a 2 1/2 year old son who is EXTREMELY extroverted (despite having two introverts for parents). I just hope his extroversion doesn’t make him male-Karen one of these days….

Sadako said, April 28th, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Oh, I hated Michelle Tanner, too. She was another one who needed a smack.

Abby, Karen burst into Mrs. Porter’s house and got commended?! Ugh. Yeah, I was definitely one who identified more with Charlotte Johanssen and Becca Ramsey. Shy, etc. It’s weird. Ann M. says her fave character is Kristy and she also clearly loves Karen–two obnoxious, extroverted, bossy types.

greer said, April 28th, 2009 at 3:40 pm

@andreajean: i think that’s true, especially for those of us who read the books for longer than brief spell in the 3rd grade.
@ashley: I know. I considered putting a shout out to you in this post. :)

featherearrings said, April 28th, 2009 at 7:36 pm

I think Karen is just one of those characters that you love to hate. I’m not sure why I hate Karen so much. I think I’m a lot like you, Greer…I like the quiet children much better lol.

I hated Michelle Tanner too. She was just annoying.

greer said, April 28th, 2009 at 8:42 pm

@roxy: There are several Karen dolls. One was sold in a “party set” featuring some of the sitters and a charge. These are Barbie-esque dolls. There’s also a Kristy and Karen set from the same company. And there there is a cloth Karen doll that is larger. I own the party Karen and the cloth doll Karen. These dolls pop up on ebay. Jon Merrill has info about the various dolls on his site “The Baby-sitters Club Companion,” which is linked to the right.

Gabrielle said, April 28th, 2009 at 10:51 pm

I think Karen is one of those children that authors or writers on TV create to seem absolutely adorable or because they think that’s how children are. Or they know a kid like that and they think it’s cute. Michelle Tanner was annoying because she was always there just to say something cute and that was annoying. Somehow being bossy is seen as ok so long as the kid is cute. Whereas in real life I don’t think that’s true. Or I don’t find it true.

Laura @ Hungry and Frozen said, April 29th, 2009 at 6:30 am

I am not a fan of Karen. Partly because of her overindulged, annoying nature…

I wonder if she’s annoying because we’re so blatantly supposed to love her? A bit like how Myriah Perkins is clearly a character that Anne loves but annoys the heck out of me because she’s able to speak Latin at the age of three or whatever…Whereas characters like Charlotte and Andrew, who seem more ‘unintentionally’ cute through the writing, appeal more to me. Does that all make sense? :) Interesting question anyhow.

Sadako said, April 29th, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Laura, I know exactly how you feel. Myriah and Gabbie, who are based off of real kids that Ann M. knows (I think? yes?) are so damned unrealistic. And irritating. Plus, I hated the whole kids putting on shows and performing liked trained seals thing.

The kids I actually liked were Charlotte, Becca, Andrew, and Jamie. They seemed like more or less normal, sweet kids.

Also I had the cloth Karen doll. Not anymore but way way long ago.

Eowyn said, April 29th, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Great comments everyone. I know this is a little off-topic but I’ve always been under the impression tht many of the readers imagined Watson as being old. Did they ever specifically state that in the books though? Take in mind he did have young children. Oh, and Karen treated her neighbor Mrs.Porter terribly!

greer said, April 29th, 2009 at 11:32 pm

@Eowyn: my dad is pushing sixty and still has kids in elementary school.

bobo said, May 1st, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Karen is frikkin manipulative and sociopathic, but Ann/the BSC still fawns over her which makes me hater her. Sure she has to deal with some issues, but it is hard to see their effect on her because she is just not written in a way that makes her believable as a child character. And worst of all, the whole contraction thing. It made everything she said sound really.. shrill..really annoying.

mizzmarvel said, May 3rd, 2009 at 11:58 pm

I just can’t get over the fact that Karen is loud, obnoxious, and spoiled, and everyone fawns over her amazing imagination, whereas Jenny Prezzioso doesn’t want to get dirty and is treated as if she just knocked over a liquor store.

bbb said, May 5th, 2009 at 8:29 pm

lol mizzmarvel. And I agree with your whole comment. Karen has even deliberately dropped her baby sister on the floor because she was pissed about something. If Jenny did that to Andrea? The BSC would hate her even more than they already do.

Eowyn said, May 10th, 2009 at 11:58 pm

LOL Miss Marvel! Shouldn’t the real question by “why did Ann hate Mallory so much?”

Jess said, May 13th, 2009 at 6:26 pm

My theory is that people who were basically quiet and well-behaved as kids (the Mary Annes of the world, if you will) don’t like Karen, and the people who were loud, bossy, and way too into themselves as kids (the Kristys) like her. I like Karen, but in a really uncomfortable way, because I see all of my childhood faults in her: I was pushy, I was impatient, I was determined to make sure everyone knew how smart I was. I like her because I understand where she’s coming from, because I wanted everything NOW NOW NOW, and because I wanted everyone to play the games MY way because I was sure I had the best ideas, and because I had absolutely no concept of moderation. (I think the bossiness – mine and Karen’s – might also come from an attempt to control a world where grownups are divorcing and remarrying and moving and getting sick and who knows what else on you, but you probably don’t want me psychoanalyzing myself in your blog, Greer.) And the great thing about Karen, if you were a Karen yourself as a kid, is that she gets away with the stuff you never did. Of course, Ann M. herself is the exception to my theory, but I think the indulgent mother theory works there, or just the idea that she enjoys aggressive, Kristy/Karen-esque characters.

It’s worth noting, though, that she gets away with a lot less in the Little Sister series than she does in the main series, with some notable Kristy’s-brooch-losing exceptions, and spends a lot more time with impatient adults who don’t understand her and, quite frankly, completely dreadful friends. Hannie and Nancy can be pretty awful.

All that said, I do agree with Mizzmarvel in that those girls need to lay off poor Jenny Prezzioso.

m0drnmoonlight said, May 31st, 2009 at 4:33 pm

I began my venture into the BSC fandom with the Little Sister books in 1st/2nd grade. I didn’t mind her, despite my mom randomly reading my books and complaining that Karen was a spoiled brat.

Years later, re-reading the series, I can’t stand Karen, she’s probably my least favorite character in the entire series. It’s interesting how your perspective changes on things as an adult. I find Karen very spoiled, obnoxious, bratty, and bossy. She’s kind of like a less-mean Angelica Pickles from the Rugrats.

It’s a combination of her being that way, and everyone around her indulging and enabling her. You have Watson buying her love with ponies and vacations and toys, and the entire BSC (especially Kristy) building her a shrine and worshipping her as funny, cute, and imaginative. Things Karen does would be considered bratty and horrible if Jenny Prezzioso did them (I agree with you all – the BSC was horrible screaming”EW EW EW EW EWWWWWW!” when the Prezziosos called for a sitter. Jenny’s FOUR – four-year-olds are high-maintenance and picky, they’re not all childbots like Jamie Newton).

And when Karen does get disciplined, it’s just a very weak talking-to and she’s up to her tricks again. And she knows she can get away with murder heh. Basically, I think she’s really annoying, and it’s obvious that the authors want us to love her.

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