It’s National Karen Day and Not All of Us Have a Bad Rap

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Karen Allen, 1981,
Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Lately in pop culture, the name “Karen” has gotten the brunt of being a derogatory slang term for someone who is too demanding, entitled, obnoxious, racist and just plain irrational, with a stereotyped look of a middle-aged soccer mom with a short blond bob. Well, let me tell ya, I am a Karen, and I fit absolutely NONE of this. Well, I am middle-aged Gen X and have a bob, but I am a brunette who likes to dye her hair reddish-purple, and that is as close as it gets. Of course, as a Karen, I have gotten all the jokes sent to me from my friends, and while it mostly just started out as silly memes, the name took a nasty turn due to people’s behavior during the pandemic. Trust me, I contemplated changing my name to something else, and even still to this day, when I introduce myself as Karen, I’m almost embarrassed to say my name. So, with today being National Karen Day, who else but a Karen can present five of the great Karens in pop culture? So let’s get started!

Karen Carpenter

The Carpenters, from left: Richard Carpenter, Karen Carpenter, 1971.

Raphael/TV Guide/Courtesy Everett Collection

Of course she was the first Karen who came to your mind, wasn’t she? This drummer/singer Karen is best known as one half of the brother/sister duo The Carpenters. Along with her older brother Richard, these siblings put out many hit albums with memorable singles such as “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Close to You” and “Top of the World,” to name a few.

Sadly, Karen struggled with many demons in her personal life, and it was no secret that she was very anorexic, a disease that she succumbed to on Feb. 4, 1983, at the age of 32.

Karen Allen


Everett Collection

You may recognize this Karen as Indiana Jones’ love interest in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but this now 72-year-old actress first starred in National Lampoon’s Animal House before she was even a twinkle in Dr. Jones’ eyes. After Raiders, she went on to star in other ’80s classics, including Starman (1984), The Glass Menagerie (1987) and Scrooged (1988). While acting is not her only passion, she also writes and directs screenplays for the stage. She recently revived her role as Marion in the Indiana Jones franchise and will of course be in the latest installment, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which comes out June 30.

Karen Valentine

Karen Valentine, June 20, 1970.

Hamilton Millard/TV Guide/Courtesy Everett Collection

This Karen is best known for playing the young and eager teacher Alice Johnson at Walt Whitman High School on ABC’s Room 222 (1969-74). In 1970 she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for the role. Valentine went on to do a lot of television after Room 222 went off the air. She briefly starred on ABC’s Karen (1975), guest-starred on series like The Love Boat (1976) and Starsky & Hutch (1977), and appeared in several made-for-TV movies, including Murder at the World Series (1977). Transitioning to theater, she also starred in several stage productions, such as the off-Broadway play Breaking Legs (1992) and a Los Angeles production of Steel Magnolias (2003). Now 76, Valentine’s most recent credit is a 2004 Hallmark Channel movie, Wedding Daze.

Karen Grassle

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE, Karen Grassle, Season 1, 1974-1983

Everett Collection

When you listen to Karen Grassle talk, she has a beautiful, soulful grace to her, a lot like the character she played for eight seasons — Ma Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie (1974-83). She appeared in a handful of made-for-TV movies in the ’70s and ’80s, but hasn’t acted much since 1988. Her last role was in Not to Forget (2021). Also in November 2021, Grassle shared her memoir Bright Lights, Prairie Dust, in which she candidly revealed her journey to succeed as an actress, as well as her struggles to overcome depression and her dependence on alcohol. Now Grassle lives what she considers a “blessed life,” having returned to her former home across the bay from San Francisco. There she spends time with her son, Zach Radford. She shared: “We hike in the hills and the redwoods, go tide pooling by the Pacific, and meet to eat and visit,” all of which has “enhanced my life immeasurably.”

Karen Black

Karen Black in Trilogy Terror


Black is this Karen’s favorite Karen on this list. Mostly because she held cult status in the horror genre with her many roles in well-known horror flicks like Trilogy of Terror (1975), Burnt Offerings (1976), Invaders From Mars (1986) and so wickedly pulling off the role of Mother Firefly in Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses (2003). Karen, however, did have her share of other roles too; her first big break was in Easy Rider (1969), which paved the way for her Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning role in Five Easy Pieces (1970). This then led to commercial success with Airport 1975 (1974), and she even dabbled with music in Nashville (1975). She wrote and performed two songs for the movie that got her nominated for a Grammy. Through the ’80s and beyond she was mostly in the arthouse/indie films scene, and eventually took up playwriting later in her career. She passed away from ampullary cancer on Aug. 8, 2013, at the age of 74.

There you have it; not all Karens are bad, are they? I know for a fact there were many we didn’t squeeze in, so if there is one you think we missed, let us know in the comments! And please, for the sake of all of us “non-Karen” Karens, have a heart.

Where Are They Now - The Seventies
Want More?

Where Are They Now - The Seventies

June 2022

Who can forget all the great TV shows, movies and music of the ‘70s?

Buy This Issue