The philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche in his writings frequently deplored the materially affluent and relatively safe bourgeois lives that most people of his era lived. He found such lives mundane and unheroic. He yearned for the coming of a Superman, an Ubermensch, who would, through his example, topple the existing moral order and usher in a new age of heroism and daring.
Sometimes, even though it is 30 years since I first read Nietzsche and I have long since settled into suburban mundacity with all its petty comforts, I still wonder whether there should be more to life than our trivial everyday existences.
There is little that is more archetypical of that mundane bourgeois existence than the currently vogue term ‘Karen’.
A ‘Karen’ is a woman from a relatively privileged middle class background who exhibits a strong sense of self-entitlement, particularly in relation to airing grievances and demands to people who are less empowered than she. It is probably the case that the Karen does not consciously realise that she lives a life devoid of significant meaning and mostly disempowered, but instinctively lashes out at those around her to try and assert some semblance of power and meaning over her otherwise trivial existence. In this, I suspect that she is trying to express herself as some sort of Uberfrau (if you pardon my coining of peculiar German concepts).
No one can better illustrate what an Uberfrau is like than the high profile and cliché driven marketing maven Roxy Jacenko. The trivial headlines and incessant media coverage of the life of this lady does sometimes give me cause to wonder about whether some of the drama queens in our society should be better described as Roxies rather than Karens.
I like the idea of calling a high profile and materialistic person who is both annoying and success driven a Roxy. A Karen is going to just lash out at the poor shop attendants and waiters she encounters. A Roxy is going to swill champagne and preach from the gospel of success, whilst carefully curating her public image and that of her family on social media, all as part of a very calculated strategy.
Of course, it is all focused on material wellbeing, albeit of a much higher standing than that of the Karen who does not like someone walking a dog down their street or that the service in a café is too slow. A Roxy will do things like buy a luxury car for her nine year old daughter (true story) and fly her wedding dress in from the USA in its own first class seat (again true story), and constantly set up new business ventures. Her wants and desires (mostly fulfilled) include beach houses and Lamborginis.
In the end, a Roxy will have more material success and a life of greater privilege than a Karen will, but it remains a shallow life. And whilst Roxy’s husband is a rule breaker who is troubled by the existing moral order, he is no Ubermensch interested in overturning our values and mores, he is merely an insider trader who sought to enrich himself directly, rather than rely on his family’s extreme wealth. Nor is Roxy an Ubermadchen. She is just interested in the accumulation of wealth and fame and a higher degree of material comfort than that afforded to most members of our society, including every Karen. That just makes her an Uberfrau.
Nietzsche would not envy them their shallow lives with their yachts and luxury cars and palatial homes, and nor do I. An obsession with pursuing such excesses of wealth and luxury becomes an end in itself, and is an all consuming way of passing one’s life. I doubt that it would be a happy one.
But I do think that a term such as ‘Roxy’ is needed to describe those privileged women who live or aspire to live such lifestyles.
Let this be my contribution to the English language.