Karen Brockman

Written by @EllieDangerous
If you’ve seen frolicsome British sitcom ‘Outnumbered’, there’s a good chance you kept watching because you recognised those kids. Fortunately and unfortunately, there are Karens everywhere. She’s the youngest, played by a right special Ramona Marquez, and the defining thing about five-year-old Karen Brockman is that she’s absolutely right all the time. I’m not even being sarcastic.

Spoiler Alert
Apparently everything is made of atoms. But does that include shadows?

This is one of the many, many, many questions she puts to the world, and she’s quite right to ask. After all, if your daddy says everything is made of atoms, you can’t just leave that there. The man needs to clarify, for goodness sake. Does his claim include shadows? What about dreams, does it include dreams? What about Trinny and Susannah?

It’s also vital to get to the crux of what’s real and what isn’t. Karen is a comfortable combination of idealist and fantasist, so although her brother has clarified that fairies can indeed be killed with a bazooka, and she herself countered this by pointing out that a fairy can murder you by turning your heart into a pumpkin, she has further queries. When she hears about the Cottingley Fairies, she wonders why the fakers didn’t just photograph some real fairies.

Daddy didn’t have much of an answer to that one.

Mummy isn’t much use either. When Karen delves further into the abstract world of beliefs and ideologies, she asks her parents if they believe in God.

“Mummy’s fixing the sink, darling.”

It’s no wonder Karen gets a bit exasperated by the whole affair. There’s just so much that refuses to be answered:

“Is a fork a weapon? A fork.”

“What’s a twat? A twat.”

“Where's my other shoe? And what's a hypocrite?”

But it’s not just the right to ask questions that she takes full advantage of: she also has other rights to seize. For instance, a pet. The Brockmans won’t let their daughter have a pet, so she compromises accordingly:

She would like to keep one of the nits from her hair. This seems reasonable, no? It’s unfair that mummy turned it down. That and the giraffe.

Karen also enjoys her right to not eat her food — and if she feels like a bite, it has to be from her special bowl and that’s that. Sure there are kids in other countries who aren’t privileged with an abundance of broccoli, but Karen’s answer to that is simple: send it to them. Put her broccoli in an envelope and send it to Africa.

It’s simple, and mummy and daddy are silly not to sit up and take note.

Another way in which our quick-witted little snob wins the day is with her ability to take people down a peg or two when they need it. When Auntie Angela genuinely needs a hug Karen will provide, but most of the time Angela is just too pretentious for that, and Karen calls her up on this every time. When the definitely-English Angela offers her a cookie, Karen replies that “in England we call them biscuits”.

Her parents enjoy this. She may exasperate them with her cultivated stream of questions, but she’s also one of their favourite weapons. Got a child with no filter? Let them loose. It seems fun.

Karen’s gambits develop as she gets older, whether she’s listing people she dislikes or planning to sue people, but it’s her younger years that ring with some of her funniest truths.

"No one in the world is allergic to peas”, insists daddy. "How do you know, because you haven't asked the people”, replies Karen. “And even if you did, I know you'd be lying because you can't speak Indian, you can't speak Japanese, you can't speak Australian or any of that."

Wisdom oft comes from the mouths of babes. And that’s probably for the best, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, may the force be with you. Because you're worth it. Amen and out.
Mum: I'm not going to go to jail for kicking auntie angela, because... she asked for it.
Karen: Who would ask someone to kick them right up the bottom?
I saw a lady buy a chocolate bar and not eat it. And I saw a man that was holding his hands behind his back for a very long time. And I saw a lady, she was looking at a sign with very small eyes. And I think those things are suspicious.
Ellie Ball is the founder of Good Characters, and someone who enjoys coffee cake a great deal. She is a graduate of the Scriptwriting MA at Goldsmiths, University of London. For fun and respite, check out her TV analysis articles on Bang2Write or tweet coffee cake at her @EllieDangerous.
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Published on 17 December 2015
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