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‘Deconstructing Karen’ review: Guess who’s coming to dinner

Does not develop arguments deep enough.

Deconstructing Karen wants to help promote conversation. A group of upper-class suburban white women attend a dinner party that is unlike any they have ever been to. The topic of the night is racism and each women is forced to take a hard look at themselves. But does the documentary advance meaningful discussion or angry diatribes?

Regina Jackson and Sairo Rao are the co-founders of Race2Dinner, an organization that hosts dinner parties attended by eight white women at a time. The purpose of the events is to help facilitate conversations around race, white supremacy, and similar topics. These are important discussions, but this also means that sometimes Deconstructing Karen feels like it is more about promoting Jackson and Rao than actual talk.

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It does not help that things start off on a ominous note. All the guests are told to leave the table and go to the living room if they are going to cry. This indicates the emotional involvement required with hard talks is not welcome.  Thankfully, even though Deconstructing Karen is often antagonistic, it always has the best intentions. If anything, the film does not develop its arguments enough. The questions asked by Jackson and Rao lead to the expected answers for the assembled white women. They are scolded as to why their answer was incorrect before things move on to the next subject. Unfortunately, there is little actual conversation.

This is regrettable since Deconstructing Karen can be an avenue to addressing topics that many people feel do not pertain to them. As some of the responses in the film hint at, there are those who are comfortable with how they treat and interact with others. In its best moments, the documentary will manage to get some to reevaluate their own lives. It is unfortunate that these scenes are few and far between.

'Deconstructing Karen' review: Guess who's coming to dinner

It all comes off as a good idea that is poorly executed. The dinner is shown in abbreviated form with seemingly only the most incendiary parts shown. There is little insight into the lives of the women aside from the fact they are white and liberal. Nothing suggests there will be any consequential change in them going forward. In the end, Deconstructing Karen does more to minimize race relations to a few hot button topics instead of encouraging self-reflection.

Deconstructing Karen is available on VOD

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