Feedback: The complications of Karen memes, ‘cancel culture,’ masks and monuments

Amy Cooper in Central Park in New York.
Amy Cooper, who called the police on Christian Cooper on May 25 after he asked her to put a leash on her dog in New York’s Central Park. On July 6, she was charged with filing a false report.
(Christian Cooper / Associated Press)

It’s disturbing that Lorraine Ali chose to perpetuate and further etch in the minds of Americans the idea that Karens are awful people [“Why We Fear the Karens,” July 12].

Think of all those young kids named Karen who are now being harassed and bullied for simply being named “Karen.” Ask yourself, “How would I feel if my name were used this way?”

Karen Miller
Anaheim Hills


I’ve just read Ali’s commentary on white nationalism and the ugly behavior of the “Karens” in our world. I agree that their behavior is disgusting and sickening and must be changed. It cannot be tolerated.

Where I disagree is when she takes a shot at Fox News anchors by stating that they promote diversity as the enemy. I wholeheartedly disagree.

I try to read various sources of news and I resent it when journalists promote other legitimate new sources as the enemy. The longer this type of writing goes on, the sooner people will stop reading and watching mainstream news like the L.A. Times.

Jenny Amoroso


Why is there no Jason meme?

I’m an old-time real feminist — back when feminism was multi-racial, multi-age and multi-class. My first civil rights demo was in Chicago in 1960, my first women’s rights protest in the the early ’70s.

What if this headline had read: “The Internet Meme of the Angry Black Woman” or “The Internet Meme of the Angry American Muslim Woman”? Get the picture?

Ali should realize she stands on the shoulders of older feminists and take this criticism to grow — and use her power to wonder in The Times why there is no Jason meme.

Mary Sojourner
Flagstaff, Ariz.

It should be noted that Ali’s essay did discuss men “getting a pass”: “Several progressives, critics and feminists argue that the internet’s female archetype of white privilege is in itself sexist, part of an age-old effort to shame women who speak out. Why does the guy standing next to Karen usually get a pass? But don’t mistake Karens for Gloria Steinem. Because the real reason most of these videos have catapulted to the top of your search results comes down to one thing: racism.”

Canceling the ‘cancel culture’


Mary McNamara opens her critique of the Harper’s letter with a take that’s been circulating gleefully on Twitter all week: that those calling to cancel “cancel culture” are hypocrites.

McNamara misses the point. Her broad definition of cancellation — a catchall for everything from boycotts to hate mail to duels — trivializes what’s different about this moment. Conceding that social media allows opinions to form at the speed of WiFi, McNamara neglects to acknowledge which way the consensus is speedily building.

Political incorrectness isn’t the new cool; wokeness is.

I often think about how in 1978, the ACLU defended neo-Nazis’ right to march in Skokie, Ill., recognizing that the 1st Amendment protects all expression — even dumb, angry, vile expression. If the ACLU took this position today, people would cancel their donations.

Alma Cook
Los Angeles

Diversity in theater

Regarding theater critic Charles McNulty’s column “Awareness Arrives With a Jolt” [July 5]: Playwrights of color need to figure out how to get audiences of color to attend their productions. A variety of factors are involved, not the least of which are ticket prices, traffic, etc., but the reality is that the bulk of live nonprofit theater audiences are older white people.

What theaters will finally be compelled to do is develop a younger audience, a large, multicultural demographic to attend live theater.

Angus MacDonald
Culver City

A monumental moment

I appreciated Christopher Knight’s commentary about the Jefferson Davis monument in Bakersfield [“SoCal Racist Plaque Gets the Boot,” July 14].

It is worrisome that so many people may not know problematic aspects of our history and how they resonate today. Simply disposing of or hiding monuments misses an opportunity to teach. As George Santayana and Winston Churchill warned, those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

Our Constitution calls for the formation of a more perfect union — something that will come about only if we learn from our mistakes. More articles in The Times about our problematic history would help in our striving for that more perfect union.

Susan Scrivner

Mask persuasion

Regarding “Mask Marketing Needs a Flip Quip” [July 3] by Mary McNamara: I agree that we need a compelling PSA to promote wearing a mask.

However, we need everyday Californians to create PSAs from the heart on why they wear masks, rather than a pithy professionally crafted campaign — something New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tapped into when he created a contest for his state.

For the last few weeks, I’ve proposed to an array of government officials at the state and local level that California launch a wear a mask ad competition — modeled after New York’s contest. They all passed on the idea.

Californians will need to wake up to the fact that if we want a bold, honest and inspiring PSA on wearing masks, we’ll need to birth it on our own without the government’s help.

I urge my fellow Californians to join me and create such a competition. We should be smart enough to know when to replicate another state’s good idea. We are certainly innovative enough to put own unique spin on it.

Steven Lutzer
Los Angeles


A flip quip regarding mask wearing. I made this up weeks ago: Don’t be a maskhole, wear your mask.

Ronni Bedell
Los Angeles


I don’t quite understand why people refuse to wear masks out in public. They either don’t think the novel coronavirus threat is real or they think wearing a mask is a sign of weakness. Maybe mask wearing is not sexy or hip, but all the health experts agree that wearing them helps contain the spread of the virus. Maybe a clever slogan and ad campaigns would help. I’m not in advertising, but I am a writer, so how about:

“Be a superhero — mask up!”

Or: “COVID-19 doesn’t want you to wear a mask!” With animated novel coronavirus critters giggling as they fly through the air and enter people not wearing masks.

People in L.A. who do this type of thing need to step up.

Jeff Rack

Music for sickness and health

Mark Swed’s beautifully written essay on Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, a.k.a. Opus 132 [“An Ailing Beethoven Looks Deeply Within,” July 5], inspired me to revisit the piece.

In almost every aspect, Swed was deeply observant and wonderfully insightful, particularly capturing the emotional aspect of Beethoven fighting his infirmities, alternately conquering and being overwhelmed by challenges, and its connection to our time. But there’s one piece of musically misleading information that should be noted for aspiring musicians.

My small quibble on Swed’s high-quality scribble is that he described the Lydian mode as being all the white keys.

Since the music world defaults to consider the note C as the starting point, or central point, of all scales and modes, this is misleading.

The Lydian mode would be every white key starting from F to an octave above F. Every white key from C to C is the far more mundane and ordinary Ionian mode. The raised 4th signifies Lydian. By the way, this piece has only tiny hints of that mode; it isn’t featured at all. Most of the middle section is in the all white key, C to C mode. That’s not Lydian. It’s only faintly hinted at, and Lydian contains considerably more harmonic tension than Ionian. Curious why Beethoven named it that. The final A minor section has more of the flat 5th/quasi-Lydian element in it than the molto adagio does, beautiful as it is. The very end hits it more square on.

Use of the pure Lydian mode in Beethoven’s time was rare or nonexistent. You might have to go back to the time of Italian nobleman and composer Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613) to find abundant use of that mode.

As a lifelong lover of Lydian, I likely got my first exposure from Frank Zappa. The Lydian mode has been prominent in Indian ragas since forever, and its use in popular music has always stuck out to me. In the song “Moon River,” the note on the word “wider” is the essence of that mode. In “Bali Hi,” it’s the note on the word “hi.” The song “Pretty Ballerina,” a haunting, goose bumps-inducing classic, was the first ’60s pop song to feature the Lydian mode, as far as I’m aware. Lydian has plenty of melodic tension.

In any event, thanks to Swed for inspiring me to delve back into an extraordinary piece of work. I’m listening to it with new ears, and it’s a work of greatness.

Fuzzbee Morse
Los Angeles

Origin story of words and music

Mark Swed’s “The Genesis of Modern Music” [July 8] seems to have been written specifically for me — considering my most listened to Pandora station is Guillaume de Machaut Radio.

I find it fascinating that composers leave the text for the ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei) sacrosanct and unchanged, while setting that text to musical compositions that reflect contemporary rhythms, harmonies and counterpoint.

That’s quite a spectrum, from plainchant to composers Leonard Bernstein, György Ligeti and the rock group the Electric Prunes.

From a card-carrying member of the Hildegard von Bingen fan club, thanks for a fascinating article.

Walter Gajewski
Long Beach

Remember ‘Cinema Paradiso’

Regarding Randall Roberts’ “His Scores Set the Tone” [July 12]: I was very saddened to hear that my fellow countryman Ennio Morricone had left us, and I read with keen interest this article as I was listening to his music.

While I know that it’s impossible to summarize all his work in a brief list, I think the score for the 1988 film “Cinema Paradiso” should have been mentioned.

That soundtrack is pure magic, especially the piece at the very end that highlights so well the intensity of the moment as the main character is reminiscing.

Thank you and ciao, Ennio. Your melodies will never leave us.

Michela Merlo
Los Angeles

True then, true now

The article by Justin Chang and Glenn Whipp about Spike Lee’s movie “Do the Right Thing” [“This Film Always Feels Timely,” July 9] was wonderful and insightful, but the most important part was the three last words, “Vote in November.”

Jim Plannette
Beverly Hills