When trying to pick out a memorable television character within the last 10 years or so, I thought of one of my absolute favorites, the smart-mouthed sidekick Karen Walker from NBC’s “Will & Grace”. In this break-through comedy, Karen’s ever-changing, sexually-ambiguous nature and to-the-point attitude is a break to the almost stereotypical roles of her cast-mates.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the series. But there is only so much “flaming Jack”, “nerdy-Will”, and “tag-a-long Grace” I can take. Karen’s character is dynamic, going from the smarmy assistant, to the grieving widow, to the 20-minute-wife of her arch-enemy’s father.
As I looked through the ‘net in search of Karen’s former loves, I realized that I have never seen a character so fluid in their sexuality. We hear stories of Karen’s relationships with Martina Navratilova back when the tennis star was “straight”, and how her former roommate (played by Madonna) described her has having a “weird, creepy bisexual vibe.”
She is absolutely repulsed by her husband Stan, but wildly turned on by Lionel. She’s quick to marry Lyle Finster, but frequently asks Grace for a little tongue. I think that Sarah Warn, of AfterEllen.com describes this element perfectly, “Karen […] is the epitome of a Bisexual Straight Woman. Karen’s not-exactly-hetero sexuality is still a challenge to heterosexism, it’s not really bisexuality, either, and she shouldn’t be construed as truly representative of the average bisexual women who values relationships with women for more than just sex, at least once in a while.” I would have just boiled it down to a simple “Karen doesn ‘t seem to care who she is involved with.” In a show where the sexuality roles are so set into stone, Karen breaks out of that constraint.
Who else can compare with the quick wit that Karen shows us every week? When Grace talks about wanting to marry “the one”, Karen comes back with “And well you should, honey. How else are you going to get to ‘the two’ and ‘the three’?” Another episode, a random man answers Karen’s call with, “Miss Walker, I came as soon as you called.”, to which she replied, “Well that’s really none of my business, but thanks for sharing.” To Will’s Mom, she comments, “I think you’re missing the silver lining here. When you’re old and in diapers, a gay son will know how to keep you away from chiffon and backlighting.” Lastly, a thought I’ve often had, “Good Lord. I can’t believe I’m at a public pool. Why doesn’t somebody just pee directly on me?”
As the last season of Will & Grace airs this fall, I’m sure that we’ll have more memorable moments with Karen.