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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #349: The First Day of Christmas: Karen

I stop the tape here and tell my kids this is the end.

Kicking off my version of the Twelve Days of Christmas here at Favorite Fictional Characters with a character I really like from a program I can't stand. Frosty the Snowman is the most soulless and artistically bankrupt of the classic childrens' holiday specials canon, with a protagonist so vapid that I openly root for the evil magician, Professor Hinkle. With the smug rabbit Hocus Pocus and the vindictive Santa (though not quite as bad as the dismissive and judgmental St. Nick in Rudolph's special), it's all too grating and idiotic for me. Frosty the Snowman has only two redeeming qualities, and one is that it's not as bad as it's eyeball-gouging sequel, Frosty Returns (it's like a horror franchise).

The other redeeming quality is Karen. Like a beacon of integrity, of inventiveness, of intellect in this ocean of banality, Karen is clearly the lead sled dog in her little school, the red-skirted ringleader and idea machine of the town minors. She's no Lucy Van Pelt, exhibiting instead a deft and remarkably light touch, a casual likability and charisma that other blonde leader-gals must envy. She immediately realizes that Frosty, though adult-sized, is essentially a snow-cone toddler in need of protection and guidance. The adults in her orbit are either disbelieving or openly hostile, while the children are content to play when the sun is shining yet fall to pieces when the crisis comes. It's Karen who thinks of the solution, and executes it despite the danger to herself. If she has a fatal flaw (other than eschewing pants in the dead of winter), it's a tendency to permit enthusiasm to eclipse foresight. She is, after all, a little girl.

My favorite scene in this bilious narrative is shown in the picture I've chosen. Despite the fact that this snow golem of uncertain provenance has very nearly led her to her untimely death, Karen weeps when he melts. This capacity for emotional investment in a mouthy make-believe moron speaks to Karen's deep commitment to others, and the weighty burden she's chosen to bear. She's a leader who cares about you more than herself. I love it when Frosty melts. My Christmas wish has always been that he stays a puddle and Karen uses the hat to rise to the stations of power in the world to which she is uniquely equipped. Smart, compassionate, brave - we need more Karens in this world and fewer Frostys.

(Oh, and the voice actress, June Foray? Meet Rocky the Squirrel, Jokey Smurf, Betty Rubble, even Cindy Lou Who, among hundreds of others.)

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