Alex Hall’s Karen Behavior Is Bigger Than Selling The OC

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
When real estate moguls Brett and Jason Oppenheim expanded their Netflix reality territory with Selling the OC in 2022, even they couldn’t have dreamed up  how dramatic the Selling Sunset spinoff would be. The original gave us constant catfights, endless haute couture fashions, the occasional mega mansion sale, and the supervillain (or, depending who you ask, anti-hero) that is Christine Quinn — what could beat that? Somehow, its offshoot manages to send audiences into even more of a spin. The sophomore season of Selling the OC is raising the stakes for drama even higher, zeroing in on the very different relationship statuses within The Oppenheim Group’s OC office. At the center of the shenanigans is an annoying and unfortunately very commonplace phenomenon that seems to be a running theme on this show: Karen behavior.
At the end of the last season of Selling the OC, things in the OC office were tense because of the awkward crush that newbie Kayla Cardona had on her very (at the time) married co-worker Tyler Stanaland, which threw the entire group’s working dynamic into a tizzy. Kayla’s interest in Tyler, who was at the time married to actress Brittany Snow, was understandably controversial, and many of her co-workers (namely Alex Hall and Polly Brindle) took every opportunity to chastise her for it.  (Ironically, Hall and Polly were just as inappropriate — if not more so — with their married friend than Kayla ever was. Let them tell it, noseys are totally okay to do to someone's whole husband.) They rebuked Kayla’s behavior and effectively made her the outcast of the OC office for crossing a line. 
One thing about those tables, though? They’re always going to turn. Shortly after season one of Selling the OC was released, news broke that Tyler and his wife had split. By the time the new season began, his divorce was the talk of the office, and the OC agents couldn’t help but wonder what part Tyler’s tactless interactions with his colleagues played in the breakup. Even as he processed the divorce, it became obvious to them (and to us viewers watching aghast at home) that there was in fact something going on between Tyler and Alex Hall. And they didn’t care who knew it. Brandi Marshall, a close friend of both Tyler and Hall (and the only Black woman on the OC cast), didn’t mince words about her opinion on the brewing connection. Not only did she find the potential coupling awkward, but as a married woman, Brandi openly admitted that she personally felt that it was distasteful because Tyler wasn’t legally a single man just yet. She also revealed that it was affecting her work and reputation, with questions about Hall and Tyler spreading around the industry like wildfire and putting the agency in a bad light. The admission puts a strain on Brandi and Hall’s seemingly strong relationship, which causes Brandi to distance herself from Hall, and Hall to see Brandi as an enemy instead of a concerned friend.
In one particularly troubling interaction between the two during a “work trip” (let’s be real though; it was more play than work), Brandi steps in to defend Kayla from Hall’s typical aggressive antics — talking down to people and gesticulating wildly, which she bafflingly chalked up to being Italian — but the conversation takes a disappointing but not at all surprising turn: 
“Where I come from, when you start speaking with your hands and raising your voice, it’s a form of disrespect,” Brandi explains. When Hall continues the very behavior she was just warned about, Brandi gets frustrated and approaches her, still trying to make her position clear.
“I talk with my hands, and you’re coming at me physically,” Hall says suddenly, feigning fear. “You literally just came at me, Brandi — are you going to swing??”
The energy in the room shifts immediately, with Brandi looking confused at Hall’s sudden claims. “What the fuck?” a bewildered Brandi responds.
At this point, I had to pause the show to sigh a deep, deep Negro sigh because I knew exactly where the plot was headed. It was as if I’d written this episode’s script with my own hand: Hall goes on to tearfully assert that she was legitimately afraid that Brandi would punch her in the face, and several of their co-workers rally around her. Not once does she acknowledge the fact that she was actually the aggressor in the situation. “Is this my friend doing this?” Hall murmurs in her confessional, her eyes shining with fresh tears. “I don’t know what set Brandi off to that extent…”
Reactions to the scene run the gamut; some fans are siding with Hall, tsk-tsking Brandi for being too worried about other people’s business, while some are applauding Brandi for standing up for what’s right and making her stance clear. Across the timeline, however, one shared observation Selling the OC viewers are all making is the fact that Hall’s aggression and subsequent victim mentality very noticeably jumps out specifically when she’s in conflict with Brandi and Kayla. Hall has had issues with other people in her office — it’s kind of her thing — but somehow, she only feels “threatened” when arguing with two out of three of the cast’s only people of color.
Brandi later shares with her sister that she regrets getting riled up by Hall and reacting the way she did, especially in front of other people. She recognizes that as one of the few Black realtors in this small professional community, she can’t afford to lose her cool like that because she has far more to lose than other people at the agency; even one slip-up could label her as the “angry Black woman,” and we all know that label never goes away. Still, Brandi maintains her natural right to be respected wherever she goes, and if she can’t get that from Hall, the friendship just isn’t safe for her anymore. At the end of the season, the women mutually decide to put a pin in the relationship, and to this day, they’re still not on speaking terms
Whether it’s at work, in school, politics, in friendships, or even online, white women weaponizing their tears is a tale as old as time, and many Black women and women of color who’ve been the token in a white space know this Karen behavior all too well. Someone throws rocks and hides their hands — or does it in plain sight — but somehow, the blame falls on you. 
Even when we try to keep our heads down and do our best to blend in and not shake the table, there’s always the very likely possibility of us becoming the bad guy in a situation, even when we’re not the ones instigating the problem to begin with. The rules are different for us. If we don’t engage, we’re being unfriendly and cold. If we do speak up, we’re aggressive and intimidating. Our feelings and the behavior that manifests from them are always being policed, but there are white women like Hall who don't hesitate to use every ridiculous excuse in the book to explain why it’s justifiable for them to be disrespectful, to intrude on other people’s personal space, or to hold others to standards that they themselves can’t reach. Because of misogynoir, they are protected while Black women are easily painted as the villains no matter what we say or do.  
This fight ended in a stalemate between two reality stars, but what if there hadn’t been cameras around to clearly show what actually happened? What if word had gotten back to Jason and Brett that Brandi had been “violent” towards Hall, and it cost her her place at the Oppenheim Group? What if, even more frighteningly, Hall had gone full-blown Karen and escalated the argument by getting security or the police involved, potentially exposing Brandi to actual physical danger? Sure, these hypotheticals may seem like a stretch, but if there’s anything that the news cycle has taught us, it’s that the weaponization of white women's tears can go from an uncomfortable microaggression that you vent about in your group chat to a high stakes situation that can turn lethal at any second. 
Being a Karen isn’t just bad — it’s also very dangerous. And it doesn’t make for very fun TV. 
Season two of Selling the OC is now streaming, only on Netflix.

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