Is violence justifiable in a violently oppressive culture? This is the main question we explore through the dark and satirical comedy web series Killer Workout. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Sara Werner, the series is created by New York-based personal trainer/writer Erik Potempa and produced by his wife Yvonna Pearson who aims to shed light on the inequality, classism and racism that many Americans suffer on a daily basis.

Killer Workout uses horror, comedy, and violence as a vehicle to explore the struggles faced by Joy, a broke, bi-racial, queer 31-year-old personal trainer for New York’s elite. Struggling to fit into a society that consistently disrespects her and others while rewarding her top-notch service with far less than adequate payment, Joy eventually snaps following racist sexual advances from a particularly offensive customer. . This violent little BDSM matinee surprisingly elevates a traumatized and broken Joy as she begins to feel like she may have just found her “true purpose”: brutally murdering rich, toxic assholes!

The series also stands as a commentary on current economic conditions, where 61% of Americans live paycheque to paycheque, with the top 1% controlling 32% of the wealth. Erik explains, “Job security depends on how gracefully we as workers deal with outrageous manifestations of classism and condescension (ego-striking, power-deferring, and eating reactions to abusive behavior in order to remain employed). The wealthy are rarely held accountable for their toxic behavior, often resulting in physical and emotional harm in exchange for inadequate compensation. To understand the extent of the problem, just look at the hashtag #EatTheRich, which has become a very popular pseudonym lately in response to this widespread obnoxious behavior by the toxic elite.

Killer Workout is an exploration of repressed anger towards the violently oppressive system we were born into. Inspired by a true story, it addresses the abuse perpetrated by a self-proclaimed liberal feminist. The series does not condone violence; rather, he uses violence as a tool to externalize the trauma of what it means to be “broken as shit,” that is, to live paycheck to paycheck in a capitalist society. As a queer woman of color herself, producer Yvonna Pearson was particularly drawn to the title character for how she comes to own and express her anger in unique ways. She explains, “Black women have often shouldered the burden of global violence – becoming, as Katori Hall puts it in her play The Mountaintop, “the mule of the world.” Black historical heroes and heroines like James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Assatah Shakur throughout their lives have been in constant struggle with this same violently oppressive system and have not always taken the pacifist path. In killer training [Joy] gives me catharsis to see my inner fury validated on screen.

Over the past twelve months, Killer Workout has toured the international film festival circuit, winning Silver Award for Best Web Series at DC WebFest, Gold Remi for Writing at WorldFest Houston International Film Festival, and Best black comedy at the Deep Focus Film Festival. It was also nominated for Best Comedy Web Series Episode at the Austin Comedy Film Festival, was a finalist at last year’s Sundance Episodic Lab, and was an official selection at Raindance, Outfest, Jelly Fest, and Boston International Film Festival.