by Sara Koffi, a 19-year-old college junior majoring in English with a concentration in Education, with plans to change the world.
My name's Sara. Well, not really. My real first name is a bit longer than that, but s a r a are definitely the first letters. Growing up with botched IDs and mispronunciation, I learned to keep how I identify myself pretty simple. I also became synonymous with certain adjectives: shy, quiet, big, brown and feminine. When I was much younger, I liked to keep my opinions to myself and avoided confrontation like it was my sworn duty. I knew all of my adjectives weren't personality traits, but I didn't really know what to do with them. So, I left them in a nice little room and remembered to lock the door.
Somewhere between 13 and 16, I discovered a new adjective: angry. At first, I assumed it was just going to be the stereotypical teenage phase of hating the world. But I got older, and the angry just didn't go away. It was always waiting for something. I wasn't going around picking fistfights or having screaming contests with strangers. My angry just sat on what felt like the bottom of my soul, always with me and always unwilling to answer a direct question.
"Why are you here, angry?"
Angry was right. I did see. Eventually, I came to find out about this thing called "activism". I enjoyed the people I met because of conversations about it and learned more about the issues. I found a sense of pure bliss when discussing what was wrong with various policies and the inherent racism and sexism in certain institutions. I was so happy, I didn't notice that angry had unlocked that room and all of my adjectives were roaming around, free, in my head.
Shy, quiet, big, brown, feminine, angry…
I grew increasingly more unable to stomach certain websites, certain TV shows and certain films. If a joke was made about women, I stopped. If a joke was made at the expense of fat people, I stopped. If there was a stereotypical black character with no redeeming qualities, I HAD to stop. My world was growing more and more specific and I couldn't stand it. I was shy, quiet, big, brown, feminine, and angry as Hell and it needed to be dealt with.
I started to struggle with the "F" word. You know. Feminist. I didn't want to call myself one because weren't feminists those angry women who wanted to eradicate all men? I had brothers! I couldn't be a feminist! It took me being angry a bit longer before I began to use the word to describe myself in common conversations. I didn't realize how powerful it was. Guys and gals would discredit feminism as a whole when I stated I was one, and some people then asked, "Well, what kind are you?"
My answer was and will always be, "I'm the big, brown, angry kind." I cared about women's issues, I cared about size acceptance and I cared about social justice. It only made me more upset that when I looked around me, more and more people seemed to not care at all or have no strong opinion either way.
And one day I had an epiphany.
How could they care?
I hadn't considered how I'd policed my own media and made decisions accordingly. I watched my own family members watch problematic media all the time, without seeing its problems. That's when it finally clicked for me. People who don't see the problems, can't be expected to genuinely care about the problems. So, I took it upon myself to show them.
Now, as some of you may have discovered, pointing out problematic pieces of media for everyone you know doesn't make you very popular. Worse yet, I didn't get very far. I went back to my feminist lab and dreamt up something else. What if for every problematic piece of mass media, there was counter-media? Counter-media that would be for people like me to enjoy, and for me to recommend to people who otherwise might never question what was on their TVs.
Not gonna lie—I thought it sounded awesome. I also mistakenly thought it was going to be super easy and super supported. First lesson in ideas? Always super easy and super supported in your head. In reality, I'd written a stage play that had NO funding behind it. Awesome. For some reason, someone somewhere in the universe decided that I was capable of something with my art. She gave me a shot at production. The problem? I'd only made public the cookie cutter version. It wasn't about my adjectives. It wasn't about anything, really. It touched on a few issues but mostly stayed quiet during the whole counter-media discussion. It felt wrong. It felt weird. It felt useless.
I thanked her. I postponed production. I went back to the drawing board.
A year later, Class Dismissed was born.
Class Dismissed is a planned film about Christy Taylor, a plus-sized escort and her college roommate, Aubrey, who has some coming out to do. I knew that it had to be a comedy for two reasons. First, I wanted people who felt they were the punchline or the tragic figure much too often in the media to have a piece of joyful entertainment to revel in. Second, I wanted to prove that it's 100% possible to create something funny, endearing and sweet without being completely offensive and instead pretty inclusive. I wanted to honestly create counter-media, what should serve as the answer to problematic imagery that rarely gets seriously challenged.
To make this film project happen, I set up a fundraiser here.
I figure with $5000, I could make a pretty B.A. short film. With even more, I could work on making a full feature that's even more B.A. Either way, I'm ready for less problematic entertainment in my life, even if I have to make it myself.
I wanna write.
I wanna make movies that mean something to somebody.
I wanna create safe entertainment for the kids like me who always had a bad taste in their mouth when the lesson was, "Lose weight" or "Love yourself...but change a few things" or "Keep it straight, stupid."
I wanna make the entertainment that I wanna see.
Thanks for listening, Shakers.