Why Sierra Burgess is Actually a Loser

*Warning: this article contains spoilers from Sierra Burgess is a Loser*

I had high hopes for the new Netflix original Sierra Burgess is a Loser, especially after falling in love with Peter Kavinsky (a.k.a. actor Noah Centineo) from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I was especially excited to watch a rom-com where the teen girl protagonist isn’t a size 0.

Don’t get me wrong, there are parts of the movie I like – even appreciate. However, this film is problematic in too many ways to count. But before I get into all that, let’s identify the actually decent parts.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser does not follow any high school stereotypes, such as the nerd, the jock, and the cheerleader. Although you could sort the characters into those typical roles, none of them entirely conform to their stereotype. Jamey, the quarterback, is sensitive and self-conscious. Veronica, the cheerleader, has a complicated family life and needs a tutor. Sierra, the nerd, can sing and doesn’t wear glasses like every other nerdy character in film and TV.

The movie breaks down high school stereotypes and reveals the realistic people behind them. Furthermore, the “nerd” does not have to endure a physical transformation where she stops wearing glasses, learns how to do makeup, and gains a sense of fashion by the end of the movie.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser also pretty much nails the complicated nature of teenage female insecurities. Sierra is confident most of the time but still feels like Jamey wouldn’t like her real, true self. And you know that scene when she comes home from the big football game and says to her parents, “Do you have any idea what it’s like to be a teenage girl and to look like this?” I felt that. That beautiful song, “Sunflower,” Sierra sings also hit home and will be on repeat on my Spotify for a while.

The movie deals with some very important topics, including stereotypes and body image, and it is very cute in some ways. How could it not be when it stars Noah Centineo and Shannon Purser? Anyway… let’s get to why it’s problematic.

First off – Sierra totally catfishes Jamey, which is not cute under any circumstances. I understand that the catfishing was the bulk of the plot and made sense in the context of Sierra’s insecurities, but she still ends up with Jamey at the end? After lying to him on such an extreme level, he forgives her because she wrote a song? Not realistic at all.

While I’m on the topic of Sierra catfishing Jamey, let’s discuss that nonconsensual kiss. While it is slightly heartwarming that Veronica wants Sierra to kiss Jamey instead of herself, Jamey does not consent to kissing Sierra. The entire time, he thinks he is kissing Veronica. Even though the movie presents it as a harmless kiss, consent is a hot topic right now. Films need to do better.

What angers me most is the scene where Sierra pretends to be deaf for her own benefit/protection. I expected her to deepen her voice or do something similar to make sure Jamey doesn’t recognize it – not imitate a deaf person! And at the end, Jamey just forgets about that, even though his dear little brother is deaf? I just don’t get it.

On another note, the plot of Sierra Burgess is a Loser does not space out well. The beginning of the movie and build up of the conflict goes on for forever. All of Sierra’s visits to the guidance counselor and her battle to figure out who she is emphasize that identity is a major underlying theme in the movie.

However, when the film comes to an end, that internal struggle gets no resolution. Sierra writes a nice song and gets into Stanford – like, what more do we need? It would be totally realistic if the producers meant for that plotline to have an ambiguous end, but the ending would be much more satisfying if Sierra says something along the lines of “I don’t know who I am yet, but that’s okay.”

All my problems with this movie stem from the script. The writers could have done a much better job with the idea and made the protagonist actually likable. I adore the actors in this film and believe they did the best with what they were given.

 

Netflix led me to believe Sierra Burgess is a Loser would be another cute teen rom-com, but it just left me disappointed and wanting it to be better.

 

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