Everything Wrong With "Sierra Burgess Is A Loser"

Netflix has been putting out some really great stuff lately. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a personal favorite of mine, and I’ve watched it five times since it came out. Comedian Iliza Shlesinger’s latest special, "Elder Millennial," had me laughing to the point of tears while I watched. The newest addition to Netflix’s ever growing list of original shows, "The Dragon Prince," has the potential to fill the void that "Avatar: The Last Airbender" left in my heart. But, Netflix has also had some flops. The show "Insatiable," which was released at the beginning of August, has been called inattentive by a writer at Her Campus at University of Michigan, as well as many other people across various social media platforms.

I was excited for "Sierra Burgess Is A Loser" for so many reasons. I expected it to be a heartwarming story about a girl in her senior year of high school trying to navigate dating, friendships, body image and college prep. As a college freshman who recently graduated from high school, it was a movie I thought I could relate to. What I got instead were jokes at the expense of trans and deaf people, a non-consensual kiss and a main character whose defining trait is that she’s “the only teenager who doesn’t obsess over looks.” 

Spoiler warning.

Near the beginning of the movie, Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser) is given a poetry assignment. Her teacher instructs the class to write about something important to them. One of her classmates suggests Sierra write about her “trans experience.” Since neither Sierra nor Shannon are trans individuals, the comment is meant to degrade trans people and belittle their struggles until they are nothing more than the punchline of an insensitive joke in a teen movie.

While posing as Veronica (Kristine Froseth), Sierra takes a phone call from Jamey (Noah Centineo) where they talk for hours. A few days later, Sierra and her friend Daniel (RJ Cyler) encounter Jamey playing with his younger brother in the park. Daniel drags Sierra over to the brothers and forces her to confront Jamey. Instead of coming clean, Sierra fakes being deaf in order to avoid letting Jamey identify her by her voice. To her surprise (and I would assume horror), Jamey introduces his deaf brother, played by deaf actor Cochise Zornoza, and both boys begin speaking to Sierra in American Sign Language. Since Sierra is not actually deaf, she does not know what they’re saying. After this scene, Jamey’s brother isn’t mentioned or shown again. America’s Next Top Model winner and deaf activist, Nyle DiMarco, took to Twitter to address the scene and the use of a deaf actor for a joke.

Eventually Jamey gets a date with the real Veronica, not knowing he’s been texting and calling with Sierra this whole time. Sierra tags along, staying in the shadows and feeding Veronica lines so Jamey doesn’t suspect anything. At the end of the night, they two are talking by Jamey’s car while Sierra hides underneath it. When Jamey goes in to kiss Veronica, she tells him to keep his eyes closed and motions for Sierra to kiss him instead. After some reluctance, Sierra kisses Jamey without revealing her true identity, allowing Jamey to believe he was kissing Veronica.

 

 

During the falling action of the film, after it is revealed to Jamey that he has been catfished and that Sierra faked her disability, Sierra runs to her parents and blames them for how she looks and claims her appearance is why she has never had a relationship.  “Do you know what it’s like to be a teenager and look like this?” she asks.

I have a younger sister who just turned fourteen and will be starting high school next year. I have heard her cry about her body for the past two years. It hurt me to know that she would probably watch this movie and slip back into the mindset that she wasn’t good enough for someone because of how she looks.

Overall, "Sierra Burgess Is A Loser" was a huge disappointment. I went in with an open mind and came out thoroughly disappointed in both the screenwriting and the acting.