By Christina Armeni
Netflix found huge success this summer by releasing a series of instantly popular romantic comedies, the most recent being “Sierra Burgess is a Loser.” When it was released on September 7, everyone rounded up their friends and some popcorn to get ready to fall in love with yet another story.
The film is your classic high school-centered love story about a not-so-cool girl falling for the hot football player. Love interest Jamey (Noah Centineo) thinks he is sending a text message to the mean girl Veronica (Kristine Froseth), but the message is actually sent to the school “loser,” Sierra (Shannon Purser). Deciding to hide her real identity, Sierra gets help from archenemy Veronica in exchange for tutoring.
The film takes us on a messy ride of catfishing, troubled home life and teenage insecurities. When Jamey wants to meet in person, the plan starts to fall apart and eventually the situation implodes, leaving Sierra as the bad guy. Of course, it all works out in the end. Happily ever after, right? At first glance, the movie is a refreshing reminder that you don’t have to be a size two, but once you turn off the screen and climb into bed you start to realize all of the major moral problems that seeped into the film.
For starters, the filmmakers take advantage of Shannon Purser being bigger and turn her size into her character’s entire identity. Throughout the entire movie we see Sierra wearing ill-fitting and unflattering clothes, as if to intentionally victimize her.
Rather than existing as a character who is confident in her own skin, Sierra feels the need to form a relationship with someone while pretending to be in another person’s body. Director Ian Samuels had the perfect opportunity to make an empowering film, but instead presented a major case of fatphobia by associating being fat with being a loser.
We get a glimpse of hope when we meet Jamey’s little brother Ty, played by Coshise Zornoza, a deaf actor. Yes! Representation! Isn’t that encouraging? It could have been if there wasn’t a deeply offensive scene in which Sierra pretends to be deaf when she runs into Jamey. She is afraid of him recognizing her voice, after having many late night phone calls, so instead of finally admitting the truth, Sierra decided the best option was to rattle off fake sign language. As a result, the deaf community is justifiably furious. Nyle DiMarco, a deaf model, tweeted in response to the film, “…the deaf character was written and used for a terrible joke. PS- pretending to be deaf is NOT ok.”
Eventually Sierra stops pretending to be deaf and comes clean to Jamey about who she is. After seeing Jamey and Veronica kiss, Sierra goes on a terrorizing path of destruction by blasting social media with personal information about her new friend Veronica. Sierra finds herself forced to spill the truth in the middle of a football game.
In real life, most people wouldn’t easily forgive Sierra for her deceitful and hurtful actions. Which brings us to the most disappointing scene in the film, the ending. Sierra dumps all of her emotions into a song she writes about being a sunflower in a world of roses. The sweet and catchy song, however, doesn’t make up for Sierra doing some really bad things. But of course, the song finds its way to Veronica and Jamey and all is forgiven.
Jamey shows up at Sierra’s house on homecoming night and proceeds to give a speech starting with “Honestly, had we not met the way we had, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed you,” which is exactly what you want to hear from a guy who is trying to express feelings for you. This entire scene is portraying the message that people only really care about appearances and to get a guy you need to lie about who you are.
This let down of an ending leaves viewers with a bad taste in their mouths. Overall, the film had good intentions of promoting body positivity but failed by filling it with creepy catfishing, offensive moments and a disappointing message.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix’s Facebook page.
Christina Armeni is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.