Sierra Burgess is a Loser Review

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Sierra Burgess is a Loser Review

Nafisah Fathima

A relatively new movie to Netflix, “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” is a rom-com starring Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser), Veronica (Kristine Froseth) and Jamey (Noah Centineo) is an over-done, modern take on the catfishing cliché. Purposely given the wrong number by the popular mean girl, Jamey, a kind heartthrob, begins texting Sierra, an insecure girl who decides not to tell him who she really is in fear of him not liking her after he sees what she looks like. With the help of an unlikely companion, Sierra goes through tremendous effort to keep her identity a secret. Everything goes downhill after the truth comes out.

A movie meant to be about body positivity and self-love was the opposite of what we got. Instead, it’s overshadowed by romanticized catfishing, unconsented (nonconsensual) kissing, cyberbullying, transphobic and homophobic jokes as well as making fun of mental illnesses and disabilities such as being deaf.

 

Not only is the entire idea of essentially catfishing someone morally wrong, but it brings out an ugly side to someone that the audience wants desperately to like. We often cheer for the underdog, the person we see ourselves in and of course the main character. Sierra doesn’t think twice before continuing the conversation as Veronica instead of just telling him that she isn’t who he wants her to be. The film could have still continued with one less problematic plotline.

 

When Sierra has Veronica go on a date with Jamey for her, Veronica sets Jamey up for a kiss. She makes him keep his eyes closed and pulls Sierra from where she was hiding to finally kiss Jamey. When the kiss is done, Sierra hides again and Veronica takes her place again — making him believe he was kissing her the whole time. It isn’t okay for them to lie to Jamey about who they are and kiss him without his consent. He did want to kiss someone — Veronica. The stolen kiss from Sierra is romanticized when there is nothing romantic about it.

Veronica is verbally abused at home by her appearance-obsessed mother but that doesn’t give her an excuse to bully and torment Sierra. At the beginning of the film, Veronica insults Sierra every chance she can get, calling her a “hermaphrodite” and making lesbian jokes because she isn’t petite or a size two model. The “jokes” in the film were uncomfortable and shocking.

When talking about college applications with her friend Dan, he says, “schizophrenia will stand out in a college application” basically using a very serious mental illness as an advantage.

 

Sierra is later pushed by Dan to go up to Jamey when she sees him in the park with his brother. She doesn’t want to talk to him because he knows how her voice sounds from their long phone calls where they joke about how “man-ish” her voice is. Instead, she pretends to be deaf, moving her arms in the air in frantic motions, making random and incoherent sentences. And of course, Jamey’s little brother, Ty, is also deaf. A comedic moment only showed how insensitive Sierra really is. Many loved the idea of having deaf and ASL representation and were disappointed and upset because he was used as a joke.  

When Sierra gets mad at Veronica later on in the film, she lashes out by hacking into Veronica’s Instagram and posting personal and private DMs that humiliate Veronica in front of a football field of fellow high school classmates. Instead of simply talking to Veronica and figuring out their problems, Sierra decides to publically embarrass her. Veronica confronts her and decides that she doesn’t deserve to be friends with someone with such ugly character saying, “Your looks are the least ugly thing about you.” Sierra does horrible, despicable things and when she is confronted, she uses her insecurities as an excuse.

As her lies fall apart around her, she falls with them. She doesn’t apologize to those involved but instead writes a song. Sierra sends her song to Veronica in hopes of fixing the mess she’s made.

Sierra never fully apologizes for her actions. Veronica fixes her mistakes for her and helps her reconcile with Jamey. Even her apology song is putting blame on everyone but herself. She sings about her insecurities as if that excuses the damage she’s done.

 

In the end, Jamey surprises Sierra and tells her, “You’re not exactly everybody’s type […] But you’re my type — you are exactly my type.” Jamey really knows how to make a girl feel special. Sierra wants validation, which is understandable, but Jamey’s attempt of (maybe) being romantic backfires. It just seems rude.

Sierra treats her appearance as a disability. When crying to her parents, she says, “But look at me. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be a teenage girl and to look like this?” She thinks that it’s something to overcome — something she is forced to suffer with. Even other characters in the film treat her like that. It’s like a “you’d be great if you weren’t fat” kind of thing which is damaging in more ways than one. It’s in a Netflix film, targeted towards teens basically telling them that if they feel ugly or undesirable, they can deceive people around them to receive affection. It would’ve been great if it ended with her being happy and confident about her appearance, taking pride in her body. Sierra Burgess is the villain in her own story.

Veronica owns up to her horrible behavior — she doesn’t hide behind excuses or insecurities she has. She knows she isn’t a good person but by the end of the movie, she changes for the better because she learns to face her problems. Veronica could have easily blamed her behavior on her mom or her beauty pageant sisters or even her dad leaving. We watch as she breaks down her hard exterior to show someone with hopes and dreams and fears for what the future holds. Veronica is a dynamic, well-rounded character.

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Sierra and Veronica bond as they continuously trick Jamey — even through all that, they quickly become a cute friendship duo. Over time they go from enemies forced to help each other to friends who like to hang out together. Their friendship grows and they both see past each other’s false notions of who the other is based on appearances. We see that she wants so badly to be loved. Her character development is by far the best in the movie and it shows that just because you’re attractive doesn’t mean you’re happy. The relationship between Sierra and Veronica was much more important than the relationship between Sierra and Jamey. In fact, the film would have ended fantastically if they realized that their friendship was more important than a guy. I wish Jamey could have received a sincere apology and moved on with his life.

The purpose and idea of the film are encouraging but it doesn’t come across that way. It could have been executed in a better way; instead of going down a checklist of clichés, it could have been a little more simple. The 105-minute film felt longer than most movies. There was so much packed in it — the plot moves quickly through a lot of different problems. It’s almost too much conflict for a single movie. At one point, I thought the movie was over only yet realizing I had half of it left. There aren’t enough body positivity movies out there so the effort is appreciated, although we could’ve been better without it.

 

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