So as you may have seen, Sierra Burgess is a Loser is a new film that just recently released on Netflix. Hot on the heels and staring one of the lead characters from To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, this film got a lot of people, myself included very excited. Sierra Burgess is a little on the larger side and considered a stereotypical “beauty” and she falls for a guy who texts her by accident thinking she’s someone else. The trailer looked cute and with half of the world in love with Noah Centineo it looked like it would go down very well especially with the crowd who (again like me) have been watching TATBILB to death and are looking for more of the same. I can’t speak for everyone but this film made me feel some things and a lot of those things are not good and although I primarily focus on bookish related content I need to talk about this film.
This review/talk will feature spoilers. It’s just not possible to cover all the things in this film that I need to without discussing some of the larger plot spoilery plot points so if you haven’t seen it I apologise, you can always watch it and see how you feel about it yourself then come back and see if we feel the same or I’m sure there will be some spoiler free reviews out there. This is primarily a bit of a rant more than a review.
Catfishing is my biggest problem with this film (I think, it’s hard to tell through the rage). For those who might not know what catfishing is it is a US term (also used in the UK at the very least) and means “to lure (someone) into a relationship by adopting a fictional online persona.” When I saw the trailer I assumed that Sierra would eventually realise what she was doing was wrong and hurtful, come clean and apologise but no, not even a little. She only apologizes when she if found out and Jamey tells her he (rightly so) wants nothing to do with her and she should stay away from him. Even her best friend Daniel (who is brilliant) urges her to tell the truth and tells her what a horrible thing catfishing is but she ignores him and carries on anyway. After all of this and Sierra doing some more unsavoury things to hurt Veronica and in turn also a now very confused and upset Jamey they both STILL forgive her and I think that is one of the most hurtful messages in this film. Sierra is a horrible, terrible person and although I get that everyone makes mistakes the fact that Jamey still turns up at her house and wastes ironically one of the most beautiful scenes/speeches I have ever needed to hear on someone who continued to lie to them over and over again. I also found out a few days after watching the film that Jamey’s actor Noah had in fact been a victim of catfishiing himself earlier in the year and I was really surprised that he agreed to be part of a film that seemed to give the impression that it’s totally okay as long as you say sorry after because the other person will be so in love with you it won’t matter!
Jameys brother Ty is a initiallygreat addition to the film, the sibling relationship between the two is lovely, teasing each other and Jamey agreeing to wear silly Pjs with his brother etc are some really lovely moments that make me think of me and little brother when we were younger (Jamey probably didn’t threaten to kill his brother after he accidentally hit her in the face with a golf club though I imagine). Jamey’s little brother being deaf without being a tragic plot point is nice to see in this film too, until Sierra comes barreling in of course. Trying to hide her voice so Jamey doesn’t recognise her as the person he’s been talking to on the phone Sierra opts not to say anything at all and lets her best friend tell Jamey she is his deaf half-sister. Things get much worse when Jamey introduces Ty, telling him that Sierra is also deaf and so Ty signs to her and she just looks at him confused before making some terrible attempt at signing and making an idiot out of herself. Cochise Zorzona who plays Ty is actually deaf and he ended up being used purely to set up a terribly insulting joke – pretending to be deaf is not okay and nor is using it as a butt of a joke.
Trans and Queer bashing is ANOTHER thing that this film seems to think is okay. Mere minutes into the film we have a joke about Sierra being trans because she doesn’t look stereotypical unfeminine, we have jokes about AIDS, Veronica’s mother saying her father would die if he thought she was gay, Dan making a hermaphrodite joke and telling Jamey that Sierra has “all lady parts” again insulting trans and other gender non conforming or gender neutral people.
There’s also the problem of the non consentural kiss, this was put across in the film as a silly but cute little moment where Jamey thinks he’s about to kiss Veronica when she tells him to close her eyes and he instead ends up unknowingly kissing Sierra when the two switch places for a moment. Can you just imagine for a moment that you go to kiss someone you’ve been on a date with, or even your partner or similar and it turns out you get tricked and kiss someone you don’t know and had no intention of kissing. You would be angry, upset and mortified surely? Consent is such an important topic for young people to grasp and showinig this hugely not okay breach of that and portraying it as a cute moment is damaging.
Account Hacking and generally being a crappy friend is just another of Sierras crappy talents. When Jamey kisses Veronica (as he thinks they’re dating and have already kissed once this doesn’t seem ouf of the ordinary) Sierra sees and becomes incredibly jealous and upset, although I can understand seeing someone you like kiss someone else is sucky she has absoloutley NO ONE to blame but herself and maliciously done or not it is never okay to react the way she does. Sierra goes on to hack into Veronicas instagram account (One of her closeest friends at this point by the way) calling her stupid and uploads a picture of Veronica with the guy she had tried so hard to win back and was then dumped by again after he got what he wanted, she had told Sierra how hurt and upset she was by this and Sierra thinks this is an okay thing to then post on Veronicas account with a note saying “dumped over DM”. The picture is predictably seen by the entire school and another student broardcasts it over the football game where Jamey sees it and is understandably incredibly upset and confused. Veronica is honestly one of the best characters in this film and the way she is treated by Sierra is disgusting and the fact that Veronica forigves her and even helps persuade Jamey to give Sierra a chance that she does not deserve is painful.
I do want to say that as a plus size woman to begin with I had high hopes for this film. I loved that Sierra was confident despite the way some of the kids at school treated her and out of context some of the things he says to Sierra at the end of the film were beautiful and I cried because hearing those things as a teenager would quite possibly have changed my life.
“…You’re exactly my type. I mean, you’re smart and funny and beautiful and talented.”
Jamey is also shown to be a little nervous about his appearance and the scene where he’s trying to take a shirtless picture to send to Sierra/Veronica is pretty adorable and highlights that guys can be nervous and hard of themselves as well. Then there’s also the song Sierra writes for class “Sunflower”, despite a lot of the events in the film I adore this song and listen to it quite a lot. These things that I did like don’t make it okay but I didn’t think it would be fair to not include them.
This makes me even sadder becasue I think this could really have been a film to challenge appearance sterotypes but this one message feels like it’s burried under so much horrible stuff that it gets lost. Not to mention that it makes it look like girls who aren’t “sterotypically beautiful” can only get the guys they like by lying to them and pretending to be someone else.
Even more dissapointing was this film could have been brilliant, it had the potential to be on the same level as some of the other great rom coms on Netflix right now and shed some light on important topics as well as being chock full of representation but how meaningful is that representation when a lot of the people it’s meant to represent are being made fun of in the films material?
I promise I’m done now! Have you seen the film? If so what did you think of it? I know a lot of people, including my husband actually really enjoyed it but I also know I’m not alone in being pretty peeved off about a fair bit of this film. I always find it interesting the different things different people take away from books and films etc.