By SIMONE YU
Sierra Burgess is not only a loser; she is also a full-blown psychopath.
On Sept. 7, Netflix released an original movie, Sierra Burgess is a Loser. This teen rom-com, directed by Ian Samuels, is a modern retelling of the Edmond Rostand play, Cyrano De Bergerac. The film starts with Sierra Burgess—a bright teenager struggling with her appearance— receiving an unexpected text from a cute boy named Jamey. However, in a case of mistaken identity, Jamey believes he is talking to Veronica, the stereotypical “mean” girl at school. Eventually, the two girls agree to join forces to win the hearts of their high school crushes.
Despite the movie’s effort to paint a unique teen romance story based on the “looks don’t matter, just be yourself” cliche, the film simply falls flat. Instead, the audience is met with a creepy and offensive catfishing story.
At the start of the movie, Sierra Burgess, played by Shannon Purser, develops a strange strategy to try and win over Jamey, the boy of her dreams. The audience feels terribly sorry for Jamey as Sierra continually makes desperate efforts to pretend to be the girl he believes he is falling for. As Veronica enters the central plot, the two girls work even harder to play with Jamey’s feelings—highlighting the fact that Sierra is blatantly catfishing him. For example, Sierra pushes Veronica to go on dates with him, too scared to tell him the truth. This continuous progression of lies to Jamey ultimately promotes a message of not being true to yourself, a terrible moral for the audience.
Additionally, the dialogue between the two is cliche and unfulfilling. The supposed “deep” conversations that the two have, mainly through text, all follow a generic question-and-answer guideline, making the chemistry between them seem cheesy and exaggerated. Although the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’s charming Noah Centineo and the Stranger Things sweet Shannon Purser are incredible at acting out the characters “awkward yet cute” personalities, there is little to no spark between the two supposed “soulmates.”
Furthermore, as the protagonist avoids showing her real self to Jamey the screenwriters desperately try to make the audience root for Sierra and her success. To make matters worse, Sierra kisses Jamey without consent, and even has Veronica go on dates with him, brainwashing him into believing he is crazy about the suspicious actions Sierra and Veronica make. Given the fact that Jamey still believes he is dating Veronica with her supposed “intelligent” personality online, it is very hard for the audience to cheer on Sierra. To add on the protagonist’s hideous character, she also begins cyberbullying when she doesn’t have her way, making her even more unlikeable.
Lastly, and possibly the worst part of the movie, are the terrible transphobic, homophobic and disability-teasing “jokes” thrown in the film. For example, a few minutes into the film, Mackenzie, played by Alice Lee, pokes fun at the trans community by jabbing at Sierra that her poem should be “about [her] trans experience, super topical.” It goes without saying that this is extremely offensive. Additionally, Sierra regularly comments on her actions making her seem “lesbian,” all in tones of disgust and annoyance. As if this bit is not insulting enough, the screenwriters poke fun at the disabled community by having Sierra play deaf right in front of Jamey’s actual deaf little brother.
Despite the extreme backlash from media against the movie’s casually thrown in “jokes,” screenwriter Lindsey Beer recently responded to an angry viewer with a “sincere” excuse: “It was not supposed to at all be a joke at the expense of the trans community. The line was supposed to vilify the mean girl, and be the opposite—the example of something only a horrendous human would think or say.” The writer has not publicly apologized or explained the movie’s intent of the lines, further highlighting the shameless mistakes of the film.
Overall, this film is definitely not a winner. From the cringe-worthy, dull “love” between Sierra and Jamey to the terribly offensive jokes, this Netflix original is not only a mediocre love story, but also an offensive eyesore. In the end, Sierra Burgess really IS just a loser.