Sierra Burgess IS a Loser: A Review of the Controversial Netflix Film


Image via Netflix

  On Aug. 30, Netflix released a new original movie, “Sierra Burgess is a Loser,” that fans were eagerly anticipating. Part of it might have been that actor Noah Centineo (the boy who took all of our hearts in “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”) was starring in it, or that we would get the romantic-loser-falls-in-love-with-popular-boy movie we all love. People were so excited to see this rom-com hit on Netflix, but unfortunately disappointment soared through the roofs after watching the film.

  The movie started out with Sierra Burgess (played by Shannon Purser), a girl deemed the “biggest loser in school” because of her looks. Despite her not looking like the traditional perspective of physical beauty, Sierra made that up with her charm and wit. When popular girl Veronica (Kristine Froseth) gave Sierra’s number as a mean joke to cute yet clumsy boy Jamey (Noah Centineo), this led to Sierra catfishing him as Veronica. She didn’t believe Jamey would actually love her for what she looked like.

  The film proved to be a disaster as it romanticized catfishing as well as brought out a theme of “fat-phobia.” Sierra was continually bullied because she was fat. Despite her ‘oh I don’t care’ attitude, she became insecure about her looks when a boy started texting her, so she pretended she was someone else. They disrespectfully added sign language into the film, making it look like a joke to be played with by the protagonist — which she did. Sierra was scared Jamey would find out her identity because of their phone calls, so she started doing sign language and mimicked Jamey’s younger brother who was actually deaf.  

   The aesthetic appeal of the film was nonexistent, and for “representation,” they simply pushed through a single African-American best friend in an all-white cast. Netflix did not deliver after the incredible success of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” which attained excellent Asian representation, included a color-graded set and gave us a protagonist that we could all relate and look up to. Such achievements by its predecessor only highlighted the “Sierra Burgess’” failures even more. It seemed as though Netflix needed to set their teenage perspectives straight as they were sending inaccurate representations and wrong messages.

   At first glance, the character of Sierra Burgess seemed rather interesting as she represented plus-sized teenage girls as well as ambitious students who simply wanted to get in the college of their dreams. It was disappointing to see her character development flop throughout the duration of the film.

  Sierra who, yes, had the right to feel insecure like every other person on the planet, played with Jamey’s feelings while catfishing him for weeks, letting him believe she was someone else. She also backstabbed Veronica — who had become her other best friend — after witnessing Jamey kiss her. We must note that Sierra was the one who pushed Veronica to pretend she was her; that Jamey didn’t know anything at all; Jamey had no clue that it was Sierra that actually kissed him with the switch-kissing scene without any consent.

  Some people may argue that it was perfectly fine for Sierra to end up with him because fat people deserve happy endings and that you should look at what’s inside instead. Everything about this sentiment is completely wrong because “being fat” does not excuse Sierra for catfishing a poor, clueless guy and backstabbing her friend for something that was her doing in the first place. Jamey didn’t even try to talk to her again about her catfishing and, instead, forgave her after Veronica asked him to go to homecoming with Sierra. This gave the audience, especially younger kids, the impression that true love could be found even if you catfished the person.

  Veronica possessed an incredible potential for character development as she develops a friendship with Sierra after being prejudiced against her. She is seen to display a more well-written development compared to the actual protagonist. She is first seen as shallow and mean, but after getting her heart broken, she indulges herself into rigorous studying and slowly befriends Sierra. After her college boyfriend dumps her again, she comes to better terms with herself and becomes a better person and student as well. The only disappointing thing that really flopped was her rushed forgiveness of Sierra towards the end of the film, which was morally good but artistically not inadequate.

  Sierra’s other best friend at the start of the film, Dan, proved to be useless and inconsistent throughout the movie. We believe he was simply placed in the film for representation and possible comic relief, but his poorly-written character did not really assist with the hero’s problems. The film could have honestly gone through without his existence.

  The conclusion of the film was very rushed, providing some narration instead of a good final scene. It just showed scenes that were shown earlier in the movie and blurbs saying what the characters are doing in the future. It showed that Sierra did, in fact, get accepted to the college of her dreams, which was yet another thing the writers didn’t really develop. It would have been interesting to see the struggle she put up in dealing with college applications, rejections and redemptions. But no, the writers just put the segment into a neat and tidy box to end the film.

   So yes, Sierra Burgess really IS a loser. Not because of her looks or the size of her body, but because of the poor choices she made that affected other people as well. In this, we learn that we shouldn’t simply force representation just for the sake of satisfying “diversity” without clear character context, and that being “different” does not just excuse someone from doing bad things.