Director Ian Samuels’ Netflix original film, “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser,” had the ambitious intent to reiterate how society should not dictate the definition of beauty. Oh, how far he fell.
The film encompasses the story of Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser), a supposedly hideous outcast. Sierra is labeled a deformed hunchback figure by most of her fellow peers. None deliver harsher blows than Queen B — and I do mean B — also known as Veronica (Kristine Froseth).
Veronica plays the cliche role of the dazzling cheerleader and head of the so-called high school food chain.
Contrary to the beliefs of her peers, Sierra is a typical teenage girl. She plays the clarinet in her high school band. She both admires and lives in her father’s unearthly shadow of fame as an established author, and she’s planning her departure to college from the safe haven of high school.
Except, for Sierra, high school isn’t so safe. To my delight, Sierra refused to allow the malicious comments of Veronica and others dent her exterior confidence. There were multiple scenes where Veronica and other students would hurl biting insults at Sierra, and she would let them bounce right off. She comes off as content with herself and hits her enemies with nothing more than grace and charming wit.
Even when Veronica gives Sierra’s phone number to a quarterback from another school as a cruel joke, Sierra is unaltered. This is why it was so outrageously out of character when Sierra began to catfish Jamey (Noah Centineo).
Jamey, the star football player, texts the number with the expectation of getting to know Veronica.
In exchange for tutoring Veronica, Sierra tricks Jamey into believing the person he is talking to over the phone is actually Veronica, with her help. Thus, the two spend several weeks catfishing Jamey in the most cringe-worthy manner.
Though it was never suggested by her original confidence, because Sierra is supposedly insecure of her physical appearance, she fears telling Jamey the truth because she assumes he would never date someone that looks like her. This underlying factor of insecurity is supposed to make manipulating Jamey acceptable, although, her best friend Dan (RJ Cyler), who is the jewel of this movie, does briefly mention that it is “very bad” what Sierra is doing.
Regardless, it is almost entirely glossed over that Sierra not only stole weeks of Jamey’s life, but manipulated him into revealing intimate parts of himself to a fabricated person. Here’s the rub: Because Sierra is a girl, this movie is supposed to come off as a charming romantic comedy where the football player falls for the atypical and beautiful-despite-her-size girl.
Instead, the movie depicts a stalker, romanticizes catfishing and belittles the true nature of body positivity. If the roles were reversed, and Sierra was a Silas and two boys were catfishing her to this level of dedication, there would be outrage. Thus, Sierra represents the opposite of what feminism and body positivity movements stand for. To say Samuels fell short of his ultimate goal of redefining society’s standards is a gross understatement.
You can now stream “Sierra Burgess Is A Loser” on Netflix.