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Sierra or Netflix: who’s the real loser?

By Giovanna Brasolin

With the recent widespread popularity of romantic comedies, people are getting more of a taste for high school-based love stories. After the success of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Kissing Booth, another movie titled Sierra Burgess is a Loser gained a lot of attention the past month. Its high expectations fell short, concerning a considerable amount of people.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser was released by Netflix on Sep. 7, written by Lindsey Beer and directed by Ian Samuels. The story follows Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser), an overweight unpopular teenager in high school who gets caught up in a lie as Veronica (Kristine Froseth), the most popular girl at school, gives her number to a guy named Jamie (Noah Centineo). Sierra catfishes Jamie by impersonating Veronica, but in the end, she decides to come clean upon realizing what she was doing was wrong.

One reason why the expectations for this movie weren’t met was due to the great controversies surrounding it. The main topic addressed in it is fat-shaming and the varying opinions on the choice of the lead actress, since she’s used as the stereotypical view of what an ugly unpopular girl looks like. We see a similar approach in the Netflix original TV show Insatiable, which was also problematic. However, there’s an interesting factor on how the opening scene of Sierra Burgess was set-up, Sierra is getting ready in the morning, making the audience extremely aware of her body, especially with the camera angle. It’s definitely not what we’re used to see on-screen which is stupid because in reality, she’s just a normal teenage girl.

Other examples would be transphobic comments regarding Sierra’s clothing choices, slut-shaming towards Veronica, non-consensual kissing with Jamie and the mockery of deaf people. The movie included a deaf character as Jamie’s younger brother and Sierra pretends she’s deaf to maintain the lie, taking away from his character.

“Every good movie always has controversial aspects to it and I think that’s what keeps it real,” said Maya Patel,  junior biology major. “It’s sad but unfortunately, that’s what happens in the real world. Movies cannot portray everything in an idealistic fashion. They have to incorporate some realistic elements.”

Considering what’s controversial for some, might not be for others, addressing controversial topics is a good thing as it sheds light onto issues that aren’t as discussed and may be taken in  a new perspective.

The timing might also have played a part in the negative criticism around it as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Kissing Booth did address issues, but were mostly focused on the positive aspects of life as opposed to a life full of insults lived by Sierra. It’s not surprising that people would prefer a movie with more positive content, but comparing them is unfair. The movie might have had another impact in the general audience if it was released at another time but with that negativity surrounding her, Sierra was still very self-assured and could bounce back from almost all of the insulting  comments thrown at her. It serves as an example that nothing is black and white, there’s a gray in between.

“I would say that the message is ultimately loving and being your authentic self as well as knowing your worth,” said Claire Emerson, senior communication major. “There’s no one like you and you can’t be like anyone else.We say that we have flaws, but other people see those in you as what makes you good.”

The overall message is self-awareness, self-love and embracing your whole self. Another important lesson is that it’s vital for one to be true to themselves  as well as others since trust is the key to every good relationship.

Life has bad sides to it and so should movies, especially for those looking for relatable and realistic features. Having movies that only show positive and happy things would not only be boring but also far-fetched. However, for Sierra Burgess is a Loser to have such a strong representation of concerning issues and still have a strong message about self-love is very admirable.

Giovanna Brasolin can be reached at g.maistrobrasolin@spartans.ut.edu

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