Within the last year, Netflix has been releasing original young adult films intended to inspire, and I guess, motivate the youth of today. Specifically, films like “Sierra Burgess is a Loser,” “Swiped” and more recently “Tall Girl” are supposed to promote themes of self-love, representation and body positivity. However, despite the fact that these films pride themselves on mainly having these sort of ‘self love’ tropes– they fall far from it. Like very far– and it’s been pissing me off.
The biggest problem with the films being released from places like Netflix is that they take great concepts that can do a lot of good in the world and trash them to the point of no return. Trust me, there’s a lot of things on a technical level that are also wrong with these films, such as the writing and overall production, but on a moral level the messages they depict are nothing but short of what they’re trying to attempt. They are not projecting good messages at all and it’s extremely frustrating. For example, in films like “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” and “Tall Girl,” the main characters are selfish and terrible people that use what they don’t like about their body as a defense for why they are bad people. Look, we’re all flawed, but terrible people are terrible people. If you’re an awful friend or you hurt someone, you have to own up to your mistakes. These characters promote that just because you are bullied you must be an awful human being to everyone else around you. It’s one of the oldest sayings in the book, but beauty is not just an outside thing. What makes someone truly beautiful is when they’re kind, compassionate or understanding. We should be teaching more of that and less about the negative ways to deal with your insecurities.
Not to mention, a lot of these main female leads who are a part of the ‘self-love’ trope still rely heavily on validation from a male character. They don’t learn to love themselves fully until they get this stamp of approval from their male love interest. It’s kind of infuriating when these characters are supposed to be models for female empowerment and self-reliance, but fall short and only demonstrate an unhealthy sort of reliance on what other people think.
Overall, there is still such a disappointing and underwhelming amount of representation in these films. I don’t understand why something like Netflix can’t make a good teen film representing those voices who haven’t had much of a chance to really get properly represented within the media– like the LBGTQ+ youth or females of color. There are so many more deserving and unrepresented communities that should have a relatable teenage comedy.
It’s also not like Netflix can’t do this. They’ve done it before with the 2018 film “Dumplin” which is possibly the only good self-love film I can think of that they produced (and only because it was based off a book). In “Dumplin,” the female characters all learn to accept each other by the end and love their bodies. It was so positively perfect for girls who struggle with body images. Netflix can clearly do it, so why don’t they? Why do they keep producing garbage?
I guess what I’m ultimately trying to say here is: just stop. If companies like Netflix are going to keep putting out these films that are supposed to teach valuable lessons and tell teens it’s okay to be yourself – then put actual good content out there. Put content that kids can be proud of and refer back to as the show or the film that taught them that they’re not alone. Just give the people what they want. Give us a good film with quality and relatable representation that teaches actual self-love. Stop half-assing it and actually try for once.