The coming of age teenage genre is not new to viewers, from “Breakfast Club” to “Mean Girls” – we’ve seen them all. But, no matter how much time passes, this genre will always be a popular one. It’s one of the most relatable genres because everyone goes through that confusing teen phase at least once in their life. That being said, there are only so many coming of age films that can pull it off and “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” is not one of them.
Premiering on Sept. 7, this teen romantic-comedy is not the first of a long string of teenage Netflix romances such as “The Kissing Booth” and “To All the Boys I Loved Before.” The film stars Shannon Purser (“Stranger Things”) as Sierra Burgess, a smart but unpopular girl who takes pride in who she is. After receiving a mysterious text from sweet quarterback Jamey (Noah Centineo), Sierra quickly forms a relationship with him, only to realize Jamey thinks he’s texting popular cheerleader Veronica (Kristine Froseth). Feeling like Jamey will not accept her for her looks, Sierra enlists the help of Veronica in exchange of tutoring. The two girls soon grow close as they conspire to continuously trick Jamey.
To begin, this is, yet again, a movie written by someone who clearly doesn’t understand anything about the new generation. There are a lot of the cliche and corny “Millennials and Gen Z are shallow because of technology” jokes that don’t really flow well and feel quite forced. However, the biggest thing is the unrealistic high school social dynamic. Bullying is very much alive today, especially cyberbullying, but the social dynamic of this entire high school felt way too much like it was trying to copy a 1980s movie or some teen movie from 2002. Specifically with big bad generic cheerleader bully Veronica, who insults people like it’s 1993.
Something in particular didn’t make a lot of sense either. Sierra, who is a very smart and a very involved student, plans to apply to Stanford but the guidance counselor straight up tells her there’s no way she’ll get in unless she starts a social media movement or does something remarkable like join the boys track team. Not only is this ridiculous but it also put unrealistic expectations on a teenage girl. College applications are crazy full of expectations we don’t understand, but the overhype this movie provides is totally and completely unrealistic. Sierra, who has perfect straight As and does plenty of extracurriculars, would’ve gotten into Stanford just fine.
Not to mention, the 1980s vibe this film kept so desperately trying to cling onto makes it absolutely awful. The character of Jamey is sweet and kind, but also basically a rip off of Chad Michael Murray’s character in the 2004 film “Cinderella Story” (which is arguably much more positive than this movie). He’s the popular quarterback with a sensitive side. Sure, he’s perfect but so overused. Not only that, but after getting deceived and manipulated by Sierra and Veronica, he still gets together with Sierra in the end. So not only is he overused, he also has poor judgement.
There were also a couple of scenes that were cringey and have caused controversy on social media. In one particular scene, Sierra pretends to be deaf so Jamey doesn’t realize she’s the person that’s been texting her. During this scene her friend, Dan (RJ Cyler), tries to prove she’s deaf by calling her a “hermaphrodite” to show she can’t hear. The film also gets tasteless with the jokes that Sierra is a lesbian and, at one point, transgender. Writer Lindsey Beer said this all came from personal experiences in a private twitter conversation released to the public. However, a lot of people over social media were still not pleased. Deaf model, Nyle DiMarco took to twitter saying: “So one of my close friends’ deaf brother is in Sierra Burgess. When I learned, I was elated. Finally more deaf actors/representation & ASL inclusion in films…Only to find out the deaf character was written and used for a terrible joke. PS- pretending to be deaf is NOT ok.” DiMarco went on to talk more on twitter how these deaf and LGBT jokes were insulting to both communities.
The biggest disappointment of them all was the fact that this movie could’ve done a lot for body positivity, but it didn’t. Sierra is proud of who she is, but she is also an awful human being. First, she’s a “catfisher” or an individual who uses a fake identity on a social network account, often for attention seeking, bullying or as a romance scam. There is nothing romantic or glorifiable about catfishing a person. It’s cruel, unkind and kind of illegal. She’s building up this really great, healthy relationship with a boy but deceiving him by not saying who she actually is. Second, (spoiler alert) she gets upset with Veronica due to the fact Jamey kisses Veronica. This is not Veronica’s fault. Jamey thinks that he is dating Veronica, so it is only natural that he tries to lay the moves on her. However, Sierra gets revenge in the most immature and cruel way possible— arguably more cruel than Veronica’s bullying– and that’s by hacking into Veronica’s instagram account and posting humiliating photos of her on there. Then Sierra blames this all on the fact that she’s not pretty and claims that’s why she did all these horrible things. That is anything but a positive role model for young girls. Young girls shouldn’t be using their looks as an excuse for their awful personalities— what does that say to girls struggling with their body image? Arguably, Veronica is a better character due to the fact she learns to love herself by the end of the film and learns to embrace being intelligent and beautiful— something we should be teaching teenagers who are insecure with their flaws.
Finally, by the end of this film no one actually apologizes to anybody. Sierra wrote an okay song as an apology, but how far can that go in real life? Veronica doesn’t actually apologize to Sierra or anyone else for bullying them and one one actually gives Jamey a real apology after basically using him.
To give the movie some credit, there are some salvageable qualities to it. It does deal with realistic anxieties girls and boys get as they try to text the other person they really like. Not to mention this relationship Sierra craves so desperately can be seen as relatable as well. A lot of times we don’t think we’re good enough for the person we’re crushing on and it makes us do some really stupid things. Sierra embraces being a nontraditional teen, but carries her insecurities around, which makes her very human. We can be proud of who we are but still carry the things that make us flawed. Finally, Sierra’s bonding with Veronica and their overall budding friendship was the most likeable aspect of this movie. Two teenage girls overcoming their differences to help realize the others insecurities, and becoming best friends, did make the movie end on a happy note.
“Sierra Burgess is a Loser” has it’s redeeming qualities, but it is still not a positive nor a good movie. Truly, it’s got a lot of overused, cliche and generic themes one could find in a better teen comedy. If you really loved Sharon Purser in “Stranger Things” or Noah Centineo in “To All the Boys I Ever Loved” maybe that’ll be an excuse to watch this movie, but other than that it is not a total must-see. That’s why I give it a solid 4/10.