“Sierra Burgess is a Loser” : Controversially adorkable

By Daniela Gloster, Senior Writer

Sierra Burgess is a catfisher. Sierra Burgess is imperfect. And yes, Sierra Burgess is a loser.

Much like the Netflix movie itself, the characters within it live in the grey area between being relatable and cringe-inducing. I began the movie desperately wanting to like it; after all, it was a movie made for me, complete with a marching band, drama and just the right number of literary jokes.  This sentiment was only furthered by a truly adorkable opening sequence; the typical movie montage of a girl stepping out of the shower, complete with a fogged over mirror and funky background music. Only, this one ends with the fog being wiped away by a girl, protagonist Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser), who when met with a reflection of her own pimpled, imperfect face, promptly proclaims that she is “a magnificent beast.” I was excited for the rest of the movie, looking forward to what I assumed would be a heartwarming high school story about body-positivity and self-acceptance.

When I closed my laptop nearly two hours later, the first thing I did was text my best friendabout how lacking the movie made me feel about both my life and my high school experience. Feel good movie this was not, and yet something about the honest humanity injected into every moment made me look forward to watching it again.

The movie begins with Veronica (Kristine Froseth), a classic mean girl, giving a boy, Jamey (Noah Centineo), Sierra’s number instead of her own because she deems him uncool. The boy then texts Sierra, believing it’s Veronica.  Through his and “Veronica’s” text relationship, romance and hilarity ensue. Right? Unfortunately not. I struggled to enjoy the rest of the film because it was based around such an invasion of privacy and trust that it was incredibly hard to sympathize with Sierra.

Seemingly born without a moral compass, the most polarizing character of the whole film was easily Sierra Burgess herself. She was hilariously relatable and quirky, but also cringy and downright cruel. On Jamey and Veronica’s first date (Sierra convinces Veronica to go and pretend that it’s been her all along), when Jamey and Veronica are about to have their first kiss, Veronica has Jamey cover his eyes and Sierra slips in and kisses him instead. This was a huge invasion of Jamey’s trust and consent but the movie glossed over it, presumably under the premise of it being okay because Sierra is a “loser.”  Sierra’s gleeful face as she ran away, reveling in the kiss, made my stomach drop because it felt as though the movie was saying that this, a kiss meant for someone prettier, was the best us “losers” could hope to get. And in that, lies my main issue with the movie; for a movie intended to break stereotypes, it only affirmed high school stereotypes more than anything.

Let’s be frank—if a “pretty” person had done just a few of the terrible things Sierra did in the movie, they would be villainized to no end, but the movie seemed to say that since Sierra was ugly and a loser, it was okay. Even by the end of the movie, when Sierra logs into Veronica’s Instagram and exposes a personal detail about Veronica to all of her followers, there are no consequences. Veronica’s understandably upset, and yet, ten minutes later, they’re hugging like long lost friends at Homecoming. Furthermore, Jamey and Sierra end up together, and she receives nothing but a slight chastising from him. Sierra is given essentially no consequences for her actions; not only does she end up okay, but actually happier than she was at the beginning of the movie.

However, there were bright spots in the movie, or rather, bright characters. Surprisingly, Veronica, who started out as a one-dimensional mean girl, but as her family is introduced, her storyline deepens. When her mother,played wonderfully by Chrissy Metz, barges into Veronica’s room to reprimand her for studying because it “won’t get her far with the boys,” it’s clear Veronica’s life isn’t all she makes it out to be. But throughout the movie, she learns her worth in the world and stands up to her mother in small, organic ways that show how much she’s grown. By the end, she was still a little shallow, even a little dumb, but she had grown into so much more of a dimensional character that I loved her for it, flaws and all. Veronica, along with Sierra’s best friend Daniel (RJ Cyler), represented what I loved about the movie, and the reasons I would unquestionably watch it again (and again). Daniel was hysterically relatable, making me consistently laugh at every word that came out of his mouth as well as providing the main voice of reason throughout the movie, warning Sierra against catfishing Jamey and acting as Sierra’s moral compass when she had gone too far.

But what ultimately sold me was how every character, particularly Daniel, had feelings. That may not sound like a lot to ask for, but when the best friend/sidekick role is normally played by a one-dimensional wisecracking cardboard cut-out, it’s refreshing to see that part played by a human. Daniel wasn’t just a sidekick, but a real person with real feelings. Those little touches of humanity helped solidify the best positive message I gleaned from the movie: we’re only human, and that’s okay.

However, where “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” came up short was in its final messages. The movie left a message of accepting flaws, but also portrayed certain people as being less worthy than others of love and acceptance. At times, it seemed to say to me that a quirky personality was preferred, but a hot body was required. In the big scene at the end where Jamey asks Sierra to homecoming (inexplicably forgiving her for lying to him), he says, perhaps in an effort to be romantic, that she “might not exactly be everybody’s type […] but she’s ‘his’ type.” I was disappointed. I had expected a big ending about body positivity and how character is more important than looks. While I didn’t get my happy ending, the movie felt like an honest portrayal of high school; high school isn’t perfect, and people don’t always say what you need them to

“Sierra Burgess is a Loser” is categorized as a romantic comedy on Netflix, but if that’s what you’re looking for, I’d look elsewhere, as all this movie made me feel in the romance department was like, well, a loser.  But if you want an honest and relatable, though admittedly flawed, movie that might make you feel just a little bit less alone at one in the morning then this is the movie for you. At the end of the day, the characters are high schoolers just like us, and every bit as funny, flawed, insecure and wonderfully human too.