Is Sierra Burgess a loser, or just a disappointment?

Caroline White

Sierra Burgess is a Loser is a romance film in which the story of a complicated “relationship” between a high school football player and a marching a band flutist unfolds. The Netflix original movie was released on August 30, 2018. In the wake of the Netflix original movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, released just 13 days prior, much excitement surrounded the initial release of the movie. Unfortunately, the movie did not live up to all its hype.

Sierra Burgess, portrayed by Shannon Purser, is a high school “loser” and member of the marching band. The movie also draws attention to the fact that she is a larger girl, which is seen as a negative in the story. Her size and appearance cause her to feel as though the boy she likes could not love her for who she is.

Now, let me stop right there. There are a few things wrong with the way Sierra is portrayed: firstly and most importantly, this movie blatantly casts a negative light on being a girl who is overweight. As a teenage girl I have been taught that all bodies are beautiful, so I cannot help but disagree with the way that Sierra’s appearance is dealt with in the movie. Other kids make fun of her, and she shames herself as well. Sierra is also, obviously, called a “loser.” This puts everything that Sierra is under the umbrella term of “loser”: a member of the marching band, not skinny, and unpopular. In this day and age, it is so important that we love ourselves, and this movie encourages exactly the opposite.

Another problem is the stereotype placed on “popular” girl Veronica. Played by Kristine Froseth, she is portrayed as stupid as she is failing her classes, mean-spirited, dependent on her boyfriend, and promiscuous (she mentions that she’s willing to send explicit pictures of herself to a boy). Because we see no other “popular” girls in the movie like Veronica, her character gives the audience the idea that all popular girls are like this.

The current teenage dream of every high school girl, actor Noah Centineo, is also featured in Sierra Burgess is a Loser. Known especially for his heartthrob performance in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, his role in Sierra Burgess is a Loser was a letdown. Cetineo’s character, Jamey, is posed as an immature teenage boy who falls for a mean girl’s prank.

One may say that this movie is an attempt to promote body positivity, but if it is, director Ian Samuels didn’t do a very good job. Throughout the movie, Sierra doesn’t say anything about loving herself or her body. She does, however, complain to her parents about “how it feels to be in high school looking like her.” How is that supposed to make girls with similar body shapes to Sierra feel? Sierra Burgess also isn’t that heavy, which in my opinion sets high standards for girls appearances. One might think, “If that’s how Sierra feels about her body, then how should I feel about mine? My body isn’t all that different than hers.”

Netflix had an opportunity to give us a powerful movie about body positivity, and unfortunately, they didn’t quite seize the opportunity. After the excitement of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I was disappointed by this movie. Better luck next time, Netflix.