September 06, 2018
2018 is an astonishing time to release a rom-com this glib about consent.
Netflix’s ‘Sierra Burgess Is A Loser’ Fails To Make Catfishing Romantic
That romantic comedies often endorse behavior that would land real lovelorn suitors in prison has become a truism, and a well-grounded one. The genre abounds with grand gestures that smack of stalking and flirtations that should be considered minor sex crimes.
After watching “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser,” though, I have to admit that it’s been a while since I’ve seen a rom-com that could so easily be re-edited into a psychological thriller.
Netflix recently saw enormous success, both critically and popularly, with a classic but well-executed romance trope: the fake relationship in “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” The streaming platform’s latest teen flick also turns to a time-tested plot. “Sierra Burgess” is a modern retelling of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” a tale that surely seemed ripe for rebooting in the internet era. Cyrano was the large-nosed hero of a 19th-century play who wrote romantic letters to the woman he loved, Roxane, on behalf of a handsomer man she preferred, but who lacked the wit to impress her intellectually. (Perhaps the most famous Hollywood adaptation is Steve Martin’s “Roxanne,” in which he wore a comically pointy false nose.)
But in bringing Cyrano, the original catfish, to a modern high school, “Sierra Burgess” only magnifies the ethical horror of the trope.
The titular Sierra Burgess (played by Shannon Purser of “Stranger Things” and “Riverdale” fame), our Cyrano, is a bright high schooler and social outcast; she lacks the taut, tiny beauty of a standard rom-com heroine, which is posited as the reason for her lack of popularity. She has one close friend, Dan (RJ Cyler). Her father (Alan Ruck), a brilliant novelist, bonds with her by making her identify the authors of passages he recites to her off the top of his head. Her mother (Lea Thompson), a gorgeous self-help author and speaker, tries to buoy her awkward daughter with affirmation mnemonics.
Her greatest tormenter, a popular cheerleader named Veronica (Kristine Froseth), sneers at her in the hallway, openly wondering what it’s like to be a reject, before stealing Sierra’s bulletin board flyer advertising her tutoring services. Later, when a hot boy from a rival school, Jamey (“To All The Boys” star Noah Centineo), approaches Veronica at a diner to ask for her number, she smilingly offers Sierra’s instead.
“Why would you do that?” her friend asks. “He’s, like, flash-your-boobs-in-Cancun hot.”
Glancing at the boy’s two less-attractive friends, Veronica sniffs, “Only losers hang out with losers.” Besides, she’s not interested in a cute high school boy ― she has a college boyfriend, Spence.
When Sierra starts getting texts ― including shirtless selfies ― from a handsome young man she’s never met, she quickly goes gooey over him. She’s soon horrified to discover he thinks she’s Veronica. But when Veronica gets dumped by Spence, who tells her that she’s not smart enough for his college buddies, Sierra sees an opening: She’ll teach Veronica how to sound smart in front of a college freshman (rather hilariously, by describing Nietzsche as a sexy, depressed German vampire), and Veronica will provide seductive selfies and cover for her in case Jamey approaches her in real life.
Netflix’s ‘Sierra Burgess Is A Loser’ Fails To Make Catfishing Romantic
When her bestie Dan hears about the scheme, he aptly describes this as catfishing, an accusation that is quickly brushed aside. But he’s right ― and the fact that we now have a word for what’s happening is emblematic of what has changed since the last major Cyrano-style rom-com. The plot of Cyrano is no longer wildly implausible. It’s commonplace.
“I know that he’s imagining her when he’s talking to me,” Sierra tells Dan. “But they’re my words. He’s falling for me.” The words matter, sure. But we’ve seen scenarios like Sierra’s play out again and again on the MTV documentary show “Catfish,” and here’s what happens at the end, pretty much 100 percent of the time: The catfisher and the mark do not end up together. Their romantic interest was largely based on their belief that the catfisher looked like a model; any appreciation for their personality does not generate sexual attraction for their physical form. (All the betrayal doesn’t help either.)
To overcome this plausibility gap, Sierra needs to seduce the audience, as well as Jamey, with her wit. Instead, their text and phone conversations are almost unbearably generic. They exchange goofy pictures of animals. On the phone, she peppers him with questions straight from a bargain-bin conversation-starter anthology: What animal would you be? What’s your favorite movie? Jamey gets the best lines, revealing that although he’s the high school quarterback, he’s also a sensitive, cerebral guy who sees football as a form of storytelling and is fascinated by the science of the universe.
When Sierra begs Veronica to take her place on a date with Jamey, she listens behind his parked Jeep (yes, she hides behind his car in a dark parking lot, nothing disturbing to see here) as he articulates his interest in the stars. She texts Veronica an appropriately deep and intellectual rejoinder: “I wonder if a star knows that it shines.” I had to pause the movie to pummel a couch pillow.
When I unpaused, the scene only got grimmer: Jamey tries to kiss Veronica, who stops him, covers his eyes with her fingers, and summons Sierra to lay one on him instead. The girls’ eyes shine with newly discovered solidarity as they trick a boy into kissing someone he did not consent to kiss.
The blossoming friendship between chilly, guarded Veronica and awkward, intellectually snobby Sierra forms the true heart of this ostensible romance. Both hold each other in disdain at the outset, but come to find genuine pleasure in each other’s company. They’re in on the con together, and so their connection can be honest, despite the very real social barriers between them.
Netflix’s ‘Sierra Burgess Is A Loser’ Fails To Make Catfishing Romantic
But as the movie crashes toward a standard rom-com conclusion, Sierra’s betrayals of those she claims to care about grow increasingly reckless and cruel. She’s finally confronted with how her self-perception ― as a victim, not a perpetrator ― has allowed her to hurt others. But oddly, the film does not ask her to redeem herself. She’s allowed to retreat into self-pity about her unconventional looks and her loneliness, and to be rewarded with a happy ending anyway.
As much as I love seeing him work his eyebrows onscreen, this time it’s not so satisfying to see the criminally charismatic Centineo declare his feelings to the no-longer-overlooked girl of his dreams. It feels unearned, unwarranted and underwhelming.
“Sierra Burgess” is anchored by three powerful leads ― Purser, Centineo and Froseth all bring charm, warmth and nuance to characters who could easily be flat or, in Purser’s and Froseth’s case, simply repellent.
It’s a shame that their skilled performances can’t soar due to the weight of the rest of the movie ― not just the eyebrow-raising plot, but the murky, depressing lighting more fit for the above-mentioned psychological thriller than a teen rom-com, and numerous offensive throwaway lines about weight, gender and sexuality.
(The dialogue is littered with casual transphobia and homophobia that goes almost entirely unchallenged. Sierra’s agreed-upon unattractiveness is conflated with her being a lesbian, a man and even a hermaphrodite.)
In the wake of Netflix’s catastrophic “Insatiable,” “Sierra Burgess” hardly registers on the scale of body negativity. But the underlying lesson ― that it’s what’s on the inside that counts ― strikes a similar chord. While Sierra comes to be loved for her words, the implication that she couldn’t also be desired for her body lingers. But what teenage girl (or anyone, really) wants to be loved in spite of her looks? Girls like Veronica are not the only ones who can or should hope to be found physically desirable, just as girls like Sierra are not the only ones who can or should hope to be found interesting for their minds.
This flaw ― the insinuation that some of us can only be loved in spite of our looks ― seems baked into the Cyrano trope, though perhaps a more creative adaptation could avoid it. What seems harder to avoid are any troubling messages about consent.
We all have the tools, now, to lie to people about what we look like to gain their romantic interest. We also have the tools to talk about how harmful it is. 2018 is an astonishing time to release a movie that portrays it as romantic and daring to trick a boy into kissing you by pretending you’re someone else. If we want a successful catfishing rom-com ― and hey, I’m all for trying! ― we’re going to have to come up with something less creepy than that.
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Julia Fox defends viral ‘Uncut Gems’ interview moment: ‘I was stoned’ | Page Six Celebrity News
February 17, 2022
4m-p0_-ePd8
Alexia Echevarria pushed ‘RHOM’ producers to show more of son Frankie’s recovery | Page Six
February 17, 2022
E-wTaN9NfkI
Pete Davidson rejoins Instagram amid Kanye West drama | Page Six Celebrity News
February 17, 2022
SsC3dmsI6t4
Aaron Rodgers And Shailene Woodley Reportedly Break Up | TMZ LIVE
February 17, 2022
FoErdRE8Qe4
Chet Hanks Done Talking About Famous Parents, Becoming Personal Trainer | TMZ
February 16, 2022
5_UrULOkQ6o
Woman Stabbed at Foot Locker During Nike Shoe Release
February 16, 2022
TfuXMs1JdVg
Steph's Freaky Side, "Summer House" & "Love During Lockup"
February 17, 2022
9W_raO0zlA8
Tay or Nay, Offset's Sushi Anxiety & Nick on Monogamy
February 17, 2022
PauYHpJRA6o
Kim Kardashian & North West TWINNING in Matching Pajamas | E! News
February 17, 2022
b-_Oib6R108
Adam McKay - Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony
February 17, 2022
tYtzsHoOZzo
Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, and the Cast of 'Uncharted' Talk Most Challenging Stunts
February 15, 2022
d3ksX-SKi8c
Ryan Reynolds and Walker Scobell on ‘The Adam Project’, ‘Deadpool’, and Possible ‘Star Wars’ Role
February 16, 2022
5TxJsbJr9Dk
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
04
May
CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Playoffs
Seattle Sounders - Pumas
04
May
USA: Major League Soccer
FC Cincinnati - Toronto FC
03
May
ENGLAND: Championship
Bournemouth - Nottingham Forest
02
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Brentford
02
May
ENGLAND: Championship
Fulham - Luton
02
May
SPAIN: La Liga
Getafe - Real Betis
02
May
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen - Eintracht Frankfurt
02
May
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Monchengladbach - RB Leipzig
02
May
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Salernitana
01
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur - Leicester City
01
May
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Mallorca
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
Roma - Bologna
01
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Ham United - Arsenal
01
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
Everton - Chelsea
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
Udinese - Inter Milan
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Fiorentina
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Venezia
01
May
SPAIN: La Liga
Rayo Vallecano - Real Sociedad
30
Apr
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Mainz - Bayern Munich
30
Apr
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Dortmund - Bochum
30
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Newcastle United - Liverpool
30
Apr
SPAIN: La Liga
Athletic Bilbao - Atletico Madrid
30
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leeds - Manchester City
30
Apr
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Madrid - Espanyol
30
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Sassuolo
28
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Chelsea
27
Apr
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Semifinal
Liverpool - Villarreal
27
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Bologna - Inter Milan
26
Apr
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Semifinal
Manchester City - Real Madrid
25
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Sassuolo - Juventus
24
Apr
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Rayo Vallecano
24
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - AC Milan
24
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Everton
24
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - West Ham United
24
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Empoli - Napoli
23
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Brentford - Tottenham Hotspur
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
zWJ3MxW_HWA L1eLanNeZKg i1XRgbyUtOo -g9Qziqbif8 0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.