Sierra Burgess is a Loser–Our generation’s problematic, John Hughes movie

I’m convinced that someone froze John Hughes’s brain in an ice cooler and pulled a Dr. Frankenstein because misunderstood teenagers have made a comeback!

 Sierra Burgess played by Shannon Purser is a high school upperclassman who doesn’t fit the mold of conventional beauty. She instead makes up for it in intellect, wittiness, and a sense of self. She starts texting Jamey, an ethnically ambiguous version of Emilio Estevez, who describes football through novel, flowery prose and spends his free time throwing football with his ten-year old brother. This wholesome, pure man thinks he is actually texting Veronica, a girl who bullies Sierra like it’s a part-time job. Nevertheless, Sierra continues to talk to him pretending to be Veronica and quickly starts falling in love with him without thinking about the repercussions.

Let’s call this movie what it is: a catfish tale romanticized. Nev and Max would have a field day with this story.

Sierra is suppose to be a protagonist we relate to and the writers make sure we know that by giving her the Molly Ringwald starter pack. Her best friend/sidekick is a modified Duckie with all the quirkiness and dorkiness sans the whole arc where he’s in love with her. She gets passed the social, high school hierarchy and becomes close friends with the girl that bullied her in the first place. She gets to give a big emotional, angsty speech about how hard it is being a regular, teenage girl. To some extent the relatability does get through, but let’s be honest with ourselves: Sierra Burgess is problematic as hell.

Noah Centineo’s character Jamey is being lied to this whole entire time, and the audience is told to be okay with this because Sierra is a girl who has body image issues, so let’s just let her have this one. Jamey is reduced to a hot jock who happens to be sweet. The character lacks so much dimension that we forget that what Sierra is doing to this boy is so terrible. My love for Noah makes me hurt and sympathize for him, but as a female who had to see girls being treated the same way in movies for decades–I don’t know–I feel like my fellow sisters and I have been avenged. Nevertheless, it was uncomfortable to watch, and Jamey He-doesn’t-have-a-last-name-so-I’am-going-to-make-one-up-for-him McGee deserved better.

Apparently, this movie is based of Cyrano de Bergerac (which is mind-blowing for me since I read it in my English class during high school), so I can appreciate the attempt at a modern, gender-bended twist of the original, but the shoddy treatment of the characters lead to the movie’s ultimate downfall. This isn’t the first time a teenage romantic comedy is controversial. Just look at most John Hughes movies: Bender slut-shaming Claire at her most vulnerable, the racist caricature that is Long Duk Dong, Ferris Bueller taking Cameron’s obvious trouble with his mental health lightly, etc. That doesn’t mean we are going to stop watching them though. Sierra Burgess is a Loser is just that: a romantic comedy you cannot take seriously though it wants to be oh-so badly, so we just forget about it for a few seconds and enjoy what they kind of got right. Bullies like Veronica can and often do change for the better; boys don’t have to adhere to toxic masculinity in order to be validated; positive, supporting friendships are just as–sometimes more–important than romantic ones.

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