As a former high school loser, Sierra Burgess is a Loser gives me hope

A movie about teen catfishing has a surprisingly inspirational twist

Sierra sitting in class.
Sierra sitting in class.
Credit: 
Screenshot from Netflix

In a pivotal scene from Netflix’s newest teen romcom, Sierra Burgess is a Loser, the titular character stands in front of her parents, sobbing. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to be a teenage girl and to look like this?” she asks them.

Somewhere deep inside me, my high school self asks the same thing.

Released last week, Sierra Burgess is a Loser follows protagonist, Sierra (played by Shannon Purser), who receives a wrong-number text from a good-looking guy at another school named Jamey (played by Noah Centineo). He thinks the number belongs to Veronica, a gorgeous cheerleading captain and Sierra’s classroom bully.

Sierra goes along with it, and continues to text Jamey as if she were Veronica. What follows is a series of hijinks and unexpected turns as Sierra falls for Jamey and he falls for her fake persona.

Underneath the light-hearted mischief is Sierra’s discomfort with her own looks. She’d rather catfish Jamey than let him see her for who she is.

As her act crumbles, Sierra is forced to confront her own insecurities and open herself up to friendship and love. 

Even though Netflix is marketing Sierra Burgess is a Loser as a romcom, it has so much more depth to it than a simple romantic storyline.

The movie delves into body image, friendship, and social pressure with depth and skill—each character is multifaceted and has their own struggles, even if they’re an antagonist. This makes the topics discussed more realistic and relatable. Films for young adults, especially romcoms, rarely do this, relying instead on one-dimensional portrayals of “good” and “bad” that leave viewers wanting more. The discussion of these topics on a massive media platform is incredibly important for teenage girls around the globe.

Female protagonists in movies like this one are often predictably pretty, or at the very least achieve “pretty” status after a mid-movie makeover. This furthers the idea that women must embody societal expectations of beauty to deserve affection.

Sierra Burgess, with her untamed hair and wider hips, isn’t what you’d expect from a teen movie’s main character—she would usually be relegated to the best friend, or the comedic relief.

Instead, Sierra shines in her own story. She doesn’t change her hair, her style, or her makeup by the end of the film. What changes is her level of confidence and the perception she has of herself.

Sierra shines in her own story. She doesn’t change her hair, her style, or her makeup by the end of the film. What changes is her level of confidence and the perception she has of herself.

In a pivotal scene towards the end of the film, Sierra records a song she wrote.

She sings, “I’m a sunflower, a little funny / If I were a rose, maybe you’d pick me.” The song shows the kind of comparisons young women are conditioned to make between each other.

Some people might prefer a sunflower over a rose, but we’re taught only one kind of flower is beautiful.

In high school, I thought that because I was a little taller, wider, and weirder than my peers, they wouldn’t want to include me. I used my insecurities as an excuse to shut myself out of social situations before anyone had the chance to extend an invitation.

I didn’t know until later that my self-esteem issues were meant to be worked through, rather than bottled up, or that the key to confidence would be coming out of my shell and expressing myself. 

Maybe having a female movie protagonist like Sierra Burgess around while I was in high school would’ve taught me this sooner.

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