Movies, Pop Culture

Netflix’s Sierra Burgess is a Loser is bringing plus-size visibility to the romance genre

It's proving that love interests can come in any size.

Romantic comedies get a bad rep. They’re seen as cheesy, stereotypical, and safe; and rightfully so. This year, Netflix decided that 2018 would be the revival of the romantic comedy and I’m here for it.

After the success of “Set It Up” and “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”, Netflix premiered “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” on Netflix on September 7th.

This teen romance is a little different than what we’re used to. Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser) is a typical dorky straight-A student who wants to get into Stanford. Sierra is not stick skinny. She looks like the average American teenager. She has short red hair, freckles and is well-versed in literature. In the opening scene after she gets out of the shower, she looks at herself in the mirror. Most viewers would expect her to be unhappy with herself, but she proudly proclaims, “You’re a magnificent beast!”

Sierra’s secure self-esteem and nonchalance towards bullying is due to her parents. Her dad (Alan Ruck) is a writer and her mom (Lea Thompson ) is a motivational speaker. When the resident mean girl in school Veronica (Kristine Froseth) insults her, she corrects her taunts: “You’re thinking of Quasimodo, not Frodo.”

After Veronica purposely gives out Sierra’s number, she receives a text from the jock with the heart of gold, Jamey (Noah Centineo). An unintentional act of catfishing ensues as Sierra pretends to be Veronica, for fear of her own insecurity: Jamey being disgusted by the sight of her. In this day and age, it doesn’t seem to hard to catfish others with our dependence on technology in relationships: “I was just kind of relying on our generations total disregard for human interaction.” She enlists Veronica’s help to keep up with the ruse in exchange for helping her win back her college-aged boyfriend.

The best parts of this film are seeing Veronica and how she interacts with her family and the circumstances that ultimately structure her life and viewpoints. It’s 2018 and we’ve moved past the stock mean girl character. Veronica has so much depth to her character, that towards the end you feel much more sympathetic for her.

As mentioned before, Sierra does not look like your typical onscreen love interest, and it’s refreshing. After the debacle with Insatiable, it is imperative that we do not view slimness as a means to be attained and fatness as a liability. Yes, Sierra has insecurities (as does every teenager) but her lack of social standing in high school does not paint her as a tragic character who needs salvation. The only person who can save her is herself.

Now onto Jamey, played by the same actor who also stole our hearts as Peter Kavinsky. Jamey is charming, funny and has a vulnerability that speaks to me. Even though he is the quarterback of his football team, he still gets nervous and anxious about his crush. It’s a shame we don’t get more scenes with him in the movie. Also, the scene with him using ASL to speak to his deaf brother was a highlight.

While there were many bright spots in the “Sierra Burgess”, there were slight issues. I felt that the constant insults towards Sierra calling her a man and a lesbian were unnecessary. I mean, it’s 2018. Are we still calling straight people gay as an insult? I just wish the writers had come up with something that wasn’t so cliched and offensive.

I also felt that Sierra’s best friend Dan (RJ Cyler) was reduced to a sassy black friend trope. Dan had great lines: “Are you a catfish or a can’t fish?” But there were times where I was wondering if his purpose was nothing more than just delivering one-liners and providing comic relief.

Despite the issues, Shannon Purser proved that she is more than just Barb, and Noah Centineo is doing everything he can to make audiences fall in love with him. “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” checked all the boxes of a sweet, charming rom-com. It’s not overly progressive despite having a plus-sized protagonist, but it’s a start. I want to see more characters like Sierra, women who don’t view themselves as disgusting creatures, but magnificent beasts. The world is kind of crazy right now, let Netflix fill you with love.