Representation is important in media. And if there’s one company that’s truly understood that it’s been Netflix, who have managed to revive a diverse rom-com genre that has been sorely missed for years. But it’s more than just bringing rom-coms back so much as it’s doing so in a way that’s representative of the world we live in.
Netflix is delivering diverse films that are representative of every group from Asian Americans to diverse body types to Young Adults, which are all groups that haven’t been recognized in the respectful manner they’ve deserved. And it’s about damn time.
After To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Netflix has struck again with another beautiful coming-of-age story that preaches important messages of self love and self acceptance and just also happens to star the world’s current obsession, Noah Centineo.
Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is a modern rom-com retelling of the Cyrano de Bergerac story set in high school. The story centers on Sierra, an intelligent teen who does not fall into the shallow definition of high school pretty but, in a case of mistaken identity that results in unexpected romance, must team with the popular girl in order to win her crush.
Just as To All The Boys brought us a film with a diverse cast — and an Asian American lead — Sierra Burgess doesn’t fall victim to stereotypes as it puts body diversity front and center and manages to make us fall in love with these characters as they go through one of life’s most challenging tests: adolescence.
Sierra Burgess, our leading heroine played by the marvelous Shannon Purser, has learned not to care about what others think about her. When resident mean girl Veronica (Kristine Froseth) tries to make her feel inadequate, Sierra brushes it off. But while Sierra doesn’t let what other people believe get to her, for most of this film she goes through her life without understanding what it means to love yourself.
While Sierra seems content with just existing in her ordinary life before she inevitably escapes high school, things are turned on their head when she meets a guy, Jamey (Noah Centineo). But this is unlike typical meetings. Remember resident mean girl Veronica? She decided to play a prank on Sierra by giving Jamey Sierra’s number when he thought he was getting Veronica’s number.
But with a modern twist, we get a love story where technology leads the charge as Sierra and Jamey begin to form a connection through text messages. That is, until Sierra learns that Jamey thinks she’s Veronica. But instead of coming clean about who she is — and is not — Sierra decides to keep talking to Jamey without telling him who she really is. Because, as Sierra thinks, why would someone that looks like Jamey ever like someone like her?
Which leads us to perhaps the most important messages of this film: Self acceptance and self love. Because, when it’s all said and done, Sierra isn’t fully able to be with Jamey until she can love and accept herself for who she is.
Let’s face it, life is hard. But adolescence is a whole other beast. That’s what makes this movie so relatable is because we’ve all had moments where we’ve felt like Sierra or where we were treated like Sierra. Where we try not to let what others think or say get to us. Where we can try to ignore certain things about ourselves or try to hide from them because we want to fit in. We’ve all been there at some point in our life. So a movie like this isn’t just important for us now-adults, it’s incredibly important for today’s youth.
Growing up, I had the kinds of rom-coms that taught me about what it meant to grow up and what to expect and how to respond. Unfortunately, we haven’t had modern rom-coms that really preached the importance of accepting yourself and how your uniqueness is something special to be appreciated. Especially now in a world where social media rules and makes it even harder to be a teenager. Films like Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is the kind of movie that teens need to see. As an escape or as a reminder that they’re not alone.
In the film, Sierra and Jamey are an unconventional love story. The way their story begins — because of a mean girl trying to destroy a “loser” — and how it eventually develops with half truths, on Sierra’s part. But it’s in those moments of honesty — when Sierra opens up and when Jamey opens up — that you see the true beauty in that relationship.
Jamey could easily be that prototypical jock that’s into hot girls and has jock friends. But from the beginning we see that it’s far from the case. Jamey’s best friends are what Veronica would refer to as “losers,” and Jamey plays football for the love of the game rather the love of the locker room. Watching Sierra and Jamey fall for each other gave me butterflies in the cute way that classic rom-coms do. But, in a way, I was a tad disappointed at the end only because now I crave watching Sierra and Jamey together now. But that’s just me being petty.
While the central love story of the film was Sierra and Jamey, there’s another love story that develops between enemies-turned-friends in Sierra and Veronica. While I loved Sierra and Jamey and I love Noah, honestly Sierra and Veronica’s relationship was my favorite dynamic in this film. These girls hated each other. Because they didn’t understand each other. And through this one action of Veronica slipping Sierra’s number to Jamey, the unlikeliest and most beautiful friendship formed.
You really don’t know someone until you get to know them. There are a lot of assumptions we make about people in our lives — whether they’re acquaintances of ours or strangers. We take one look and instantly form an opinion. Sometimes, we let that opinion guide our judgement of said person. But Sierra Burgess taught us that you don’t really know a person until you get to know them. Because when Sierra and Veronica started hanging out and helping each other win over their man of choice, they got the most surprising gift of all: A lifelong friendship. And it was an honest pleasure to watch.
Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is the kind of film that people will remember. They’ll remember it for how it brought body diversity front and center in a way that wasn’t judgemental or hurtful. They’ll remember it for its realistic portrayal of adolescence. They’ll remember it for the love and the friendships. They’ll remember it as the kind of film that teens should watch and learn from.
Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is now streaming on Netflix.