Beyond joining the bandwagon of the Peter Kavinsky craze, Netflix seems to have been getting better and better (at least in my opinion), and I’ve caught the drift of the hype about Noah Centineo’s latest popular Netflix film, Sierra Burgess is a Loser.
If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a coming-of-age film where you get your dose of the three main high school stereotypes: the jocks, the cheerleaders, and the losers, which I guess you can say is an encompassing umbrella term for all other social cliques that don’t fit into the two aforementioned ones. On the other hand, you also get a refreshing dose of these characters contradicting what you expect of them.
To give you a one sentence clue of the whole plot: a blooming romance is sparked by a text message sent to the wrong number, all thanks to a plot masterminded by the supposed evil cheerleader. [I don’t wanna ramble on and give too many things away, so I’ll limit my synopsis to this and the tidbits I’ve included below.]
More than just another high school or teen drama film, Sierra Burgess is a Loser has so many subliminal lessons and take aways. I don’t know if it’s just my communication-degree-amateur-analytical skills at work, but I’ve listed a few pieces of advice or life lessons I saw in the film. Although most of these things are things we probably already know, I’m sure that most of them, if not all, are also things we occasionally need to remind ourselves of, as well as the people around us.
1. The World is Getting More and More Competitive
In the movie, Sierra Burgess is an intelligent student who keeps her grades up. Overshadowed by her renowned father, who is a distinguished author, and her mother, who is depicted as noticeably beautiful, she struggles with finding what makes herself special. Early in the movie, she expresses how she aims to get into Stanford and during a consultation with her guidance counsellor, she is once again reminded how she, quite frankly, just doesn’t seem all too special.
As I’m sure I’m not the only millennial who seems to be having their quarter-life crisis a couple of years too early, I’m sure there are many others out there who feel the pressure of the bar of standards that just seems to keep getting higher. We just have to power through these struggles and do our best to have things turn out A-okay. There isn’t really a shortcut.
2. You Can Always Fight Back With Your Wits
Veronica, or Ronnie for short, is the beautiful cheerleader who seems to have everything, but kindness. Sierra somehow became her favorite target when it comes to judgment, ridicules, and insults. Sierra, however, backed by her quick wits and her almost perfect SAT scores, almost always seems to be able to choose the high road and walk away as the bigger person. Almost. Every now and then, she does not disappoint and uses her intellect to make a nonchalant comeback at Veronica with nothing but facts, much to Veronica’s displeasure.
We all have those moments where the high road just seems too much of an effort to take; when you just want to punch, kick, or kill someone just to be done with it. Sierra, with the multiple times she used her words and wit for a comeback, is a small testament of how getting physical is not the only way we can get satisfaction.
3. Somebody’s History Doesn’t Always Match Their Image
Although Veronica is the beautiful popular girl who seems to have her life handed to her on a silver platter, once Sierra gets an opportunity to see her home situation, things change. You just know there’s a shift in how Ronnie is portrayed and perceived by both Sierra and the audience.
As I’ve written about before, the world today just seems so polarized and so hypersensitive that sometimes, we have a tendency to make more enemies than we need to. Sierra and Veronica basically start out as enemies, but once they got to spend time together, work together, and get to know each other, things change for the better. When you know where people are coming from or why people are the way they are, you empathize with them. In Noah Centineo’s words, “It’s kind of hard not to like someone when you understand them.”
We also all know the age-old and super cliché saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Through Ronnie’s character, this saying definitely rings true.
4. We Need To Give More Love To The Deaf Community
In the film, Jamey’s (Noah Centineo) younger brother, Ty (Cochise Zarnoza), is deaf. Although this additional detail doesn’t necessarily have grave importance in terms of how the story develops, it has received both good and bad reactions from the general public. In my opinion, however, I see it as more on the positive side and adding to the presence of deaf actors/actresses, the deaf community, and ASL in mainstream films. That being said, I do also believe that it may possibly be a potential that was not maximized. ASL could have been given a longer time in the spotlight. For example, Jamey could have interacted more with his brother through ASL. Also, let’s not forget about the negative buzz about how being deaf was used as a joke which of course is not okay. The received a lot of attention and was even called out by America’s Next Top Model Cycle 22 Winner and Activist, Nyle Dimarco among others.
Anyways, with the increasing attention given to independent films or the increasing presence of marginalized ethinicities and nationalities in mainstream media, it’s high time we not neglect the presence of various other disfranchized communities and even advocate for it, don’t you think?
Disclaimer: I am not part of the deaf community and I have no experience with ASL whatsoever, so I do make these statements merely as an observer and supporter. I do, however, embrace what I know of the culture and the community so far.
5. You Absolutely Deserve The Love You’re Willing To Give
Self-love is revolutionary and sometimes, our lack thereof shows not only in how we treat and look at ourselves but also in how we allow others to treat and see us.
In the movie, Sierra grew up finding it difficult to step away from the shadow of her parents as well us live up to the expectation of others. She also struggles with self-esteem due to the her appearance not adhering to the generic standard of beauty. Although she was never portrayed to be self-deprecating, she always just let Veronica or Ronnie verbally insult her and push her around. Even though I did previously praise Sierra’s character for taking the high road, it’s obvious that she could have stood up to Ronnie more than she did. Also, when she sees how Jamey looks and finds out he’s a quarterback, it only takes one drunk night for her to express how she wonders whether Jamey could actually like her for her and not because of this image he has of her.
Ronnie also struggles with a college boy named Spence with whom she’s so infatuated with. When he breaks up with her supposedly because she’s not smart enough for him, she studies more with the help of Sierra in an effort to win him back. At a party where they happen to cross paths again, Spence manages to convince Ronnie to entertain him although it’s quite evident how he pretty much has no other intention aside from trying to get into Ronnie’s pants. The next day, Spence not so surprisingly ends things with ronnie through nothing more than an Instagram DM. Talk about douchebag.
I think stressing over how you are, who you want to be, and how others see you versus how you want others to see you is difficult to outgrow. I think everyone goes through that every once in a while and I guess it’s not really something you can just stop doing. Sometimes we can’t help it, but what we can do is push through it– to not let it eat us up or meddle with how we see the world and those around us. We don’t need that kind of negativity.
6. We All Need Someone To Keep Us In Check
Sierra’s best friend in the film is her fellow academic achiever, Dan. To be honest, he’s a very close second to Jamey in terms of how lovable he is. Armed with wits as good as Sierra’s, but combined with a personality that’s a little more outspoken and confident, he’s definitely a scene stealer. Dan is the kind of the friend you wish you had. He can help you out with homework, he’ll want to bring you to homecoming and deny it’s a pity date, he’ll want to have slasher movie marathons with you, and most importantly, he’ll serve as your reality check and keep you grounded. Dan was always honest with Sierra but he never stopped being a good friend to her, even when she snapped and did something to Ronnie that was way below the belt.
Anyone can get a little carried away occasionally and sometimes our feelings get the best of us. Even the best and brightest minds make mistakes and get conflicting emotions, so everyone needs someone to keep them in check. It’s a great comfort to know that we can have someone who looks out for us– someone who cares about who we are as individuals even though we all lose our way every now and then.
7. Don’t Let Society Dictate What Beautiful Is
After the truth being exposed to all parties involved, Sierra faces regret and heartbreak, not to mention an overdue poetry assignment that counts for 10% of her overall English class grade. In what seems to be an epiphany of sorts, she channels all of her emotions into writing, initially for her assignment, but instead comes up with so much more and produces a very raw and emotional poetry-turned-song which goes:
Rose girls in glass vases / Perfect bodies, perfect faces / They all belong in magazines / Those girls the boys are chasing / Winning all the games they’re playing / They’re always in a different league / Stretching toward the sky like I don’t care / Wishing you could see me standing there
But I’m a sunflower, a little funny / If I was a rose, maybe you’d want me / If I could, I’d change overnight / And turn into something you’d like / But I’m a sunflower, a little funny / If I was a rose, maybe you’d pick me / But I know you don’t have a clue / This sunflower’s waiting for you, waiting for you
Showing her vulnerability first and foremost to her father, she gets praised for yet again stitching beautiful words together. To her surprise, she is also reminded that she is already beautiful the way she is and she has so much to offer the world. Probably the emotional high of the movie (yes, even more so than the anything romantic or the conclusion of the film), this scene and the lyrics of the song in particular just rips your heart out. Not to mention, Shannon Purser (Sierra) actually sings the song herself.
More often than not, we are pulled in and dragged along with the waves of the ever-changing trends and strict beauty standards. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this, but when we get confined strictly to what society dictates to us — be it for beauty or for trends — that’s when we hinder ourselves completely to any form of evolution. Beauty is subjective and definitions vary and change. That’s just the reality of it. [I’ve stated some opinions about this before; you can check it out here.] The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can spread more love around.
Although the film did actually play the angle of romanticizing the concept of catfishing (pretending to be someone you aren’t; creating an false identity and persona, particularly online) which is definitely something you should not do, I can still see why the movie sells. First of all, catfishing definitely happens a lot in the online world so a lot of people have either done it or experienced it which I guess makes the film relatable in a way. Next, you got these young and talented actors and actresses playing key roles in the film. Lastly, you have an underdog-emerging-as-victorious storyline going on and we all love it when the underdog gets a happy ending by the end of a story.
When it comes to Sierra as a character, she charmed me. I don’t know if it’s just me, but when there’s a character who has unfulfilled potentials, I always end up really hoping for a successful and meaningful conclusion to the story. Sierra is smart, beautiful, and kind even though she does have her moments when she forgets at least one of those traits. Her insecurities ring true to some of my own and to those of many others, I’m sure, which is also a big part of why I think I appreciate the film more than I though I would.
I enjoyed watching the film and it definitely had it’s tugging-at-your-heartsings moments. I’d also like to point out how nice the music included in the movie is and I feel like I need the soundtrack ASAP.
IN A NUTSHELL:
Themes: Love, Friendship, Coming-of-Age
Main Possible Feels: Funny, kilig
Ending: (Happy.Bittersweet/Sad/Open-Ended): Happy
Did I regret watching it?: Nope.
Personal Rating: 8/10
Have you seen Sierra Burgess is a Loser too? What did you think? I’d love to here from you in the comments section below!