Offensive Langauge, Catfishing, and No Consent in New Netflix Teen Comedy

Photo Courtesy of Her Campus at Hamline

Photo Courtesy of Her Campus at Hamline

Autumn McClain, Contributing Writer

The Netflix original movie “Sierra Burgess is a Loser” staring actress Shannon Purser was released on Sept. 7, 2018. Purser plays Sierra, a teenage girl who experiences bullying at her high school. Notable characters include the role of Veronica played by Kristine Froseth and Jamey played by Noah Centineo. Veronica is cheer captain who bullies Sierra, often commenting on her physical appearance.  

There were several homophobic/transphobic terms used in the script. As Sierra and her peers are sitting in class, friends of Veronica target Sierra referring to her as a transgender individual based on her masculine appearance. The movie portrays the term transgender as an offensive word. As the teacher is explaining a poetry assignment to the class, Veronica’s friend whispers to Sierra, “Maybe you should write about your trans experience.”

The movie has received backlash for including offensive language such as this. Personally, I think the choice of language was unnecessary to include in the script. The insensitive words referencing transgender identity could have easily been left out, and with it avoided negative responses to the film. Using the word transgender as an insult throughout the film reinforces the idea that transgender individuals are not accepted in society. This is a step backwards for the LGBTQ+ community in regard to acceptance and adequate representation in the film industry.  

Jamey is a boy that Sierra develops feelings for throughout the movie. When Jamey asks Veronica for her phone number in a sit-down dinner, she purposely gives him Sierra’s number instead of her own. Jamey attempts to contact Veronica later that night, but he unknowingly contacts Sierra. Instead of telling Jamey he had the wrong number, Sierra pretends to be Veronica in a Catfishing scandal. This situation escalates quickly as Sierra contacts Veronica in an attempt to lead Jamey on. Veronica agrees to help Sierra trick Jamey in exchange for tutoring. Sierra then spends several nights helping Veronica with her school work. In one scene, Jamey has his eyes closed thinking he is kissing Veronica. Sierra then proceeds to kiss Jamey non-consensually.  

This scene shows the double standard that society holds in reacting to sexual assault. Sierra clearly made advancements on Jamey without his consent. This is, by law, considered sexual assault. Yet the movie did not portray it as so. The words “sexual assault” were not mentioned once in the script. This, in my opinion, is another poor writing choice made by the producer Thad Luckinbill.  

In the beginning, Veronica was a bully to Sierra. As the movie progresses, the pair bond as they Catfish Jamey into thinking he is in a relationship with Veronica. Sierra calls and texts Jamey pretending to be Veronica. Veronica uses Sierras phone to send selfies to Jamey in an attempt to prove herself. In the end, Jamey discovers the truth that he has been unknowingly talking to Sierra the entire time. Jamey instantly forgives Sierra and takes her to prom. The movie ends with a snapshot of Sierra and her friends at the school dance.  

This movie received a 61% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.