Controversy Sparks Over Offensive Segments in Netflix’s ‘Sierra Burgess is a Loser’

By Paris Carlson, Reporter

People expected Netflix’s “Sierra Burgess is a Loser,” to be another hit movie, considering sweetheart Noah Centineo, playing Peter Kavinsky in “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before,” is a leading role, along with Shannon Purser, Barb from “Stranger Things,” as Sierra Burgess. Also, due to the fact that teen coming-of-age movies are very popular today, even more when they’re purpose is for body positivity. But the content featured in the movie took the viewers by surprise, and offended many of those who watched the movie.

Homophobic and transphobic jokes were made throughout the movie, and many homosexual/transgender individuals in the audience did not approve. The jokes were supposed to be for the emphasis of the “mean girl” characters, but it didn’t seem to come off that way.

One of the most shocking was when Dan, Sierra’s best friend, was in a debate with two other classmates. Dan says, “But AIDS is now airborne, so we’re all gonna die.”

This may not seem homophobic at first glance, but when the purpose/meaning of this joke is revealed, it steps over the line. AIDS was originally GRIDS, standing for “Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome.” On Dan’s argument, he is stating that homosexual people will give AIDS through the air. Though his logic is incorrect, from what he thinks, it was definitely a homophobic comment.

Another example is when Veronica’s mom says something about Sierra being lesbian, but Sierra snaps back with “I’m not a lesbian.” The homophobic content comes in when Veronica then adds on, “She just has no taste.” This is bluntly offensive to lesbians everywhere; it points out the stereotype/belief that all homosexual women have no style.

On the transphobic side of things, when the teacher announces that the class must create poems, Mackenzie, Veronica’s fellow “mean girl” cheerleader, exclaims, “Maybe yours can be about your trans experience, super topical.” Pointing this out with the purpose to offend Sierra, is putting accentuation  on how it is a transphobic comment. Plus, Sierra isn’t a transgender person, which rules out the argument that Mackenzie meant what she said.

One of the longer transphobic segments of this movie is when Sierra is pretending to be deaf. Dan steps in and says “She’s dead also… so she can’t hear anything I say, even if I say something like ‘She’s a hermaphrodite.’ Which she isn’t, she’s not a hermaphrodite, at all. She’s all lady parts.”

First of all, “hermaphrodite” is a totally outdated term that is deemed offensive to most transgender individuals. Second, the term “lady parts” was used, and this offended people who’s ‘parts’ do not match with their gender identity. Using terms like “lady parts” and “man parts” doesn’t include transgender, gender non-conforming/agender, gender fluid, bigender, etc. individuals, and many are offended when these cisgender terms are used.

But the problems in this movie don’t only consist of sexuality/gender oppression through jokes, there is one particular scene that should be questioned. Dan pushed Sierra over to Jamie, in hopes she would admit her cat fishing scandal. Dan wanted Sierra to come clean about her catfishing, so he pushes her towards Jamey. She knew he would recognize her voice, so she pretends to be deaf. She tries to sign something to Jamey, who is fluent in ASL (American Sign Language). “S*** pizza?” Jamey says, confused by Sierra’s attempt to sign. He introduced Sierra to Ty, his deaf brother. Ty signs to Sierra, but desperate to get out of the situation, she just fist bumps him and nods.

Whether this is offensive to you or not, there is no doubt that it offended some. Faking the disability and using it to Sierra’s advantage offended Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco on twitter), who tweeted furiously about the movie: