Lifestyle

There are some serious consent issues in ‘Sierra Burgess Is A Loser’ that we need to talk about

This is problematic.

By: Katie Stow

After rapidly falling for To All The Boys I've Loved Before, I decided to investigate another Netflix movie starring dreamboat Noah Centineo. Quickly I was greeted with Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, which looked like a classic high school rom-com. Also it had Shannon Purser in it — better known as Barb from Stranger Things — which I saw as a guarantee that it was going to be top notch.

I settled in, slipper socks on my feet and a bowl of malteasers by my side, ready for a night of heart-warming gooeyness and a heavy-handed dollop of high school nostalgia.

While there were definitely moments of that, and Sierra was set up as a girl anyone who had insecurities as a teenager could identify with, all of those positives were overshadowed by an aggressively uncomfortable feeling.

Without spoiling things, because Netflix already lets this cat(fish) out of the bag in their trailer, Sierra Burgess straight-up catfishes Jamey — the hot (but charmingly nerdy) quarterback played by Noah Centineo.

In the film's defence, the whole catfishing thing comes about by accident after high school mean girl, Veronica, gives Sierra's phone number to Jamey telling him that it's actually her number. So when Jamey first flashes up on Sierra's phone screen, he thinks he's messaging Veronica.

However, there are multiple points where Sierra could fess up and tell Jamey that he's messaging another chick, but instead things snowball out of control and Sierra not only maintains the lie but makes it worse by using Veronica (who she is now weirdly pals with) to go on dates with Jamey to keep up appearances.

The real pinnacle of consent shock comes when on one of these bizarre dates, Jamey declares that he wants to kiss Veronica, to which Veronica kinda accepts but asks him to cover up his eyes. When his eyes are covered, Veronica and Sierra switch places and Sierra is the one who locks lips with him.

While I could tell that they're going for the whole angle of 'he's FINALLY kissing the right girl', this whole palava is a consensual shitstorm.

When you translate this kind of 'move' to the bedroom, it's called 'The Houdini', and it involves a couple going at it doggy style and while the woman is facing forwards and away from the man, he slips out and lets another guy come in and penetrate the woman — without the woman having any idea that she's having sex with someone else.

And I don't know about you, but that whole 'Houdini' thing does not sit well with me, so this Sierra Burgess PG-13 version doesn't either.

Beyond essentially condoning catfishing, the movie also has a horrid slut-shaming moment that really pissed me off.

As I mentioned already, Sierra and Veronica (despite all the odd circumstances) become friends and actually get quite emotionally close — allowing the audience to sympathise with Veronica. However, towards the end of the film, Sierra spots Veronica and Jamey kissing and she loses her shit. Obviously, it's because Jamey has no idea that Veronica is actually Sierra and so it was an honest mistake, but as Sierra dashes off before seeing Veronica pull away from the smooch, all is lost.

To get her own back on Veronica, Sierra decides to send around a screenshot Veronica had privately shared with her of her college boyfriend breaking up with her via text — including a harsh image of them making out in his car. Sierra uploads this pic to Veronica's public Instagram account and then it is broadcasted on the big screen at the high school football game.

This debacle is stuck somewhere between revenge porn, slut shaming and being the world's shittest mate — making the whole thing uncomfortable, problematic and frankly a moment the movie could have done without.

Obviously, in true rom-com fashion, the whole thing is forgiven and forgotten by the end of the movie by all characters involved — but I couldn't get the icky feeling out of my system. Rather than shutting down my laptop at the end of the film feeling wholesome, mushy and nostalgic, I felt gross, uncomfortable and disappointed. The only plus side was that I had that bowl of malteasers to help me through it all.