Catfishing 101: ‘Sierra Burgess is a Loser’ Adapts a Love Story for the Modern Age

When it comes to online romance, how far is too far? Netflix’s latest coming-of-age film digs deep into the pitfalls of technology in the face of first love. 

Courtesy of Indie Wire

If there’s anything to take away from 2018 as it fades so quickly from us, it’s that the Noah Centineo hype is still strong folks. That, and Netflix is pumping out high school romantic comedies like their whole company depends on it. Sierra Burgess is a Loser is the latest coming-of-age film that centres around the innocence and painful sting of young love, body image, and all the complexities that surround it. Starring Stranger Things alum Shannon Purser as titular character Sierra Burgess, this story is one you’ve most likely seen before.

Adapted from Cyrano de Bergeraca classic tale of romance and mistaken identity, Sierra Burgess twists the fable with a hefty dose of 21st Century’s technology-obsessed culture. A simple enough start to the romance: the film begins with an exchange of phone numbers. However, when the number turns out to belong to a completely different person than intended, the love story goes awry for Sierra and her unknowing crush Jamey (Centineo). Ah, the forever tangled web of love and technology. Instagram and texting have screwed us all over at some point during the initiation of a relationship, however, Sierra Burgess takes a plunge and dives further into the problematic world of catfishing.

To break it down: Jamey likes Veronica (Kristine Froseth), the popular cheerleader and resident mean girl. Veronica labels Jamey a loser, and as juvenile as her claim, makes an equally juvenile act by giving Jamey the phone number of a fellow ‘loser’, Sierra Burgees, to embarrass the both of them. Delighted by the selfie sent to her of Jamey, Sierra continues to message him under the guise of being the gorgeous Veronica. Sierra and Veronica hatch a mutually beneficial plan: Sierra helps pull up Veronica’s falling grades, and Veronica stands in to dupe Jamey online. Jamey is a man completely fooled by two teenage girls: one who is terrified of her own appearances, the other who is in it for her own entertainment.

Courtesy of Vox

The girls partake in a wide array of social media and online hacks as a means of feeding their lie. Text by text, selfie by selfie (provided by Veronica) the inherently degrading philosophy that looks match your worth to another person is all too real. When the film was first promoted, praise was given for casting Purser, a woman boasting body positivity and acceptance. However, her character of Sierra does not obtain the same confidence and security.

In an age of unrealistic standards, solely based on appearances, where acceptance stems from how one looks, the honest reality of our society’s looks-obsessed hierarchy hits Sierra Burgess hard. High school doesn’t make her reality any less of a jarring realisation either. But does this come as a new shock? Like Sierra, Veronica, and Jamey, we have become accustomed to the system of validation through appearances spread by Instagram and online posting. Even Veronica is proud of her online presence, “20,000 followers, zero following”. As she sits at the top of the hierarchy, Sierra barely exists on it.

The film delves nicely into the ugly side of social media and how the normalcy of dumping or ghosting someone through DMs is depressing. The film also does shed light on important lessons of self-love and acceptance, no matter how impossible it may seem. It takes a lot of conflict, drama and watery-eyed fights for our leads to face their insecurities, in true Netflix style of course.

A soft and sometimes tedious display of teenage insecurity and falling in love, Sierra Burgess tackles the ideals of beauty and romance. Although the line between truth and deceit is beyond blurred, Netflix has a talent for sugar coating our dark insecurities and ensures it comes out peachy. Perhaps a movie that isn’t as sweet as it seems, Sierra Burgess presents itself as a Black Mirror episode of lies, betrayal, and technology for a Riverdale demographic fans.

Have you watched ‘Sierra Burgess is a Loser’ yet? Let us know what you think in the comments below.