Stop reading now if you haven’t seen it and don’t want spoilers. I’ve got spoilers, loads of them, go now and save yourself. This is your last warning…
You didn’t think I’d let the new Netflix movie Sierra Burgess is a Loser go by without my comment, did you? Knowing my love of all things Netflix Originals movies, you can’t be surprised. Add in that it also stars everyone’s favourites Shannon Purser (Barb, Stranger Things) Noah Centino (Peter, To All the Boys I Loved Before) and there was no stopping me.
Add in that it had not one, but TWO fat girl story lines in it and I was sold.
And yes, there are plenty of reasons that this movie is problematic; romanticising cat-fishing, consent issues and more than a handful of questionable jokes made at the expense of minority groups. I’m not saying disregard them, at all. But there is something here for the fat girls, something that speaks to what the high school experience can be like. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. It’s worth, with eyes open and acknowledging its faults, a closer look.
Two, you say? Well yes, I absolutely consider Veronica’s mother (played by Chrissy Metz, This is Us) as having a story line of her own. The pageant skirt sewing, rice cake pushing, fat-shaming woman who is so desperate for her beautiful daughter to live up to her potential. As long as that potential is associated with her looks.
That is a woman I’ve met before. You see them in the comments of plus fashion blogs, Facebook pages and groups. They’re the ones that say ‘I’m a bigger woman too, and she SHOULD NOT be wearing that’ or ‘Ewwww, so unflattering, hide your arms’. But despite that, and we know I have a history with those women fighting back, there was something that really drew me in about that character.
One word comes to mind; damage.
She knows how the world works. She’s lived it and experienced the prejudice that a woman of size experiences in the world. As shit as that is, it’s still the truth. Of course she wants her daughter to be beautiful and waft through life without ever having to consider (brace herself for) the things a fat woman considers every single day.
She’s me as I watch Sierra Burgess fall for this guy, that my experience tells me, would think she’d make an awesome ‘friend’. But, you know, he’s not that into her. Veronica’s Mum is all of us when we let the way the world treats us, that cynicism, win. And not just win, but take over and set up camp there.
Veronica’s Mum is Sierra Burgess when she turns on Veronica after she sees them kissing. That need to protect yourself from the hurt that you KNOW is coming. The highly trained instinct of a fat girl to strike out first and be unforgiving. I hated that side of her character, but I recognised it too.
Which is, part of the reason this movie was actually a little uncomfortable for me to watch. Not just because I don’t think a cat-fishing scam should ever result in a win. Or because of the whole, OMG hot people can be decent/nice/smart/all the things as well as be hot sub-plot. But because the whole time my inner monologue was, this is so unrealistic. I mean, he seems like a nice guy and all, certainly collects strays as friends, but a girlfriend? Hmmm.
I had to confront a whole conversation I didn’t know I had about fat girls and what they deserve. And as I sat there I realised what bullshit THAT is and wondered how long I’d been carrying that. Had I been carrying that in my relationships with people? With men? I had never considered that, but that messaging came from somewhere? Clearly high school, perhaps even before, had wormed its way in there after all.
But aside from that had I been carrying these conditioned ideas of what I deserved into my career, business and feelings around comfort, wealth and success? What if watching Sierra Burgess get the guy, get into whatever school it was she wanted into, and generally win finally shifted that for me?
What if, Sierra Burgess is a loser, is bullshit.
Because in every other way except having a perfect body, this is a pretty stand out human. Super smart, funny, a talented writer and singer, blah blah blah, etc etc. Because Sierra Burgess isn’t a loser at all; she fat. She’s a fat girl in a world that measures the worth of women by how they look.
When you get down to it the way she loses it with her parents, is something every fat teenager can relate to. The frustration that you can have ALL these things going for you, and in the end, what matters most in this world as a woman is how you look. Makes you want to scream at the unfairness of it all, doesn’t it? I know it does for me.
So, in the end, as I watched the end credits roll I realised what a ride I’d been on. Not as easy or as smooth to take as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but I enjoyed it just the same. In some ways, and don’t laugh at me for saying this, these Netflix Originals movies are teaching me stuff about myself.
In the end Sierra Burgess is a Loser was a tale of THIS fat girl too. Not that I ever got the guy. (I did fine, don’t you worry about me. wink wink) Maybe, it was your story too? Could you see yourself in the characters? Did you realise something about how you see the world when watching it? Or were you distracted by Noah’s adorable smile? Haha.