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24th of October 2018

Celebrities



Netflix’s ‘Sierra Burgess Is a Loser’ criticized for scene when character pretends to be deaf

The new Netflix movie Sierra Burgess Is a Loser has been criticized over a controversial scene that features the main character pretending to be deaf.

The movie stars Shannon Purser (who played Barb Holland in Stranger Things) as Sierra Burgess. She pretends to be a popular cheerleader named Veronica (Kristine Froseth) in an attempt to win over her crush Jamey, played by To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before star Noah Centineo.

READ MORE: Netflix testing ads for its original content, and users aren’t pleased

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Jamey asks Veronica for her number at a restaurant, and Veronica gives him Sierra’s phone number as a joke. Jamey then texts Sierra thinking it’s Veronica, and after Sierra receives a selfie of Jamey, she decides to pretend she is Veronica and begins to “catfish” him.

As their relationship grows from text messages to phone conversations, Sierra begins to fall in love with Jamey.

One day, while doing community service at a park with her friend Dan (RJ Cyler), who disapproves of Sierra’s catfishing, Sierra spots Jamey with his little brother, Ty (Cochise Zornoza).

Dan wants Sierra to come clean with her lie and drags Sierra over to Jamey. Instead of telling Jamey the truth, Sierra knows that Jamey would recognize her voice so she pretends to be deaf to avoid speaking.

The ploy backfires when Jamey’s brother Ty is actually deaf and makes an attempt at speaking with her in sign language.

READ MORE: ‘Insatiable’ on Netflix: More than 100K sign petition to cancel ‘fat-shaming’ series

Model Nyle DiMarco, who is deaf and a vocal disability advocate, took to Twitter to criticize the film.

“So one of my close friends’ deaf brother is in Sierra Burgess. When I learned, I was elated. Finally, more deaf actors/representation & ASL inclusion in films…. Only to find out the deaf character was written and used for a terrible joke. PS- pretending to be deaf is NOT ok,” he wrote.

So one of my close friends' deaf brother is in Sierra Burgess

When I learned, I was elated. Finally more deaf actors/representation & ASL inclusion in films

… Only to find out the deaf character was written and used for a terrible joke.

PS- pretending to be deaf is NOT ok.

— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) September 9, 2018

“There were homophobic and transphobic jokes as well,” DiMarco tweeted.

There were homophobic and transphobic jokes as well.

— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) September 9, 2018

READ MORE: Netflix CEO defends ’13 Reasons Why’ renewal after backlash

“It is extremely easy to make jokes about marginalized/disfranchised groups,” DiMarco wrote in a follow-up tweet. “… but that makes you a lazy writer.”

It is extremely easy to make jokes about marginalized/disfranchised groups

… but that makes you a lazy writer.

— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) September 9, 2018

“And honestly you shouldn’t make these jokes AT ALL because our lives are on the line,” he wrote.

And honestly you shouldn’t make these jokes AT ALL because our lives are on the line.

— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) September 9, 2018

READ MORE: Netflix urged to axe drama ’13 Reasons Why’ over controversial sex assault scene

Many other people took to Twitter to discuss their disappointment in the movie.

things sierra burgess is a loser does that are damaging and dangerous:– disrespects deaf people– teaches girls it’s okay to kiss a boy without his consent– romanticises lying to someone about your identity– suggests apologies aren’t necessary for doing all of the above + more

— 𝑒𝓂𝒾𝓁𝓎 (@emxlydxwd) September 8, 2018

i’m really disappointed in sierra burgess is a loser. playing deaf is extremely disrespectful , and the film’s glamorization of it makes me sick. imagine being a deaf & finally seeing someone who knows your language,, just for them to sign “shit pizza” then give you a fist bump.

— isa (@smileyspideys) September 8, 2018

uh so. as a deaf person the things i’ve been hearing about that scene in sierra burgess is a loser where she fakes being deaf to get out of talking to people really rubs me the wrong way. being deaf or hoh isn’t a joke and shouldn’t be treated as such.

— lauren (@pipschuyIer) September 8, 2018

am i the only one who disliked the sierra burgess is a loser movie? like catfishing is not ok. consent is important. faking a disability is awful. transphobic jokes are not cute. also the writing was cringy. the young talent of the actors was wasted. disappointing.

— m. (@bisexuaIsmoak) September 8, 2018

This Netflix movie "Sierra Burgess is a Loser" is really terrible. There is a scene where the lead girl tricks the boy into kissing her, one of the characters Made a transphobic joke, +the whole plot is ridiculous and feels condescending, lead girl is a catfish. 😤 It's mess

— Alla Prima Donna (@krissiscribbles) September 10, 2018

sierra burgess is a loser was terrible written and had transphobic & homophobic jokes, as well as faking being deaf, & an unconsented kiss. the actors are all incredible but the plot sucked and the characters had potential but the writing ruined it.

— 𝕒𝕪𝕒 (@cvntineos) September 9, 2018

READ MORE: ’13 Reasons Why’ stars discuss spotting signs of depression in new video series

Purser addressed some of the controversy surrounding her character, Sierra, and the lengths she goes to pretend to be someone else in order to catfish the boy she likes.

“Even though what she does is wrong — very wrong — I think it’s something she sort of gets thrust into, and that doesn’t mean that she is absolved of her actions or that she doesn’t have her own agency to make the right decisions,” Shannon told Elle.

“She’s so heavily influenced by a society that has told her she’s not good enough. That she could not ever have this guy. That this guy could never be interested in her. At the end, he even says, ‘I probably wouldn’t have noticed you if we hadn’t met in these different circumstances.'”

She also added, “So would I personally forgive someone who did that to me? I don’t know. But it is a story, and what I want people to take from it is that there can be redemption, and that your circumstances and the limitations placed on you by society don’t have to define you.”

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