Netflix’s “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser” Ripped to Shreds for Transphobia, Ableism

Out model, actor, and activist Nyle DiMarco took to Twitter to criticize the film's use of a deaf character "for a terrible joke."

We’re in the middle of a veritable rom-com renaissance, but that doesn’t mean new films can get away with insensitivity: Netflix flick Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is being slammed on social media for a double whammy of transphobic and ableist storylines.

The movie, which debuted on September 7, stars bisexual actress Shannon Purser (Stranger Things) as Sierra Burgess, a teen who embarks on a Cyrano de Bergerac-style journey of romantic deception when she’s mistaken for a more popular girl by her high school crush, Jamey (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’s Noah Centineo).

But critics have taken to social media to slam Sierra Burgess Is a Loser for an array of offensive storylines, including transphobic and ableist scenes. Minutes into the film, one of Sierra’s bullies mocks her with a transphobic joke, quipping that she should write a school assignment “about [her] trans experience, super topical.”

Sierra is cisgender—and plenty of folks have pointed out that given the growing epidemic of violence against the trans community, most often trans women, anti-transgender “jokes” are especially harmful.


The criticisms of Sierra Burgess Is a Loser don’t stop there, though. Out actor, model, and deaf activist Nyle DiMarco shared that he was “elated” to learn that a friend’s deaf brother was appearing in the film as a deaf character; however, the actual scene in the film, which sees Sierra pretend to be deaf and fake-sign in ASL, was offensive.

“…the deaf character was written and used for a terrible joke,” DiMarco wrote. “PS: Pretending to be deaf is NOT OK.”

“It is extremely easy to make jokes about marginalized/[disenfranchised] groups,” he added, “but that makes you a lazy writer.”

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.