Its poorly written script and catfishing plot have caused many to cringe — especially a scene in which a teenage boy is tricked into kissing someone he did not consent to kiss.
DiMarco tweeted Sunday that a close friend’s brother would be appearing in the film, and the 29-year-old “America’s Next Top Model” and “Dancing With the Stars” winner was excited to see “more deaf actors/representation & ASL inclusion in films.”
But what he got instead was a rude awakening.
“The deaf character was written and used for a terrible joke,” he wrote. “PS- pretending to be deaf is NOT ok.”
So one of my close friends' deaf brother is in Sierra Burgess— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) September 9, 2018
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.
In the film, high school outcast Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser) is trying to fool the object of her affection, Jamey (Noah Centineo), into thinking she is a cheerleading classmate named Veronica (Kristine Froseth). Jamey asked Veronica for her number at a restaurant, and Veronica, uninterested, gave Jamey Sierra’s phone number instead. Jamey then texts Sierra thinking it’s Veronica on the other end, and after Sierra receives a selfie of the handsome Jamey, she decides to pretend she is Veronica for a little romantic attention. As their relationship progresses from texts to phone conversations, Sierra begins to fall for 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 tossing around a football with his little brother, Ty (Cochise Zornoza). Dan, wanting Sierra to come clean with her lie, drags Sierra over to Jamey and tries to coax a confession out of his friend. Instead, knowing that Jamey would recognize her voice, Sierra pretends to be deaf to avoid speaking.
As she scrambles to sign something to Jamey to indicate she’s deaf, Jamey, fluent in ASL, responds with confusion: “Shit pizza?” he asks, but then excitedly introduces Sierra to Ty, who is deaf.
Ty, eager to have a conversation in ASL, proceeds to enthusiastically sign to Sierra, who has no idea what he’s saying. In a moment of desperation, Sierra simply fist-bumps Ty in order to get out of the conversation.
DiMarco also pointed out that “there were homophobic and transphobic jokes” throughout “Sierra Burgess.” Though the model did not specifically describe any of these jokes, there are numerous characters who assume Sierra is a lesbian based on her appearance.
“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.”
“And honestly you shouldn’t make these jokes AT ALL because our lives are on the line,” he wrote in a third tweet.
DiMarco wasn’t alone in his disdain for the jokes.
Yes, exactly! I was so, so excited at first when I saw Jamey and his brother signing. But it REALLY bothered me that Deafness + ASL was only really written into the film so that it would fit in “nicely” when Sierra couldn’t speak to Jamey. So frustrating.— Anjali Bhat (@anjbhat) September 9, 2018
When I watched it I thought she was actually going to know sign language and that it was going to be something her and Jamey had in common but NOPE. I hate that part so much. And all the other offensive jokes as well.— Breana. (@_BreanaDanielle) September 9, 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
things sierra burgess is a loser does that are damaging and dangerous:— 𝑒𝓂𝒾𝓁𝓎 (@emxlydxwd) September 8, 2018
- 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
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
Okay so quickly I will say why I think Sierra Burgess Is A Loser is actually very problematic :— Louis (@transcobblepot) September 9, 2018
- Catfishing and she gets away with it/get the boy she did it too
- More than 1 transphobic joke who seems to be perfectly normal
- Mocking a disability (she is deaf)
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
The more I think about Sierra Burgess is Loser,the angrier I get. How did everybody forgive her so easily? She lied, she pretended to be deaf (IN FRONT OF AN ACTUAL DEAF KID), she cyberbullied HER FRIEND and she never even apologized. She just wrote a song about not being pretty.— selene. (@shutupmeerlin) September 7, 2018
HuffPost reached out Tuesday to Netflix for comment but did not receive a response.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.