Sierra Burgess Is A Loser follows many tried and true tropes of teen rom-coms. There’s a mean girl, a loveable jock, a “loser” who’s actually really cool, a house party, a school dance, but there’s one thing they left out: a makeover scene. While a montage of cute outfits set to pop music can be iconic, I’m so glad they left it out. While aesthetically pleasing, the meaning behind makeover scenes isn’t as nice.
The makeover scene has become so common in teen rom-coms that it’s an inescapable trope of the genre. We’ve come to expect it. Whether it’s Sandy in Grease going from girl next door to greaser dream girl in order to prove her hopeless devotion to Danny Zuko, Cher Horowitz helping her best friend get the attention of her crush in Clueless, or Zack Siler in She’s All That proving that he can turn any girl into the prom queen, viewers are repeatedly presented with the narrative that in order for women to get the guy, they have to change their appearance.
Self-proclaimed “magnificent beast” Sierra Burgess may not be the most popular girl in school, but she is far from the withering violet often written into rom-coms. She is a sunflower just as she describes in her pop-perfect mea culpa. A bright and beautiful sunflower who quotes Nietzsche, is an accomplished flutist, and she wants her shot with the cute guy from another school. A healthy dose of self-confidence aside, she is a teen girl. No teen girl is unwaveringly self-assured. Sierra deals with body confidence issues. She questions if she’s someone Jamey (Noah Centineo) would like. After all, the only reason he started texting her was that he thought she was the traditionally attractive and popular cheerleader, Veronica.
But there is a difference between feeling insecure and being an insecure person. Sierra Burgess Is A Loser made a point of distinguishing the two. Sierra doesn’t inherently dislike herself, a trait we’ve seen in too many movies, she is simply an imperfect and growing person. A good character has imperfections, but a great character is not defined by them.