Body image controversy in popular Netflix rom-coms

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The recent hype involving Netflix among teenagers has more or less to do with the two big romantic comedies, “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser” and the TV show “Insatiable.” Both the movie and the show feature sensitive issues like body image and fat-shaming, sparking a debate about whether they truly break or enforce the stereotypes and the stigma.

The movie stars Shannon Purser, who plays Sierra Burgess. A wrong number leads to a “relationship” with her crush, Jamey, played by actor Noah Centineo. Sierra is not as skinny as the other girls in her grade, which causes her to face internal struggles about her own body. Although Jamey likes Sierra’s personality, Sierra’s insecurities about her appearance scare her from revealing her identity to him. Sierra instead asks someone who is more popular, Veronica, portrayed by Kristine Froseth, to help her.

The movie ends on a positive note, and the former “loser” ends up with her crush. However, the issue that was most concerning for viewers was the promotion and glorifying of catfishing that drives the whole storyline.  

Sophomore Zoe Tylipakis said, “We all care about the way we look one way or another. So although the movie ‘glorified’ catfishing in a way, it still captured the essence of being a teenager, which I loved.”

The movie also brings up the issue of consent, especially when Sierra pretends to kiss Jamey as Veronica. This whole “identity-swap” concept is a classic for many rom-com movies, but  the underlying message it conveys to young girls is the core of the controversy.

Moreover, Sierra was supposed to portray that people shouldn’t be ashamed of their bodies. However, the movie validates Sierra’s, and by extension, viewers’ concerns regarding negative body image when Jamey admits that he likely would not have noticed her had she not illegally assumed a prettier girl’s identity.   

“It kind of encouraged the fact that you have to look a certain way for a guy to like you,” stated junior Bridgit Ramlakhan.

Similarly, “Insatiable” is also a television show that presents an overweight girl, Patty, who is represented by Debby Ryan. Patty is first shown as a bullied, overweight girl. She later loses weight and wants to seek revenge on all the people that made her feel self-conscious.

“It’s quite disappointing to see how even in the 21st century, we witness through media that you aren’t considered beautiful if you aren’t skinny whether it’s natural or through plastic surgery,” said junior Tarannum Ahmed.

The show also raises controversy of having the overweight Patty being the target of bullying. The way that Patty undergoes her transition and loses her weight is not realistic or healthy either. When she is punched in the face and her jaw is wired shut, she can’t eat which leads to her weight loss. To people struggling with  eating disorders or a negative body image, this dangerous way of weight loss can send out the wrong message.

The two romantic comedies viewed by many portray a similar message about a certain body image girls are supposed to have to feel confident and accepted. Despite this, students have different views based on the overall film and show.