People Are Criticising 'Sierra Burgess Is A Loser' For Its Offensive 'Hermaphrodite' Joke
11 September 2018, 15:44 | Updated: 19 November 2018, 14:41
This was so unnecessary...
Sierra Burgess Is a Loser is finally here. After months of teasing the teen rom-com, Netflix dropped it last Friday and it is safe to say that it's already sparking huge discourse online. A lot of fans are praising the new film for its incredible cast (Shannon Purser, RJ Cyler, Kristen Froseth and Noah Centineo are all excellent) and its moving portrayal of female friendship (seeing Veronica and Sierra become so close is adorable).
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However, the movie has also received a lot of criticism from viewers. Some people are accusing Sierra Burgess Is A Loser of being homophobic and transphobic (there are a few moments in the script that are problematic). Others are calling it out for being offensive to deaf people (that scene with Sierra and Ty). And, to top it all off, there's the fact that the coming of age drama features a 'hermaphrodite' joke.
The film revolves around a plot line in which Sierra (Shannon) pretends to be Veronica (Kristen) in a bid to woo Jamey (Noah). This all works fine over the phone but when Sierra bumps into Jamey in person, she pretends to be deaf in an attempt not to expose herself (hence people saying that it's insulting to deaf people). It's here where the 'hermaphrodite' joke takes place.
During the problematic encounter, Dan, Sierra's best friend, helps Sierra fake that she's deaf. He says to Jamey: "She can't hear anything that I say even if I say something like 'she's a hermaphrodite', which she isn't." Dan then adds: "She's not. She's not a hermaphrodite at all. All lady parts."
It should go without saying that this is not okay. First things first 'hermaphrodite' is largely considered to be an outdated and offensive term. 'Hermaphrodite' refers to an organism with both male and female sex organs or other sexual characteristics and has often been used as a slur.
Nowadays, the term intersex is used by many people. It's much more universal and doesn't have the negative connotations of 'hermaphrodite'. It means: "a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male".
Taking all of this into consideration, it's not only wrong that Dan uses the term 'hermaphrodite' in the first place but, the fact that he uses it as part of a cheap joke, is even worse. Unsurprisingly, the internet is not impressed.
Here are just a few of the reactions.
#SierraBurgessIsALoser is such an unbelievably toxic mess. Like saturated in transphobia: hormone jokes, "hermaphrodite" jokes, mocking the idea of trans students fighting in court to participate in gendered sports, etc— Runaway Supernova (@GwenBenaway) September 9, 2018
Oh and now a an insulting term for intersex people, great. #SierraBurgessIsALoser— Tay protector of sharks Lord 🦈 (@princenocturnal) September 10, 2018
okay uh, i feel like if people are going to watch Sierra Burgess is a Loser, people should know some of the kinds of jokes and content in it— Natasha (@sapphicsolace) September 7, 2018
-fatphobia (a lot)
-anti-intersex (uses 'hermaphrodite')
-homophobia (mc jokes about li being into guys)
I watched Sierra Burgess Is a Loser. At times I thought it was cute, and funny, and clever.— Mia Violet (@OhMiaGod) September 7, 2018
...And then also pointlessly transmisogynistic in places.
It also uses an offensively outdated term for intersex people, and in an especially gross way.
Spoilers follow I guess!
All Sierra Burgess Is A Loser did is show how undesirable it is to be called trans, gay, lesbian, hermaphrodite w/out making a point.— Ajuran 🌈 (@speakrphone) September 9, 2018
So we're supposed to understand this isn't wrong w/out social commentary? In this homophobic world? Tbh, it should have not been in there at all.
The running jokes in @netflix’s Sierra Burgess Is A Loser abt her being trans/a “hermaphrodite” are so disgusting and don’t belong in a teen movie/any movie. And don’t say the jokes are just made by the “mean girls.” They’re made by her friend too. It’s just fucking awful. #Bye— Arabella Breck (@ArabellaBreck) September 7, 2018
omg Sierra Burgess was soooo good so far and then they did a "hermaphrodite" joke UUGHHH— eClaire (single) (@themanburglar) September 10, 2018
Netflix, the writers and the cast are yet to respond to the backlash. We shall keep you informed with any updates.