"Pretending to be deaf is NOT ok".
New Netflix movie Sierra Burgess Is A Loser has faced backlash over a controversial scene that sees the lead character pretending to be dead.
The movie stars Stranger Things’ Shannon Purser as the titular character, who pretends to be popular cheerleader Veronica in an attempt to woo her crush Jamey (Noah Contineo).
But the elaborate ruse leads to a scene where Sierra pretends to be deaf in an attempt to avoid speaking to Jamey in person – as he would recognise her voice from the phonecalls where she has posed as Veronica.
The ploy soon backfires when it emerges that Jamey’s brother Ty is actually deaf – and makes an awkward attempt at speaking to her in sign language.
Posting on Twitter, deaf model Nyle DiMarco led the criticism against the film.
‘So one of my close friends’ deaf brother is in Sierra Burgess. When I learned, I was elated’, he wrote.
‘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.’
He also hit out at apparent homophobic and transphobic jokes within the film.
One fan responded: ‘ 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.’
But Nyle was also urged to be proud of deaf actor Cochise Zornoza by the youngster’s teacher.
“Nyle, I’m your friend’s brother’s teacher this year. He was thrilled to be in this movie, esp to go to the premiere in LA. He’s been talking about it for weeks. He did a wonderful job. Be proud of that for him, despite the movie’s content. I know I am!”, teacher Heidi Givens wrote.
Netflix are yet to respond to the criticism.