Nyle DiMarco Accused Netflix's 'Sierra Burgess Is a Loser' of Shaming Deaf People

Netflix's latest romantic comedy venture, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes following its Friday release, but not all are impressed by the flick. Model Nyle DiMarco dissed the film Sunday via Twitter over his concerns with its seemingly problematic storyline about a deaf character. 

Directed by Ian Samuels and penned by Lindsey Beer, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser follows Sierra Burgess (Shannon Purser). Sierra, while smart but unpopular, manages to be mistaken for Veronica (Kristine Froseth), a cheerleader and member of the popular crowd, over text by Jamey (Noah Centineo) after he received a faux phone number from Veronica—which just so happened to be Sierra's. From there, Sierra continues to catfish Jamey with Veronica's assistance. 

In Sierra's quest to land Jamey, she and her friend Dan (RJ Cyler) encounter the teen heartthrob playing with a football in the park with his deaf brother. Sierra and Dan approach the sibling pair but she pretends to be deaf and mute to prevent Jamey from identifying her voice. From there, Jamey explains how his brother is deaf. Sierra, naturally, struggles to communicate with him.

DiMarco was not amused by the Netflix flick's decision to use being deaf as a joke. It's a health condition that effects 13 percent of Americans aged 12 or older, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. 

Netflix's 'Sierra Burgess' Accused by Nyle DiMarco of Shaming Deaf People Actress Shannon Purser is pictured as Sierra Burgess in a still for Netflix's 'Sierra Burgess Is a Loser,' which debuted September 7, 2018. The film was accused by model Nyle DiMarco of poking fun at deaf people. Aaron Epstein/Netflix

DiMarco took to Twitter on Sunday to slam the film. "So one of my close friends' deaf brother is in Sierra Burgess," DiMarco, 29, tweeted. "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...Pretending to be deaf is NOT ok."

DiMarco, who is deaf, competed on both America's Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars. He was the first deaf contestant to compete on and win ANTM, and he was the second deaf participant featured on DWTS—a competition show he also won. He often vocalizes his desire to use his platform to break the stigma surrounding deafness. 

"I'm trying to really change that stigma that we all feel. I can shoulder that responsibility and I can represent deaf people really well," DiMarco told The Hollywood Reporter in July. "I see the importance of really getting involved in media and in Hollywood and just as a deaf person, I have the power to actually evoke some change."

DiMarco isn't alone in his fight against the perception of deafness. Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, who became a breakout talent upon starring in Wonderstruck following its 2017 Cannes Film Festival debut, explained why her role in John Krasinski's horror-thriller A Quiet Place was significant.  

"John was a great director and cared about my opinions and really wanted my input about how Regan would act in this world," Simmonds, 15, wrote in an op-ed for Teen Vogue in April. "I think for this story it was important to show Reagan's deafness as an advantage for this family. For me personally, I think it was important to show a hearing family that all signed with their deaf family member because many families that have deaf kids never learn the language."