New Movie Perpetuates Body Shaming By Casting Pretty Actress As “Designated Ugly Fat Friend” & Coining New Term “The DUFF”
I have quite a few problems with the upcoming movie “The DUFF.” I’m not usually much of a film critic — so long as I’m entertained, I’m usually happy. Movies are interpreted differently by different people because that’s what creative expression is all about, but after seeing the trailer for “The DUFF,” I’m downright angry as there’s no mistaking the messages they’re sending.
The plot goes something like this: Bianca (Mae Whitman from “Parenthood”) is a content high school senior whose world is shattered when she learns that the student body knows her as ‘The DUFF’ (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier, more popular friends. To reinvent herself, she enlists the help of a charming jock to help turn her senior year around and get rid of her DUFF status.
The first problem with this movie is that this plot has been done about 30 times already. (Have we already forgotten about “She’s All That”? Come on now.) The trailer even goes as far as to “label” the different characters with stereotypes as the camera pans past each group, which is done in basically every movie about high school that’s ever been created. But that’s just cinematic monotony. The real problem lies in the fact that, despite how Bianca tries to “find the confidence to overthrow the school’s ruthless label maker Madison (Bella Thorne) and remind everyone that no matter what people look or act like, we are all someone’s DUFF,” this movie perpetuates body-shaming and prioritizes the importance of looks over happiness. The three main problems I have with this movie, based on the trailer and what I know thus far, are as follows:
1. It coined a new hateful term for teens to use. We will undoubtedly hear of kids calling other kids their DUFF as soon as this film is released in 2015.
2. It’s perpetuating body-shaming by glorifying the idea that women should change to meet social standards.
3. Actress Mae Whitman absolutely fits the societal standard for “beautiful,” yet she has been cast as the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Mae is not “ugly” or “fat,” which means anyone who actually does struggle with weight or self-esteem issues now has a new, unrealistic standard to hold themselves to.
I’m not 16, and therefore, I’m not the most up-to-date on my slang, but as far as I know, “DUFF” is not a term that’s being used in high schools across America right now. Soon it will be. Obviously, the term was coined to be the focal point of the movie, but newsflash: kids can be cruel, and this is just one more word that they will hear, and thus use, in their personal lives. It’s no different than how teen girls started creating their own Burn Books after seeing “Mean Girls” or how they started calling people “Monets” after watching “Clueless.” (In case you were wondering, a “Monet” is someone who looks good from far away, but is a mess up close). Obviously, it’s unrealistic for me to suggest that this acronym will make otherwise friendly teens start calling each other DUFFs, but for those who are already looking to bully others, this just gives them more fuel to light the fire.
My main concern is that teens will see this movie and compare themselves to the main character, who is labeled by an entire student body as fat and ugly. Although their attempts to makeunder Mae for the role were done well, she’s still a beautiful woman of average (if not less than average) weight. Teens who are already having trouble fitting in will use Mae’s looks as a benchmark for how they should look in order to avoid being called a DUFF. In my opinion, this movie only augments the pressures that society and the media have put on women to be thin and beautiful at the price of their own happiness.
I’m sure the movie ends with the main character’s revelation that she’s happy just the way she is, and that there are always going to be people who are “better” looking than she is and all that matters is being happy, blah blah blah. Great. Dandy. At least for the people who can walk away from the movie without questioning whether or not they’re the DUFF of their friends. And, per the message that’s so boldly written at the end of the trailer, “If you don’t know who it is, it’s probably you.”
Great message, CBS Films. Great message.