“The designated ugly fat friend” is a phrase that could not possibly hold valuable meaning, right? Wrong.
Directed by Oscar winner Ari Sandel, “The DUFF” is much different than one might expect. What starts out as a degrading, unkind comment quickly becomes a widely accepted title.
The film begins with high school senior Bianca, played by Parenthood’s 26-year-old Mae Whitman, alongside Bella Thorne, who plays Madison, the “hot girl” in school. In the movie, Bianca’s best friends, Casey and Jess, are considered two of the most popular girls in school, while Bianca is only known for being their friend. Throughout the movie, guys will simply use Bianca to get the attention of Casey and Jess.
While at one of Madison’s extravagant parties, Bianca begins talking to her childhood friend Wesley, who refers to her as “the DUFF,” which he defines as “the designated ugly fat friend.”
Bianca is offended by his comment, but Wesley tries to explain how the title is not meant to be taken literally. Rather, it simply refers to “the one [in the group] who is approachable because everyone isn’t trying to get in their pants.”
In response, Bianca then does what one might not expect. She decides to embrace the title and show her classmates how she is proud to be “the DUFF” by showing up to school in her pajamas the following day.
After deciding her public statement was not enough, she confides in Wesley and the two make a deal: He will help her get rid of the title, if she helps him pass his science class. Wesley then gives Bianca a confidence boost by giving her both fashion and dating advice.
For some, the concept of the film was rude and offensive, similar to the ever so popular movie “Mean Girls”.
“I am not interested in seeing a film that puts people down just by reading the title,” Brianna Matamoros said, a former APU student.
Toward the end of the movie, Bianca ultimately realizes her transformation was not worth it. She regrets attempting to change who she is due to the opinions of others and misses the time spent with her best friends, Jess and Casey.
What sounds like another teenage film stereotyping women surprisingly ends with a very valuable lesson.
In high school, all students ends up with some kind of title, whether they like it or not. There will always be the popular kids, the jocks, the nerds, the band geeks, the emos, the drama enthusiasts and so on. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try to stop the stereotypes and bullying, they are unlikely to ever come to an end.
Sandel directed this film with the hope that young women who are given the title of “DUFF” will recognize they are not alone and that everyone is that character in some way. There will always be someone better than you, cooler than you, prettier than you and smarter than you. At some point in your life, whether it is in high school, college or in the professional world, you have to learn to embrace this truth and fully accept the person that you are.
“I really liked how it encourages kids to not care about what other people think of them, because I believe that is something that a lot of teenagers struggle with,” junior business major Jessica Martinez said.
Not everyone is going to like you or think you are the greatest, but those who do are worth keeping around. Your best friends who see the most potential and want what is best for you are all you need and are the friendships that truly matter.
In the end, Bianca’s title as “the DUFF” ultimately helps her classmates recognize that they were not alone in their struggle to find acceptance from their peers. In fact, a multitude of DUFFs share similar insecurities.
So before you make your own assumptions about the film and the way it reflects women, watch it and find out the true meaning behind the title and how not only is Bianca “a DUFF,” but so are you and I.