Teen millenials deal with life in ‘The DUFF’

Tribune News Service
Robbie Amell and Mae Whitman in "The Duff." (Guy D'Alema/CBS Films/TNS)

Kaley Patterson
A&E Editor
@KaleyKayPatt

Freaks, geeks, bullies, jocks and popular princesses are staples in the social phenomena of labels in the form of judgment. But a new category has been added the list: the DUFF (designated ugly fat friend).

This new level of the social chain was introduced in the book “The DUFF” by Kody Keplinger and in the motion picture based on the fiction which was released on Feb. 20. The film focuses on Bianca Piper and her discovery of her position as the DUFF to her popular, head-turning friends Casey and Jessica. Captain of the football team and Bianca’s neighboring childhood friend Wesley Rush brings Bianca’s predicament to light and attempts to help her to remove her DUFF label.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

Bianca is a 17-year-old girl in high school – a place where social class plays a defiant role. She falls prey in the vicious feeding ground of the aggressive popular girl Madison who has the whole school in the cell phone gripped in the palm of her hand. Luckily, Bianca has her popular girlfriends to back her up when Madison refuses to invite her to a party on Wednesday evening. Bianca’s quick wit points out the absurdity of having a soiree on a school night.

The music blares, people are dancing, couples are kissing and drinks are being poured at the bash. Casey and Jessica, along with everyone else, are dressed in their best while Bianca wears her go-to pieces: “The Best Party” t-shirt, a flannel, denim capris and combat boots. Bianca likes being her horror-movie loving, weird and awkward self until Wesley calls her out on her DUFF.

After disowning her best friends and blaming them for not consulting her about her position in their friendship, Bianca seeks the help of Wesley to reverse-DUFF her, and in exchange she tutors him in Chemistry so he can play football. Wesley is believed by himself and everyone else that he’s not smart; he even calls himself an idiot.

The great thing about this film is that it doesn’t focus on what’s wrong with Bianca. It highlights her individuality – a trait Wesley finds attractive. Bianca begins to realize that her DUFF position was not at the fault of her friends, but her own. After spending hours with Wesley learning about the correct bra for her, how she wears clothes that hide her personality and that if she smiled more often and sat up straight, she would be more beautiful. These weren’t changes to Bianca as a person; these were enhancements on what was already there.

Wesley not only helps Bianca increase her self esteem, but Bianca also helps raise his. She encourages him in his studies, reminds him that he’s not dumb but smarter than he thinks and pushes him to have the courage to speak up and not fall prey to his social status’ requirements. Bianca realizes that everyone is a DUFF to someone – there’s always going to be someone prettier, smarter and better than you – and this gives her the strength to stand up to the status quo and its queen Madison.

Bianca decided to turn the tables and publish an article in the school’s newspaper about her journey from finding out her DUFF status, her rejection of the idea, her realization of the blatant truth, her action to change and then her acceptance of who she is. Her courage gave voice to the other DUFFS in the school.

The DUFF title wasn’t just given to her by her peers; it was given to her because of how she felt about herself deep inside. She acted as if she was comfortable with herself. But when she learned no one saw her the same way she and her friends noticed her, she realized she wasn’t as content with herself as she thought. Bianca decided to reverse her DUFF status by accepting and embracing it – once she did, her confidence blossomed.

“The DUFF” doesn’t tell girls, and even boys, that they’re ugly or fat; it tells them that they’re more than a title. The film is aspiring to those who consider themselves as the DUFF of their friend group or as a member of society. DUFFs are only holding themselves down as the designated ugly fat friend. The best thing to do is embrace it because everyone has problems and no one is perfect. It’s cliche, but that’s life, right?

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