for crude and sexual material throughout, some language and teen partying
Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell
CBS Films, Vast Entertainment, Wonderland Sound and Vision
Release Date/In Theaters
-by Ginger Shelby
The Duff may look like just another coming of age story, but it deals with some real life issues. In this story, Bianca is the average high school senior. Her life changes when she finds that she has been labeled a DUFF, which for those adults out there, means Designated Ugly Fat Friend. The movie is designed to appeal to the average teen and they will probably understand it more than their parents, but this might not be the best role model, and this parental guide to the movies thinks that DUFF takes some serious topics too lightly.
This movie is a common plot that has been used in the past. It is a story about a coming of age and a geek turned beauty queen, but this movie takes the theme in a different direction than other movies have in the past. The plot begins when Bianca finds out that she has been being called a DUFF behind her back. Her male friend tells her that she should embrace the label because it means that she is approachable. Right away, this movie has gone into a territory that borders on a commercial for bullying. The implication is that if you are skinny and pretty, you are desirable, but out of reach. If you are fat, you are undesirable, therefore attainable. This movie does more to undermine antibullying campaigns and to the idea of self-acceptance campaigns than anything put out by the movie industry in recent years. It promotes the idea that it is acceptable for teens to name call, discriminate against, categorize, emotionally humiliate and bully those who do not fit into the stereotypical “ideal” of female perfection.
Bianca is so humiliated that she has this label, so she decides to launch a campaign to be something that she is not, just for the sake of becoming socially acceptable and likable. This was the plot of classic movies such as Grease and Cinderella, but this is no Disney movie. She enlists the help of a handsome athlete to transform her into the ideal stereotypical popular girl. In this movie, it is more acceptable to be a beautiful girl with little substance than a woman who is intelligent, but does not meet social standards on the outside. The movie sends the message that all that matters is outer appearances, if you are a girl. When she asks him where to start, he immediately criticizes her “uniboob”, posture, the fit of her clothes, and her bra size. The pretty, popular girl tells her that she will never matter. The entire staff, including the teachers support the idea that it is not only tolerable but also socially acceptable to humiliate and degrade the young girl because of her physical appearance. She is pointed at and teased by a majority of the school. It promotes the idea that it is perfectly acceptable to degrade someone to the point where she feels that she must pretend to be something that she is not. The message that this movie sends is unacceptable by any standard.
This movie promotes bullying, emotional abuse, and scapegoating as the new social order. It promotes the idea that if you do not live up to the superficial, shallow standards set by society, you have no place in the world. It paints the picture that the socially unacceptable teen will end up a depressed and lonely adult. As she transforms herself into a socially acceptable stereotype, she gains confidence. Perhaps the most frightening reference in the movie was when an older male teacher says she is a “10”, making the innuendo that he wishes to date a 17 year old after her transformation. The movie continually drives home the idea that by being something that she is not, she can overcome her social inadequacies, despite the fact that she is fat and ugly. The movie contains numerous sexual references, innuendos, and fantasies, more foul language than on can count, teen partying, two people getting punched and one getting slapped.
This movie did not cross the legal line for being an R movie, and the movie is obviously targeted towards teens, but there is nothing even remotely acceptable about the message that this movie sends. In a world where school violence, teen suicides, and depression rates are skyrocketing, the last thing the world needs is a movie that makes bullying look heroic. Teens have enough trouble building self-esteem and a positive self-image without 101 minutes of imagery that normalizes this behavior. In this family movie review’s opinion, the only thing fat and ugly about this movie the message that it sends to teens.
Read more family movie reviews by Parental Guide.