I really like how movies have caught up with technology. We used to have characters reading their e-mails and chats out loud because filmmakers feared audiences wouldn’t know what they’re writing to each other. Now we have movies that actually incorporate social media into their plots and visual aesthetics. That is a good thing for art, progressively including modern society.
The Duff, however, feels like grown-ups so desperate to appear hip to social media, they make sure to mention every app they’ve ever heard of, including We Heart It and Whatsapp. Tech-savvy teenagers don’t overtly show off all their social media. They incorporate it seamlessly into their lives. The Duff hashtags every character as they’re introduced.
Bianca (Mae Whitman) is best friends with Jess (Skyler Samuels) and Casey (Bianca Santos), who are much more aesthetically pleasing to high school males than she is. I can’t really begrudge them having characters say they want to bang Jess and Casey because that is how teenage guys (and middle aged guys unfortunately) talk. At least the point is that it’s demeaning and frowned upon, so okay.
In a casual conversation at a party for queen bee Madison (Bella Thorne), Bianca’s neighbor Wesley (Robbie Amell) tells Bianca she’s the DUFF for Casey and Jess. While Whitman hardly fits the acronym of Designated Ugly Fat Friend, the movie quickly establishes that DUFF is comparative. Plenty of DUFFs are lovely ladies, just bear a strikingly different aesthetic than their friends. I blame the MEDIA, and society is awful anyway. The movie is about overcoming such labels. It seems people even know it’s wrong to call people fat or ugly so they’ve made the acronym as an excuse to say it. Nice try, guys.
Bianca has a fight with Casey and Jess that I believe is a very teen fight for the social media age. Jess and Casey are sensitive too and they try to make up with Bianca. Some of the attributes they’re labeled with are good ones like kindness, strength and brains. While there is a positive message here, it’s hard to endorse this approach to the good old makeover story.
What’s most disturbing is a misappropriation of the “falling for your best friend all along” cliche. Usually it’s the protagonist pines for the hunk/beauty but realizes they’ve loved their geeky friend the whole time. Bianca pines for the awkward musician guy but learns she really loved the hunky jock the whole time. Have jocks caught on that movies were dissing them? They had to re-establish the hierarchy here too? Admittedly, Bianca’s love interest turns out to be a total douche, but the archetypes are troubling.
The amount of teen T&A was a tad troubling too. I know the high school movies I grew up with were R-rated, but I think those actors were all well into their 20s, except for Anthony Michael Hall. The comedy is just lazy, like that joke where we see something outrageous and then learn that the characters were only imagining it.
Whitman should be the lead in movies and I hope she gets better material than this. Oh, and Eli Roth included the Twitter handles of all the names in the credits, but The Duffbeat The Green Inferno to theaters. Roth got it from Nicolas Lopez in Que pena tu vida in 2010!