‘The DUFF’ mirrors society, Hollywood perception of beauty

For those that don’t know, “The DUFF” is a young adult novel turned movie about a girl struggling with cyberbullying surrounding her body image. “DUFF” itself is an acronym that stands for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend,” which is a blanket term for anyone who is comparatively uglier and/or fatter than their friends.

Not only is this further fueling the negative body images already surrounding women, but it is encouraging them to label and isolate each other at a very young age.

“The DUFF” was released on Feb. 20, and the reviews on say that it’s basically got “Mean Girls” and “She’s All That” written all over it. The most interesting news surrounding the movie is what various film bloggers have to say — and most of it isn’t nice.

USA Today starts their piece praising the actress and knocking down the term by saying that “DUFF is a nasty acronym standing for ‘designated ugly fat friend.’ We’re supposed to believe Whitman’s Bianca falls into that role, though she is far from unattractive or overweight.”

This begs the question of why she would be considered fat and ugly if she is neither of those things. Granted those terms are subjective to the viewer, but if we look at the images we are presented with in the media, Mae Whitman does not fall under this category. In fact, the idea of her being fat and ugly goes directly against society’s idea of a celebrity.

The Dagger Press said that the acronym is offensive and inexcusable.

“The offered justification for the term is that it’s one-size-fits-all, pertaining to any persons considered comparatively less attractive than their friends,” the article said. “Have we not made progress since Sandra Dee decided to dress like a streetwalker to win the affections of Danny Zuko?”

It seems, in reality, we haven’t. Because it’s terms like these that not only put down those unlucky enough to be pinned with it, but it implies that even if you are “The Reverse DUFF,” you need a “DUFF” in order to gain any attention. It implies that the comparison has to be there in order for any beautiful girl to be noticed.

This is the same reality that is undermining advertising, sales and campaigns geared towards making women feel good about themselves. For instance, Dove’s Real Beauty campaign was started based on a 2004 study showing “that only 2 percent of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful.”

But, just as in the ending of “The DUFF,” not all people have allowed this word to simply keep its surface meaning and have now adapted it to everyday life to better fit the world around them.

When asked, most of the people interviewed could rattle off the definition of the term DUFF in its acronym form. However, when asked what they thought a DUFF meant to them, they had several different answers.

“I wouldn’t (use it) because that’s not very nice,” said mechancial engineering sophomore Danyelle Frederick. “Society is trying to push the image of beauty into one thing while in reality, it is many different things.”

It’s not just Hollywood that is pushing this image of beauty. Fashion labels, clothing brands, makeup lines and so many others make money off of the idea that women “need” them in order to be the “reverse DUFF.” These are the kind of people that show audiences people like Whitman in a negative light just to sell their ideas.

There are some redeeming qualities to the movie. While the main character does eventually give into trying to become “un-DUFF,” she rails against it furiously at first. Of course, the movie does end with the term DUFF being reworked into something more encouraging, saying that it will now be used “to describe anyone and everyone who occasionally feels inferior for any reason.”

“I don’t really like that phrase,” said kinesiology junior Shernice Thomas. “I guess I would define a DUFF as someone you could just be totally honest with and pour out your feelings and be worried about them judging you.”

Nevertheless, most agreed that the movie wasn’t setting the best example and portraying a bad stereotype for women to follow. The movie, even it did have good intentions in the end, is only adding to self-shame and further terminology to put other women down. And we, as a society, should be moving forward into advertising and products like Dove’s Real Women campaign, “Normal” Barbies and #nofilterme.

“(A DUFF is) someone in your friend group that you can be real with,” said hotel and restaurant management junior Dylan Castagno. “She’s not necessarily fat and ugly; it’s just this guy’s go-to person to talk with and open up to … every person has that one person — the DUFF — that they go to. It makes it sound ugly, but it’s a woman that can be real and a true friend to whoever needs it.”

Opinion columnist Nicollette Greenhouse is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected].

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