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Why The DUFF Is Not Acceptable

By Sara McCrea in Opinion & Politics

The historical movie “Mean Girls” defined a generation, but if the newest teen flick follows suit, we should be very afraid. The idea of creating a movie surrounding a new slang term is genius for pop culture because the shorthand spreads fast, and the “DUFF” could easily be the next “YOLO.” But the problem with “The Duff” isn’t the simple marketing technique, it is the meaning of the slang and how it will affect teenagers in their everyday life.


DUFF stands for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend,” meaning that every group of friends has one person that they are only friends with to make themselves look better. The film explains that a person doesn’t have to be fat or ugly to be a DUFF, but simply less popular.


There are many problems with this. Based on a book of the same title, “The DUFF” explores the hierarchy of high school by creating a new phrase that insults, ridicules, and makes teens feel self conscious. I would understand if this was already a common phrase and the movie was made to put an end to something so offensive, but sadly CBS Films threw a new mean nickname into pop culture. Kylie Jenner stepped out in a shirt reading “I’m Somebody’s DUFF” as if she was owning a title that no one would have called her. You should not be proud to be called an ugly fat person. There’s no pride in announcing that you are the least liked person in your clique.

We should teach teens that calling someone fat, even if they’re wearing a shirt displaying that they are okay with it, is NOT acceptable. Especially someone as influential as a Kardashian endorsing the franchise is horrific. As demonstrated by “Glee,” high schoolers are more animals than people, and the story of the underdog prevailing is always a crowd pleaser. No one is saying that high schoolers are completely considerate people or that high school is an easy time, but the kids in this movie are savages.

The moral of the movie is that “We are all DUFFs,” yet it never mentions that even the label is not a socially acceptable thing. Every insecure middle or high  schooler leaving the theater is forced to question whether they are the DUFF of their friend group. How is this okay? What producer gave this the green light? Friendship shouldn’t be about competition, it should be about surrounding yourself with people that you feel comfortable being with.

The movie centers around Bianca, an intelligent girl in a suburb that obviously is in love with a guy more popular than her. Even though Bianca stands up for the importance of defining yourself, the movie has a huge theme of having to change yourself to have a successful romance. I mean, when Sandra Dee changed into a catsuit to get Danny Zuko in the 1950’s it was hard to grasp, but how is this offensive movie getting such decent reviews? They say that it’s okay to be labeled as fat, because there’s nothing wrong with being fat. But our hatred of fat people is so deeply integrated into our culture that being called fat has a offensive, negative connotation.

Owning a label is not the same as promoting acceptance. This movie encourages the victim to change, not the prosecutor. And while this label creeps into the hallways all around America we must ask ourselves whether a studio’s desperation to be quotable has gone too far.

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