This was originally posted over on my new Tumblr Rachel Watches Things. It’s a project I started when I made a kind of late New Year’s Resolution that I won’t pay money to see any movies centered around straight white men in 2015. There’s a post that outlines my options each week that usually goes up on Wednesday and then reviews of what I see and other thoughts related to movies and representation. It’s going to be more focused than this blog has ever dreamed of being, but I thought this particular post had a bit of crossover appeal. Enjoy!
So The DUFF comes out this weekend and on the surface it kind of seems like something I would enjoy. I’ve enjoyed Mae Whitman in the things I’ve seen her in (which isn’t all that much, honestly) and high school rom coms are a genre that I usually enjoy. I mean, 10 Things I Hate About You is still one of my absolute favorites, and I loved things like Drive Me Crazy and Never Been Kissed, even though they were completely ridiculous. I’ve actually never seen American Pie or any of the sequels because raunchy comedy isn’t my jam, but The DUFF seems more like a 2015 She’s All That than anything else.
From what I’ve gathered, the basic premise is that Bianca finds out the she’s been labeled the “duff” among her friends – the Designated Ugly Fat Friend – and enlists the help of the hot-but-terrible-guy to change things. Cue makeover montage, high school shenanigans, hot-but-terrible-guy turning out to not be so terrible, everyone learning lessons, etc.
[minor spoiler – although really, don’t we all know where this is going?]
Based on the previews and the summaries I’ve read, it seems like the movie is at least attempting to send a positive message. According to Wikipedia, Bianca wins by “reminding everyone that no matter what people look or act like, we are all someone’s DUFF… and that’s totally fine.” And that’s cool, I guess? Although it still seems to be asserting that there is, in fact, a hierarchical order to things and it’s more important to remember that there are people both above and below you than it is to, oh I don’t know, dismantle the whole system?
[end of spoiler]
Aside from the fact that I’m not sure I like the message it’s sending (although since I haven’t seen it, I can’t say for sure), and the fact that Mae Whitman is neither ugly nor fat, I’m not sure I want to see this movie. It just hits a little to close to home for me.
10 years ago I worked at a movie theater. I got 4 free tickets a day, so I often brought groups of friends with me to the movies. One night three of my friends and I went to something, and the next day I was working with the guy who had taken our tickets. He told me that he thought it was interesting that groups of girls always had one friend who was less attractive. He had noticed this phenomenon again when I came in with my friends – they were all really hot. Implying that I, of course, was the less attractive friend.
He tried to engage me in conversation about this ~*super interesting*~ sociological phenomenon and because 18-year-old me was much less sure of herself and also keenly aware that all of her friends were more “conventionally beautiful” than her, I let him keep talking instead of punching him in the face.
And I’d love to say that I shrugged it off because who cares what he thought, but clearly I didn’t. Even ten years later, I still remember how I felt during that conversation and how it painfully confirmed what I already knew – that I was not thin enough or pretty enough or sweet enough or funny enough or enough of whatever thing it was that boys were looking for.
It seems silly to not go see a movie just because of a dumb comment someone made so long ago. But it’s taken a lot of work to be happy and content with who I am and going to see something that could dredge up all the insecurities of 18-year-old me just isn’t worth it. If you see it and it turns out to be awesome and empowering and uplifting, let me know. In the meantime, I’ll go find something else to watch.