Hereâ€s hoping that this doesnâ€t start a
trend among already-beleaguered teens.
The premise here is that â€The Duffâ€ť is
the person in your group who is the â€Designated Ugly Fat Friend.â€ť
Sheâ€s the one with the bubbly personality,
somewhat geeky, but approachable, and therefore important as a gateway to her
better-looking friends. If youâ€re a hot football player, say, and you want
to know if the pretty head cheerleader might be â€into you,â€ť then you
approach The Duff and inquire of her.
That way youâ€ve got a layer of insulation
The further premise here is that high school guys
also operate under a similar unspoken social hierarchy, but this movie isnâ€t
about them, anyway.
Veteran child actress Mae Whitman plays Bianca,
whose best friend, actually, is the boy next door, Wesley (Robbie Amell), but
though the viewers immediately realize their emotional connection, she doesnâ€t.
She thinks she is part of the cool chick clique
at school, the popular tandem of Casey and Jess, and so far she hasnâ€t
realized that actually, sheâ€s The Duff.
Until Wesley tells her.
Now sheâ€s completely bummed out.
She thought Casey and Jess were her friends, but
Bianca can simply look in the mirror and realize how close this is to the
Ms. Whitman is probably neither fat enough nor ugly enough for this part, but
this is about perception, not reality.)
There are some really creative moments in this
film, especially the part about applying portable labels to the students as
they sit in classrooms, or walk down the halls.
The caricatures of certain cliques (Goth, Glee
Club, Jocks, Nerds) are universally recognizable.
But unfortunately nearly everyone is a
caricature, and sometimes not a very convincing one.
The prototypical â€Mean Girlâ€ť seems to
possess an exalted social position even though we hear nothing but ugly
invective coming out of her mouth.
The so-called quarterback has a limp throwing
motion that indicates he couldnâ€t hit a receiver more than five yards away.
The quirky sense of humor sometimes works,
especially the heroineâ€s charming self-deprecation, but thereâ€s way too
much egregious gutter slang and sex talk in the dialogue to recommend this to
church youth groups.
And the ending has certainly been done before:
yes, itâ€s the boy next door who really loves
her, but first she has to learn to accept herself, and quit trying to be
somebody sheâ€s not in order to impress everyone else.
Thatâ€s certainly a worthy moral to the story,
but hereâ€s hoping the concept of The Duff doesnâ€t cause as much
wrenching self-doubt and chaotic social confusion in nationwide teen circles
as it does in this film.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish
Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church,