“The DUFF”: What Is It? Movie Acronym Explained

Just as I didn’t at first know the meaning of the movie title Laggies (see yesterday’s post), I also didn’t know about the meaning of new film The DUFF. Guess this shows just how out of it I am, as the Urban Dictionary has had entries as far back as 2003.

Turns out DUFF stands for “designated ugly fat friend.” And, now that I know, I’m not unhappy at all that this has never been part of my lexicon.

If Laggies is for the twenty-somethings, The DUFF is for the teen-somethings. In Kody Keplinger‘s YA novel (2010), on which this film is based, the DUFF is Bianca, age 17—who in actuality “isn’t that fat or ugly,” according to Booklist. But among some peers she’s designated as such anyway—that’s just how those mean kids roll.

By the way, the author was a senior in high school herself when she wrote it—and apparently she really gets the struggles of being viewed as a DUFF.

Kirkus Reviews, about Keplinger’s book: “Her snarky teen speak, true-to-life characterizations and rollicking sense of humor never cease in her debut. Teen readers will see both themselves and their friends in Bianca’s layered, hostile world.”

School Library Journal: “This debut novel is a fun read and surprisingly feminist in a number of ways. Keplinger makes good points about female body image and female friendship, and discusses how both men and women use offensive terms about women as a means of social control.”

THE DUFF: THE MOVIE VERSION

First, watch the trailer below:

I hear what you’re thinking: That Bianca is neither fat nor ugly! Couldn’t they fill that role with someone more appropriate?!

Seriously? I thought we’d already covered this.

But back when the casting choice was announced many were similarly outraged. Carole Horst, Variety, states that it created “a storm on social media. ‘Only in Hollywood would Mae Whitman be considered the Duff’ was the consensus.”

Among the adults featured, states Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter, is Allison Janney, who’s “effortlessly complicated as Bianca’s concerned yet distracted single mom, a self-help maven spouting mnemonic-device pep talks.”

Like Whitman, Janney relates (The Columbus Dispatch) to having been DUFFish—in her case, for being so tall. And, she says, “Everyone is some kind of DUFF. It doesn’t mean you’re ugly or fat. Most of us have felt, at some point, that we don’t fit in, for whatever reason.”

SELECTED MOVIE REVIEWS (FROM WOMEN CRITICS ONLY)

Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press: “While it’s neither as biting as Mean Girls nor as sweetly referential as Easy A, the earnest and sometimes amusing The DUFF is a fine addition to the canon.”

Inkoo Kang, The Wrap: “…’The DUFF’ is clever, funny and quotable enough to become this decade’s ‘Mean Girls’.”

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: “…(T)his high school rom-com is tricked out in rhetoric of independence and self-discovery that give it a pseudo-feminist sheen. But, between its grating heroine, strident speechifying, derivative plot and draggy tone and tempo, it’s like the redheaded stepchild of ‘Mean Girls’ and ‘Freaky Friday’.”

Amy Nicholson, Los Angeles Weekly: “The DUFF doesn’t seem to know what its point actually is. It’s pro-self-acceptance and also pro-makeover. It’s about liking yourself, and how you’d like yourself better with a boyfriend.”

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News: “Most of the credit goes to Whitman, who stands in, and stands up, for the DUFF in all of us.”

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