Whitman plays the titular role of “The Duff” as Bianca, who must navigate the pain of being categorized, not just in private, but also in public by a mean popular girl, Madison (Thorne) who considers Bianca inferior to her more popular pretty friends Casey (Santos) and Jess (Samuels). The cast was keenly aware of the importance of shining a light on this current issue in a humorous package.
Even before the term DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) entered the high school vernacular, there have always been unspoken differences in social circles. It seems that everyone has friends who are more attractive, smarter, or more talented at some point in their lives, as well as friends who are not as attractive, smart or talented. The reality is that everyone is a DUFF and everyone has a DUFF, and nowhere is that more pronounced than in high school.
“The idea of doing a coming of age film that also deals with bullying, which is really in the zeitgeist right now with everything happening on the internet, and how pervasive social media is in high school life, really intrigued me actually,” says Sandel.
“Texting and all this stuff, it’s a whole new ballgame as far as bullying, and it’s rampant,” says Whitman. “It’s rampant everywhere in America right now. There’s this whole mentality of ripping other people down. And it sort of is perpetuated on the internet so I think it’s a cool new twist to be illuminating how horrible that stuff is, because it’s really bad.”
“The added thing of course is the fact that kids are now texting,” says actress Allison Janney who plays Dottie as Bianca’s mom. “And there’s Twitter and putting things up on YouTube. I can imagine the possibility for public humiliation is just enormous.” In the film, a personal moment of Bianca’s gets recorded and is quickly disseminated through social media, exposing something that should have gone unobserved to the entire school.
Whitman hopes the movie will illuminate the bigger issue of everyone’s tendency to compare and create limitations that hold us back. She says, “If you walk out of the theater and for even five minutes feel a little bit less trapped by your perceptions of yourself, then the movie is a success.”
“The Duff” opens April 15 in cinemas nationwide from Pioneer Films.
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