Maybe I'm a hypocrite for going for the throat of The DUFF trailer after having laughed at every one of Arrested Development's Ann Veal jokes, but I think there's a difference. In the new clip promoting a high school comedy that follows suit of makeover movies like She's All That and Clueless (and the assorted British texts upon which these were based), Arrested's own Mae Whitman is revealed to be the titular untouchable: the Designated Ugly Fat Friend among her clique of "traditionally attractive" young women. She is called out as such by Robbie Amell, playing what looks to be the most irredeemable teenager since before the Purple Wedding, setting into play what promises to be a nauseating will-they-won't-they but more importantly, it sets an alarming standard for what is considered overweight.
Setting aside that a person's weight should not be grounds for castigation (and should be of concern only to him or her, with standards ordained by the contexts of physical and emotional health), we arrive at a troubling notion upon considering The DUFF's premise: it is absolutely bats**t to deem Mae Whitman fat.
Not that it should even entail this degree of examination, but a pausing of The DUFF trailer on any shot of Whitman's torso will leave an observer unsettled about what Hollywood has decreed acceptable to define as oversized. Go ahead. Freeze the video anywhere you see Mae. You'll get my point.
And the big issue with this designation? It means that teenagers struggling with body image issues of their own are thrust further down the rabbit hole of insecurity. If someone of Whitman's shape is considered too big, then how the hell is someone bigger (who happens to be sensitive about his or her frame) supposed to walk away feeling validated?
Teen movies shouldn't be presenting Mae Whitmans as the aesthetic outcasts, but as the beautiful people that they are, better allowing for real life teens who don't look like the Robbie Amells and Bella Thornes we see in this trailer to emulate with heroes more in step with their own physical makeups.
So, I'm left consolidating my own potential hypocrisy in finding fault with something like The DUFF but relishing in the humor of Arrested Development's countless "Her?" jokes. In the latter, the jokes never quite seemed to be directed at Whitman's weight, or even much at her physical appearance, but more so at a general lack of flare exhibited by her on the whole. Of course, you can surely cite a number of examples to counter this argument (Jason Bateman's Michael comparing Whitman's Ann to an egg, or bemusing over the attractiveness of her mother). No matter the fault that lies with AD, it never seemed quite as malicious and decidedly ill-conceived as The DUFF does in its new trailer.
And even if Arrested Development is just as bad, which it just may be, that's no free pass for The DUFF to play indecently with standards for physical beauty that should be handled far more thoughtfully.
Images: CBS Films/Lionsgate (2)