Books Made Into Movies: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Alright, I know that I already did a post about the movie version of The DUFF after I saw an advanced screening. Check this post for my initial reaction. I had a lot of issues with the movie, but I wasn’t entirely sure how it compared to the actual book. My guy instinct said poorly, but I didn’t have the evidence to back it up. I reread The DUFF, so now I’m here to discuss the movie in terms of a retelling.

There will be spoilers for the film in this post. That’s evidence number one for how closely this does not stick to the book.

Bianca

Book: In the novel, Bianca’s a bitch, a term I use only with affection. She’s very judgmental of those around her, from Wesley Rush, school manwhore, to her best friends, Jess and Casey. As a grouchy, judgmental person myself, Bianca’s arc is a very satisfying one. Her journey in The DUFF is an emotional one, where she learns about being herself, trusting others, and not judging people for not living the way that you choose to. That last doesn’t necessitate not judging ever, but being more careful about making those judgments. Bianca’s a bit of a loner by nature, but she’s not friendless or bullied. Many people reach out to her within the book, and, when she gives them a chance, she tends to discover people are more fun than she expects and they all have a good time. Despite her crush on Toby Tucker, Bianca has been burned in romance before and never wants to fall in love again, at least not in high school.

Movie: Bianca of the movie is a far cry from book Bianca. Like book Bianca, she’s judgmental and grouchy. They’ve got a fairly similar demeanor, and the casting is good here. Movie Bianca, however, is greatly judged by her peers. She’s ignored by most, and, when she is noticed, she’s generally insulted or bullied. In the movie, Bianca becomes the laughing stock of the school. The movie also comes across as a makeover flick, as Bianca the DUFF desperately searches for a boyfriend.

Family

Book: Bianca’s mother and father are going through a painful divorce that Bianca’s not mentally ready to deal with, even though it’s been coming for a while. Bianca feels abandoned by her mom, even more so now that it will be permanent; her mom has been on the road more and more touring her self-esteem book. Bianca lives with her usually reliable Dad, an alcoholic who is drinking again because he’s sad about the divorce.

Wesley’s family is wealthy and cold. He lives by himself in a mini-mansion, because his parents are always off traveling and his sister lives with his grandmother who hates him. Wesley’s very lonely and, like Bianca, feels abandoned.

Movie: Bianca lives with her mother, who also does the self-help book thing. Her father left them, taking the family dog with them. She makes a sad joke about how he wanted the dog and not her. The self-help commentary becomes the biggest family issue that Bianca has to deal with. I find the swap in the primary parent rather unnecessary, but I suppose it’s worth it for Allison Janney.

Wesley appears to have book Bianca’s parents, based on the yelling inside his house during one scene. This is about all we learn about Wesley’s family life, and nothing whatsoever is done with it.

Romance

Book: As I already mentioned, Bianca doesn’t want romance. Bianca had sex for the first time when she was a freshman with a guy who was lying to her and keeping her a secret (he was also cheating on his girlfriend of many years). When he comes back to town to visit his sister (now one of Bianca’s best friends) at the same time her parents’ marriage is falling apart, Bianca ends up kissing and sexing Wesley for a distraction. She initiates all physical interaction. She doesn’t want to think about all the shit in her life, and his body is a pleasurable escape. The two, eventually, end up talking about the shit in their lives and bonding over their family problems. Feelings happen one hundred percent in spite of her. This culminates in the most perfect confession scene of all time.

Movie: Wesley and Bianca were childhood besties, because they’re neighbors now. They have a monster voice inside joke. Now, though, they hate each other. Wesley has been in an on-again, off-again relationship with mean girl Madison for years. She asks him to help her find a boyfriend and for no reason he kisses her. Then Bianca has feelings and confesses to him. He, despite now being on-again with Madison, kisses Bianca in front of the whole school, and I’m supposed to feel thrilled about that.

Toby Tucker

Book: Toby Tucker has been Bianca’s eye candy for a while. He’s a nerd, described in the book as not being “an overly sensitive guitar-playing hippie.” She’s got a pretty big crush on him, but no real desire to do anything about it because she hates romance. One day, they end up working together in the school office and bond. It’s the first time they’ve really hung out. They become friends and date a bit, because he and his girlfriend are no longer together. They end things through mutual agreement because she’s into Wesley and he’s not over his ex. It’s one of the only times I buy the friendly break up scenario.

Movie: Toby Tucker has been Bianca’s eye candy and mega-crush for a while. He has longish hair that he flips a lot and plays the guitar to adoring crowds of girls. Toby Tucker has literally been made into the sort of guy Bianca despises. Even worse, he agrees to go out with her, but actually only because he thought it was a friend thing and she would set him up with her friends. He DUFFed her.

Friendship

Book: Bianca initially seems like she hates Jess and Casey, because she’s judgmental about a lot of what they do. They’re not exactly kindred spirits, but they have histories together. Bianca ends up drifting away from them, because she doesn’t want to talk about the pain of Jess’ brother being back in town, about her parents’ divorce, or about how she’s boning Wesley on the regular. Her friends finally confront her and she comes clean, learning to appreciate and rely on her friends more.

Movie: Wesley tells Bianca that she is the DUFF of the group. She summarily gets mad at Jess and Casey for only keeping her around to make them look good. They unfollow/unfriend each other on everything and don’t talk for much of the movie, until Bianca finally apologizes. This is so much a different thing than distancing herself because she can’t handle her life that I can’t even. Her friends mostly exist to be attractive and dress her up at the end of the movie. I do applaud the addition of diversity with Casey’s character, though, because the movie didn’t need another hot blonde.

Slut-Shaming

Book: Bianca slut-shames a lot at the beginning of the book. Most notably, she calls Wesley a manwhore. She’s very judgmental of people’s sexual activities. As the book progresses, she learns a lot. The ultimate message of the book is about owning what you do and being safe. The DUFF is very sex-positive and anti-slut-shaming. Wesley, for example, does have sex with a lot of girls, but he’s very clear that he doesn’t make them any false promises.

Movie: Bianca still, if I remember correctly, calls Wesley a manwhore, though I’m not sure why since, as far as I can tell, he only has sex with Madison. Maybe when they’re off-again, he sleeps around, but there’s no evidence of that in the movie. Madison and her lackey also slut-shame a lot. No one learns anything about this ever. The slut-shaming is just there.

The DUFF

Book: Bianca doesn’t like being called the DUFF for obvious reasons, despite Wesley’s repeated assurances that it doesn’t actually mean that he thinks she’s fat and ugly. She ultimately comes to terms with the idea that the DUFF is relative, and that we are ALL the DUFF sometimes. Both Casey and Jess admit that they feel like the DUFF too.

Movie: This is the one thing I think the movie gets most right, if you ignore how the whole thing ends up with a makeover. Certainly the end, with the cameo from Kody herself, conveys that being the DUFF isn’t a weird or bad thing.

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10 responses to “Books Made Into Movies: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger”

  1. Brigid says:

    Damn that sucks. I’m so sick of slut shaming in book, but in movies it becomes a whole new level because it has such a huge affect on society and its audiences in general. Not that books don’t, but it seems to be more apparent in movies/tv.

    I haven’t read the book. I remember the buzz when it came out. The author seems like a cool person.
    Brigid recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee AhdiehMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Both in books and movies, it’s so pervasive. I still find it hard to get that natural instinct out of my head, even though I’m very much against it. Society deeply ingrains this shit in our heads in most pop culture, and it’s really hard to get things out when you’ve been taught them since you were born basically.

      I’ve not met Kody Keplinger, but she does seem totally awesome. I highly recommend all of her books. They’re directly taking on the slut- and virgin-shaming in society. They’re things of beauty.

  2. This movie actually sounds so bad. Also, slut-shaming is a huge NO and it happens so much in movies and then that travels to it happening in real life. Like I feel like telling some people, “Wake up, guys. This isn’t a movie. Slut-shaming isn’t ‘funny’ or ‘cool.'”
    Nova @ Out of Time recently posted…Book Review: Push – Eve SilverMy Profile

  3. Kristin says:

    I love the book but the second I saw the trailer and how horribly off the mark it was from the book, I decided against seeing it. It’s more of a Cinderella story than The DUFF.
    Kristin recently posted…Review: Unicorn Keep by Angelia AlmosMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I’d say that’s pretty close to true. She doesn’t have a huge makeover, but the way the movie is framed really makes it feel that way.

  4. I am really happy to see that I am not the only one who has been disappointed with the DUFF movie! I love this book, and think that it is a great story. The movie totally changes everything that I loved about the book. I hate the whole idea of Bianca and Wesley’s past, and the fact that he’s making her over.

    Were there any parts of the movie that were true to the book/you liked?
    Max @ Maximum Reads recently posted…Maximum Review- The Cure for DreamingMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I did like the added diversity. The movie’s fun, albeit very awkwardly so and probably (for most) only the sort of humor that can be enjoyed once.

      As for something that’s true to the book, well, no. I really think the only thing they captured at all was the stuff about being the DUFF. It’s got some merits, but, as an adaptation, it fails utterly.

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  6. Meg says:

    i fucking hate this movie and all that it stands for
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