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Exclusive: 'The DUFF' Stars Talk Bullying

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With the upcoming release of The DUFF quickly approaching, we got an exclusive chance to chat with the some of the stars from the highly anticipated film. In case you've been out of the loop, The DUFF tells the story of Bianca Piper (played by Mae Whitman), a high school student who realizes she's the "designated ugly fat friend" of her group. On the surface, the film is a hilarious high school flick, but on a deeper level it delves into an issue that our society has been plagued by for decades: bullying.

The DUFF's underlying message to viewers was so positively received by anti-bullying advocates that the Mean Stinks! campaign decided to team up with the film's stars. We got to talk with Whitman and her on-screen best friends, played by Bianca Santos and Skyler Samuels, so check out what they had to say!

HC: When it comes to raising awareness about bullying, what do you think is the best message to send to kids?

Bianca: I think it’s super important overall to shift the focus in the conversation about bullying. So for girls and guys who go online, if they see something negative instead of getting involved, focus on the positive thing, write something positive to a friend like, “This is so great, I’m so proud of you.” Or if you see somebody encouraging someone else, that should be celebrated.

HC: As far as a solution to the bullying, should we approach the issue by speaking out against the negativity or building students' self-esteem so they don't need feel the need to bring others down?

Skyler: It's about driving down the negativity, but it's also just as important to empower people to react in a certain way. There's always going to be bullying at a lot of ages. It doesn't end after high school, it can continue into college, so learning how to react is important. Learning to not let comments get to you will, in effect, reduce the amount of bullying. If you're choosing not to react, the person carrying out the bullying will be less inclined to keep going.

Bianca: Yeah, I think that if we celebrate and focus on positivity, the power of negativity will go away.

HC: Some of you said you had experiences in school being bullied. How different do you think bullying is today, considering social media and all of our modes of technology?

Mae: We’re such a society of comparison right now that’s mixed with the idea of technology, which we don’t fully have a grasp on yet. And especially with the Internet, it's easy to sort of feel that your opinion holds water, that’s it's an enticing idea that needs to be heard. Sometimes negativity attracts attention, and makes you feel that putting others down makes you feel better. It’s just a tendency we have to compare and contrast and try to make subjective parameters a reality. None of the stuff matters, especially the need to compartmentalize things so that they can be contained or understood. There’s no guideline or box that can fit anything ever, it’s always up in the air and you’re creating every moment as it’s coming.

HC:The DUFF is a lot about labels, are labels a big part of the issue?

Skyler: I think that labels are only as arbitrary as the word itself. To be a DUFF isn't so much a term or label as it is an idea. Like nerd, dork or jock isn't a term, but an idea that you exist and you're this, you're not that, you should be this. It's not about the label that you carry but more about being able to deflect them and embracing yourself as you are. 

The DUFF will be out in theaters February 20—be sure to check out the film... and take the movie's message to heart!


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