Directed by Angela Robinson (2004)
by Judson Cade Pedigo
I’ve been thinking a lot about the movie D.E.B.S lately and I’m not sure exactly why. D.E.B.S is a perfectly fine movie, not particularly remarkable at first glance but that’s exactly what makes it so extraordinary. The D.E.B.S are a group of young women trained to be an elite task force by a highly top secret spy organization. Stylistically the movie looks and feels like any mainstream teen movie released in the early 2000’s like Agent Cody Banks or Drive Me Crazy. Here’s the thing though, about thirty minutes into the movie we find out that one of the D.E.B.S might end up falling for the super villain with world domination plans. That’s a plot twist we’ve all seen before except here the actual twist is that the villain is actually a villainess and the story is not girl meets boy but girl meets girl. It’s one that I didn’t really see coming because the movie looked so glossy. That’s an interesting take and had me paying attention to a movie I normally wouldn’t have paid attention to. The script is funny, the cast is great, and the whole thing moves along wonderfully. It’s just fun. It’s really a teen romance wrapped in the guise of a spy spoof; the only difference is that it’s actually a coming out story. The film itself doesn’t let that detail weigh it down - while it is commented on, the movie is more concerned with being a fun action comedy and it succeeds. We need more movies like D.E.B.S I think, movies that are nice, normal mainstream movies that just happen to have a gay element because guess what, a coming out story is normal, it always has been, it’s just the rest of the world that has been a little behind at catching up.
The complaint I’ve always heard when a gay character is introduced in a movie or tv show is “I don’t have a problem with it but (here it comes) they’re actually a small part of our population and I don’t see why they have to make a big deal out of it.” Thing is, the people that are usually doing the complaining are older white men who generally have no problem finding themselves on the screen. It boils down to an unwillingness to share the space, a space that has been dominated by entertainment catered specifically to their demographic. Hey, I fall into that category. I’ve never had a problem finding characters I can identify with from Elliot hanging out with a flying space alien (also a dude), to Indiana Jones punching Nazis in their stupid Nazi faces. What about the 16 year-old girl out there who happens to be gay? Where are her onscreen heroes? She’s going to have a harder time finding an onscreen character to relate to. She can either pick from “The Bitch," “The Annoying Girl,” or “The Girlfriend That’s There to Provide Support and a Romantic Outlet for the Hero of the Movie” (I guess it’s a hat trick if the character is all three). That isn’t to say that things aren’t getting incrementally better. I’ve got kids so I am forced to watch mostly what they want to watch and what they like to watch, they like to watch over and over and over. One of their favorite movies is Home. It’s a typical DreamWorks animated feature, something I’m not that interested in, except in this the lead is a teenage African American girl. Again, that is interesting. She’s a fun character who doesn’t have any romantic subplot; she doesn't play the sidekick (if anything that annoying purple blob is HER sidekick). She’s just a girl looking for her mom. It’s nice to see something with a different perspective even if it’s in something as innocuous as a computer animated children’s movie.
D.E.B.S was a unique release and I wish we would have seen more like it in its wake. Let’s face it, I’ll have an easier time getting someone to watch D.E.B.S than a movie like Shortbus which I love but has one of the lead characters performing self-fellatio on himself within the first 10 minutes. The thing that is great about D.E.B.S is that it handles the burgeoning romance between D.E.B agent Amy Bradshaw (Sarah Foster) and international jewel thief Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster) just like it would any love story in a teen movie. There’s no special quotes around any of it or the heavy handedness of an after school special. It just is. It’s established early on that Amy has recently dumped her boyfriend, a Homeland Security agent (and complete lunkhead), because she’s looking for something more. After tracking Lucy Diamond to what they think is a nefarious scheme (it’s actually a blind date between Diamond and Russian assassin Ninotchka Kaprova), Amy literally runs headfirst into Lucy during the ensuing chase. Amy is at first intrigued by Lucy because she’s not the hardened crook she has been made out to be and is a little star struck because we find that she is actually writing her term paper on the elusive criminal. There’s something more going on. As she starts falling for Lucy the conflict has more to do with “oh my god, I’m falling in love with a super villain, what will my friends think?” than the fact the she’s a woman (although that is touched upon). When she tells Lucy “I feel more like me, when I’m with you than when I’m with me” it’s a page right out of the John Hughes playbook and I couldn’t be happier. Later when Lucy start lip synching to Erasure’s “A Little Respect” over a montage of efforts to win Amy back, it’s my happy place. It’s a fun movie and one of my favorites. I just wish that there were more movies like it.
Recently I sat down with my daughter to talk to her about a baby shower that we’d been invited to for my friend and her girlfriend. I don’t think the topic of girls having girlfriends or boys having boyfriends has ever come up and to be honest I’m sure that I’ve avoided talking about dating in general. She’s old enough now that I felt I could talk to her about these things. I’m the one who wasn’t ready I guess because I caught myself stammering and stuttering like Hugh Grant at a Spencer’s Gifts about how “her friend is really her girlfriend and it’s okay and do you have any questions?l”. You know what she said? She told me, “Why would that be a big deal?” Maybe there is hope for the future after all.