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Film / D.E.B.S.

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"Evil is so totally busted."

D.E.B.S. is a 2004 action comedy film based on a 2003 short that made the rounds at the film festival circuit. The short was about a team of college girl spies and the romantic relationship of one of the spies with the archvillain. The film expands on the story of the short and adds a fair dose of camp.

The D.E.B.S. are a large group of young women who are super spies. They are first screened by a secret portion of the SATs that test whether someone has the aptitude to lie, cheat, fight, and kill. Those who pass screening are recruited into the D.E.B.S. spy academy.

The plot begins with one of the squads being tasked with staking out villainess Lucy Diamond. One member of the squad, Amy, has always been fascinated by Lucy Diamond and is even writing a thesis on her. The stakeout goes wrong and it ends up turning into a gun fight. Just afterwards, while chasing Lucy, Amy and Lucy end up meeting face to face. Despite holding each other at gunpoint, Lucy and Amy start talking to each other. After a distraction helps Lucy escape, it's revealed that Lucy is starting to really fall for Amy...

Despite taking place in a Charlie's Angels-style spy universe, D.E.B.S. is actually more of a sapphic Romantic Comedy than anything else.

Not to be confused with the Delfino Emergency Broadcast System, or Eugene Debs.

D.E.B.S. provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Amy is the Perfect Score, and when Amy is appointed over Max's head as captain of their squad, Max vents over this — Amy aces tests without appearing to try, "men throw themselves at your feet and you barely notice", she'd just as soon be doing artwork while Max is busting her gut to be captain.
  • Affably Evil: Lucy is a friendly supervillain who's not actually the murderous psychopath the D.E.B.S. think at first. She really didn't kill any of their agents, the deaths were accidental (however, she does desire to sink Australia). Later she reforms completely, but even prior willingly let Amy live (granted, that was partly due to her attraction for her).
  • Affectionate Parody: Of Charlie's Angels and the Teen Superspy genre.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Lucy Diamond uses the air vents to infiltrate the building in which Endgame is occurring.
  • All There in the Script: Lucy has an Australian ex. This would explain why she's fixated on sinking Australia.
  • Almost Kiss: While Lucy Diamond and Amy are in a Bad Guy Bar, they get to know each other and become intimate.
  • Amazon Brigade: The D.E.B.S. as a whole, a group of young female super spies with extensive training, culled from high school girls all over the US.
  • The Art of Bra Removal: D.E.B.S. provides a rare example of a female character having difficulty unhooking her partner's bra.
  • Automatic Crossbows: Amy keeps a crossbow with a large magazine in her room.
  • Bad Guy Bar: Lucy Diamond kidnaps Amy and takes her to a bar that's a hangout for criminals like her.
  • Being Evil Sucks: The film has an example with Lucy Diamond. After she falls in love with Amy and realizes that she'll have to give up her life of crime to be with her, she says "Being bad doesn't feel good anymore."
  • Beta Couple: Scud is Lucy Diamond's second in command and Janet is a junior member of Amy's D.E.B.S. squad. They meet when Lucy Diamond kidnaps Amy and gradually fall in love with each other. At the end of the movie they apparently plan to start dating.
  • Big Bad: Lucy Diamond is the supervillainess regarded as one of the greatest threats to the known world, whom the agents are sent to stop. However, she becomes a better person as a result of her relationship with Amy. The actual antagonists end being the D.E.B.S. Academy themselves, headed by Miss Petrie, as well as Amy's ex boyfriend Bobby, both of whom threaten Amy's relationship with Lucy, and try to "fix" Amy.
  • Brake Angrily: While Lucy Diamond and Scud are driving away from the restaurant after the gunfight, Lucy tells Scud that she "met somebody" and he brakes the car to a halt in surprise.
  • Call-Back: A joke near the end is very similar to one near the beginning: "And what did I say to you the very first day at the Academy?" and "What did I say to you the first time we met?"
  • Camp Straight: Scud: catty, gives Lucy relationship advice, wears a lot of pink, and... gets into a relationship with one of the D.E.B.S. girls.
  • Casting Gag: Ms. Petrie expressing disdain for Amy being a lesbian retroactively becomes this as actress Holland Taylor would come out as one herself years later.
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: The D.E.B.S.' uniform plays to this.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: Lucy at her best, when she infiltrates the D.E.B.S. house (twice) and Endgame.
  • Closet Key: Lucy for Amy. Falling for her makes Amy realize she likes other girls.
  • Compromising Call: Lucy Diamond is moving along an Air-Vent Passageway in the ceiling while her nemesis Bobby is following her in the corridor below. Suddenly Bobby's radio squawks, alerting Lucy to the fact that she's been detected and allowing her to escape.
  • Cool Car: Lucy Diamond and Scud drive a classic 1959 Cadillac de Ville.
  • Crash-Into Hello: Lucy Diamond and Amy Bradshaw are running down two parallel passages separated by a wall of boxes. Where the passages meet, they run into each other and fall down. Their subsequent interaction leads them to become attracted to each other.
  • Crowd Panic: The Endgame crowd when a guy sees Lucy Diamond, yells that she's there and tells them to run for their lives.
  • Cure Your Gays: Amy's ex Bobby believes he can accomplish this on her and force her to date him despite knowing she's gay. The agency believe they can force this on Amy and try to cure her of her "lesbianism" in order to maintain her as a "perfect score" Deb and keep her away from Lucy Diamond.
  • Dating Catwoman: Both the short and full-length versions of this film center around a secret agent's forbidden romance with a supervillainess.
    Amy: If you'll excuse me, I have a date with the devil.
  • Descending Ceiling: In the very obvious Death Trap.
  • Designated Victim: In the short film the D.E.B.S. are annoyed that Amy keeps getting kidnapped by villainess Lucy In The Sky, unaware that it's all just to cover for their Dating Catwoman relationship.
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: When Ms. Petrie (the team's boss) arrives for a visit.
    Max: I just want to say what a pleasure it is to meet you.
    Ms. Petrie: No time for pleasantries.
  • The Ditz: Janet: "Have you seen my gun?"
  • Dogged Nice Guy:
    • Lucy is a female example, even though she's a villain. She is looking for a stable relationship, but is too socially awkward and afraid of making connections, despite being a competent criminal. She falls in love with Amy, and immediately plans to woo her. Their "first date" starts with Lucy kidnapping Amy and Janet, and later Lucy sets up supervillainous schemes to get Amy alone to talk to her.
    • Amy's ex-boyfriend Bobby, is negative example. He spends a lot of his screen time trying to win Amy over after she dumped him, though he quickly shows how pushy he is about it. He apparently buys her gifts to woo her, and when she’s forced back into a relationship with him, love bombs her when he “forgives” her for her fling with Diamond. Throughout, Bobby displays an entitled and controlling attitude towards Amy.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Lucy tries to utilize this trope after Amy leaves:
    Lucy: (priming a Death Ray) Australia is toast!
    Scud: What's your beef with the Australians?!
    Lucy: I don't like their attitude.
  • Enter Stage Window: Lucy Diamond sneaks into Amy's room in the D.E.B.S. house twice by climbing up the outside wall using suction cups and coming in through the window.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Dominique embodies this trope, with a healthy dose of Poirot Speak.
    Janet: You need to speak English or French. Frenglish is not a language.
  • Five-Token Band: An all-girl version. Amy Bradshaw (white) becomes the captain of her D.E.B.S. squad, Max is her black frenemy, Dominique is a French-speaking Asian and Janet is a naive, immature other white girl.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: The starring D.E.B.S. squad is pretty much a textbook case with promiscuous Dominique, naive Janet, obsessive Max and self searching Amy.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Dominique (Phlegmatic), Amy (Melancholic), Max (Choleric), and Janet (Sanguine).
  • Fun with Acronyms: D.E.B.S. stands for Discipline, Energy, Beauty, and Strength, but is obviously short for 'debutantes'. Strangely enough, everyone refers to individual agents as "a D.E.B.", despite the S standing for something. (Evidently, their strength is in numbers.)
  • Genre Savvy: Max knows what an action movie Death Trap looks like. Amy doesn't.
    Max: Creepy shadows, no bad guys, enclosed space. Trap.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Janet's bedroom includes a teddybear which holds her pistol for her.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Even Amy's ex Bobby seems to think so after discovering her relationship with Lucy.
  • Girls with Guns: The four girls in the D.E.B.S. squad carry automatic pistols when on duty and get in occasional gunfights with the opposition.
  • Get Back in the Closet: After Amy's relationship with Lucy is discovered, the agency force her to be "normal" while dealing with Lucy Diamond.
  • Hammerspace: Where Lucy Diamond carries bulky items (her gun, extra ammo clips, a grenade and the suction cups she used to climb up the wall of the D.E.B.S. house) when she's wearing skin-tight clothing.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Max vents over this when Amy is promoted over her.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Ms. Petrie, the supposed Big Good and head of the titular D.E.B.S program, turns out to be an arrogant elitist, who cares more about her program's reputation and image than actually stopping threats. When Lucy and Amy's relationship is discovered, she threatens to have Amy exiled, before agreeing to force Amy to claim she was a brainwashed captive and publicly denounce her relationship with Lucy.
    • Bobby Matthews is Amy's clingy, pushy and controlling ex-boyfriend, who not only refuses to accept their breakup, but take offence over her and Lucy's relationship - with exception that her being a lesbian is "hot". As Amy is being forced to denounce Lucy, Bobby resumes dating Amy against her actual will, and soon tries to kill Lucy, spitefully after Amy publicly declared her love for her.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Sort of. Amy gets Lucy to try and show she's not that bad having her return money she stole with a note saying sorry among other things.
  • He Went That Way: Near the end of the film Amy and Lucy decide to escape together. Amy's friend Max tells the pursuing authorities that they went one way when they in fact went another.
  • Hidden Purpose Test: The hidden test in the SATs, and the foundation of the plot.
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Beta Couple Scud and Janet.
    Scud: So, I was wondering if maybe you wanted -
    Janet: Yes.
    Scud: I didn't ask you anything yet.
    Janet: Whatever it is, yes.
    Scud: Awesome.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Max states that Amy (who's in a position she doesn't want or like, and is panicky as hell) doesn't know Formation Alpha Gamma. She might not, but the formation she gave was Alpha Kappa Gamma.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Max to Lucy, about Amy.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Bobby and Amy. She breaks up with him at the beginning of the film, with him being angry and demanding to know why. She claims that she's not in love with him and that she wants to be in love. Then she encounters Lucy during a mission.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Inverted in the short film — the other D.E.B.S. think Amy is being tortured and desperately try to break down a door to free her, but her screams are actually caused by Lucy bringing her to climax.
  • Insecurity System: Lucy subverts it easily. Presumably, Dominique does too.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: The other members of D.E.B.S. burst in on Amy and Lucy in bed together, exposing their relationship.
  • Jerk Jock: Amy's boyfriend Bobby, with a side dish of Disposable Fiancé.
  • Larynx Dissonance: Justified but a little disturbing when Lucy starts lipsyncing to Erasure's "A Little Respect". It gets funnier once Scud joins in.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Both Amy Bradshaw and Lucy Diamond pretend to be tough but are, deep down, nice, feminine girls who are very much in love with each other.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: The film starts off with Max as the captain of the D.E.B.S. squad. She has a Type A, take-charge and aggressive personality that tend to dominate everyone around her and can be quite rough with Amy Bradshaw. After she's demoted to second in command, she's devastated and becomes more sympathetic, and by the end of the movie she covers Amy's escape with Lucy, proving that she's a true friend.
  • Love Redeems: Lucy Diamond is a supervillain criminal who once tried to destroy Australia. After she meets and falls in love with her arch-nemesis Amy Bradshaw, she realizes that "being bad doesn't feel good anymore" and gives up her life of crime to be with Amy.
  • Meaningful Appearance: All the girls' skirts. The skirt lengths reflect character: shy, quiet Janet has the longest skirt, Good Bad Girl Dominique has the shortest, Amy and Max are somewhere in between.
  • Mexican Standoff: Between Amy and Lucy when they first meet.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Both Lucy and Amy have these on before getting interrupted by Amy's teammates.
  • Moment Killer
    Janet: Oh my god! She almost kissed you! You almost let her!
  • Montages
  • Ms. Fanservice: All of the female characters: Girls with Guns in skimpy school uniforms, with some engaging in girl-on-girl action.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Bobby's attempts to kill Lucy are this.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Dominique survives on a black coffee and cigarettes diet.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: In the DVD Commentary it's pointed out that the restaurant shoot-out is just so they can put action in the trailer so people will think it's a Teen Super Spy movie instead of a lesbian romantic comedy.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: When Amy asks what the Perfect Score actually measures, she's told it's her ability to lie, the critical ability for a spy (Mr. P says all other skills can be taught). Given that she's lying about her attraction to Lucy Diamond, this doesn't make her feel better.
  • Obvious Trap: Lampshaded; as they're entering the bank Lucy Diamond is supposedly robbing, Max points out that the creepy shadows, confined space and complete lack of bad guys is a classic example of this trope. Amy, who's feeling defensive about being promoted over Max's head, orders them inside the vault anyway. The vault is empty of villainous mooks.
    Amy: See, that wasn't so hard. (Trap Door opens under their feet)
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Played With. When D.E.B.S Academy end up as the antagonists, while they are not expressly portrayed as homophobic, their attempts to cut Amy's ties with Lucy is laced with unsubtle Cure Your Gays rhetoric. That being said, it is implied the academies environment may not be accepting of same-sex relationships, as Janet brings up Amy being attracted to a girl as if it was worthy of scandal; similarly, Miss Petrie passingly uses the word "lesbians" in a disdainful matter; Bobby thinks he can "cure" Amy, and mentions he finds her being a lesbian "kinda hot".
  • Psycho Lesbian: The villainess Lucy Diamond is more than willing to sink the entire continent of Australia in frustration over not being able to form an emotionally satisfying lesbian relationship. Fortunately she is redeemed by the love of an incredibly hot secret agent in a plaid skirt. Then there was Lucy's blind date Ninotchka, who was clearly not all there and completely lost it when Lucy tried to back out of their date.
  • Recycled In Space: D.E.B.S is basically a spoof of Charlie's Angels but with school girl outfits, college, camp and a lesbian love story.
  • Really Gets Around: Dominique. She apparently wakes up with a different guy every morning.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Ms. Petrie threatens to do this to Amy after she finds out that Amy is in love with Lucy Diamond.
  • Rock Bottom: Janet's words in the bank vault.
  • Sassy Black Woman: The team's leader Max.
    Max: Who's your best friend?
    Amy: You are my best friend.
    Max: And what did I say to you the very first day at the Academy?
  • She-Fu: Amy's fight with Lucy in Amy's room in the D.E.B.S. house.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: While the protagonists are secretly meeting with Lucy Diamond at Endgame, Bobby shoots a padlock that's securing a door leading to their location.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Lucy Diamond's name is obviously one to The Beatles/Elton John song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" ("Lucy in the Sky" was, in fact, her codename in the original short).
    • Doubles as a Punny Name or Steven Ulysses Perhero seeing as her birth name in the short and alias in the film is Lucinda Reynolds. (Lu C In Da = Lucy In The)
  • Side Bet: After Lucy and Amy Almost Kiss, Janet owes Scud fifty bucks.
  • Spikes of Doom: In the Descending Ceiling in the bank vault.
  • Spy School: Where Amy and her friends matriculate.
  • Stalking Is Love: Lucy's seduction plan borders on this. Basically, setting up the usual supervillainish plots and traps, but the goal not being to kill the D.E.B.S. (well, not one-quarter of them) but to get Amy alone so they can talk.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Lucy Diamond does it twice.
  • Stock Money Bag: When Lucy and Scud return stolen money, it's stored in large bags, each with a dollar sign on it.
  • Sweetheart Sipping: During the Falling-in-Love Montage, Lucy and Amy both sip from the same strawberry milkshake.
  • Technical Pacifist: Despite her reputation, Lucy claims she's never actually killed anyone; all the agents chasing her died of environmental causes. Her willingness to place Amy's friends under a Descending Ceiling with Spikes of Doom shows she might not be entirely truthful about this. Well, the ceiling is part of that environment... And there are plenty of ways to give someone food poisoning or get them to die of frostbite by, say, leaving them stranded on an ice field...
  • Tempting Fate: Twice in the bank vault.
    • Amy says "See? That wasn't so hard." Then a Trap Door opens under her, sending her down a secret underground slide.
    • Later on, Janet says things can't get any worse. Cue the Descending Ceiling and Spikes of Doom.
  • Throwing Out the Script: Amy is given a speech to read at Endgame which tells a false story of how Lucy Diamond kidnapped her and held her hostage. She starts reading it to the crowd, but halfway through she stops reading it and tells the truth: that the time she spent with Lucy were the happiest days of her life and that she's leaving to be with Lucy.
  • Trap Door: In the bank vault.
  • Villains Out Shopping: The plot begins with the D.E.B.S (along with other secret agent societies) covertly spying on Lucy's meeting with a top Russian assassin at an exclusive restaurant, wondering what sinister business the two are planning. It's actually a blind date.
  • Vanity License Plate: Lucy Diamond's Cool Car has NDASKY.
  • Woman Scorned: Ninotchka tells the D.E.B.S. how to find Lucy, jealous after seeing her happy with someone else.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Lucy keeps backing out on dates claiming food poisoning and taking her frustrations out in Dr. Evil type schemes. Scud even says so to her face.