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Film / Dick

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"You suck, Dick!"

A 1999 comedy film, directed by Andrew Fleming and starring Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, and Dan Hedaya, about a pair of teenage girls bringing about the fall of President Richard Nixon (yes, that's who the title refers to; get your mind out of the gutter).

Betsy (Dunst) and Arlene (Williams) are kind-hearted but not overly bright best friends who, while sneaking out late at night to mail an entry to a "meet Bobby Sherman" contest, inadvertently cause the Watergate break-in to be discovered. Later, on a school trip to the White House, they are recognized and spirited away to be interrogated, which indirectly results in them meeting President Nixon (Hedaya) face to face. Nixon, recognizing their lack of interest in politics of any kind along with their great interest in petting his dog Checkers, buys their silence by naming them the "official White House dog walkers", meaning that they are present for all the major moments of Nixon's presidency.

But their naive loyalty is shattered when they discover evidence that Nixon is mean to his dog (oh, and of his large-scale criminal activities and corruption) and vow to bring him down. And so, with the help of the title of Betty's brother's favourite porn movie and the bungling Woodward (Will Ferrell) and Bernstein (Bruce McCulloch) of the Washington Post, Deep Throat is born...

Provides examples of:

  • '70s Hair: Carl Bernstein sports a luxurious pompadour, spoofing Dustin Hoffman's look in All the President's Men.
  • Accidental Public Confession: The girls confront Nixon "with what they know". Panicked, Nixon launches into a furious rant denouncing "the radical muckraking bastards at the Washington Post", inadvertently confessing in the process. After a stunned pause, the girls reveal that they were just taking about his abuse to his dog.
    Nixon:... What dog?
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Sure, planning a break-in, spying on his political opponents, bribing witnesses and engaging in large-scale corruption, but it's the fact that Nixon is mean to his dog that gets the girls really outraged.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Since it's a goofy comedy rather than a Docudrama, it plays fast and loose with the actual Watergate timeline, which took two years to fully play out.
    • Olivia Newton-John's "I Honestly Love You", Arlene's serenade for Nixon on the Watergate tapes, debuted on the charts a few weeks after Nixon resigned.
    • By that point, Checkers would've been long dead and Nixon had different dogs, but of course, Checkers is the one most associated with him. There's a short line where John Dean asks Nixon if he should be calling the dog King Timahoe by now, implying Nixon just calls all his dogs Checkers.
  • Asians Eat Pets: Referenced when Nixon threatens to feed Checkers to the Chinese.
  • Bad Boss: Tricky Dick threatens to fire John Dean for suggesting he show Checkers more affection.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Nixon mistreating his dog is part of why the girls turn on Nixon.
  • Been There, Shaped History: In addition to accidentally exposing the entire Watergate scandal and being responsible for the 18-and-a-half minute gap on the Nixon tapes, Betsy and Arlene teach Nixon the V Sign, and the Hello Dolly cookies they bring in get Leonid Brezhnev high and get help the Moscow Summit peace talks run smoothly.
  • Butt-Monkey: Henry Kissinger gets no respect from anyone.
  • Casting Gag: Both Dan Hedaya and Saul Rubinek had minor roles in Oliver Stone's biopic Nixon. In this movie, they're promoted to Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger respectively.
  • Celebrity Crush: Arlene is originally infatuated with Bobby Sherman before settling on Dick. By the end of the movie, she's moved on to David Cassidy.
  • Character in the Logo: The "i" in the film's logo is a silhouette of Nixon making his iconic "V for Victory" hand gesture.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Parodied; in front of Nixon and his Cabinet, Arlene blurts out a rather naive anti-war statement ("War is not healthy for children and other living things.") This leads to a stunned silence, and then a lot of bickering about Vietnam ("If you want to complain about Vietnam, talk to Johnson!").
  • Covert Pervert: It's hinted that Bernstein is one of these; Woodward objects to so much as being touched by him, he reveals that he's seen the porn movie Deep Throat that the main characters take their pseudonym from, and Woodward seems specifically concerned for a woman in the office after Bernstein spontaneously kisses her in a moment of excitement.
  • Dance Party Ending: After the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue announces that Betsy and Arlene went on to open a successful roller disco, the credits roll over the two skating around an elaborately lit replica of the Oval Office.
  • A Dick in Name: Nixon wants to be called "Dick" at times for the sake of (false) friendship. Obviously, more than one time this is used as an (unknown to the girls) double-entendre insult (see the quote at the top).
  • Dirty Old Man: Averted. Nixon's horrified at the implication of a teenager crushing on him, though he's more disturbed at the thought of the press finding out about it.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Two of the lookouts for the Watergate burglars get distracted by watching a nubile and scantily-dressed Betsy happily bounce around Arlene's bedroom.
  • The Ditz: Neither Betsy nor Arlene are the sharpest of nails initially, but they gradually become more savvy.
  • Double Entendre: The filmmakers get a lot of mileage out of Nixon's preferred nickname.
  • Dumbass No More: Betsy and Arlene start out as ditzy, but they become savvier over the course of the movie.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Woodward and Bernstein's interview at the opening of the film, which degenerates into a bitchy, passive-aggressive slap fight. It indicates both that these two are buffoonish egotists and that this film will be a rather irreverent take on the Nixon administration.
    • Betsy and Arlene are introduced writing a letter to Bobby Sherman. Arlene gets a bit caught up in waxing lyrical over her crush on him; she's quickly established as rather shy, romantic and quick to get caught up in her feelings. Betsy, meanwhile, gets cheerfully excited about managing to peck out two whole words on the typewriter throughout Arlene's whole monologue before Arlene kicks her off; she's sweet and enthusiastic, but a bit of a ditz.
    • He turns the charm on immediately on seeing the girls, but our first glimpse of Nixon himself, wherein he's distracted from a meeting with the White House Counsel by griping about how his dog never shows him any affection only to then threaten to fire the man when he suggests treating the dog more affectionately, tells us everything we need to know; he's a bitter, insecure jerk.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While Nixon's characterized as an abusive asshole, he's downright horrified at the prospect of a teenage girl being in love with him, though this is partly because he's worried what voters might think.
  • Flag Bikini: The girls make bikini tops out of a flag.
  • Good Is Dumb: Bless them, but while Betsy and Arlene are sweet and lovely girls, they are far from being the brightest bulbs in the workshop.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Because Woodward and Bernstein are too embarrassed to admit they brought down the White House with the help of two teenage dog walkers.
  • Hippie Teacher: Arlene's teacher.
  • Historical Downgrade: Woodward and Bernstein are depicted as a pair of bumblers.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Henry Kissinger is portrayed as the affable, ignored Only Sane Man Butt-Monkey of the Nixon Administration. In real life, he was involved in many shady foreign policy decisions and is considered by many to be a war criminal.
  • Historical In-Joke:
    • The movie was made before W. Mark Felt admitted he was the true identity of 'Deep Throat'.
    • Additionally, the marijuana-laced cookies the girls give Nixon help the talks with Leonid Brezhnev go smoothly, leading to the end of the Vietnam War; the eighteen-minute gap in Nixon's tapes is because Arlene confessed her love for him on it and he erased the confession; and the two give Nixon the idea to do the V Sign.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: The movie is called Dick purely because that was the nickname Nixon preferred to be addressed by. Why? Surely you don't think it could be referring to anything else...
  • Intoxication Ensues: Betsy and Arlene bake the President cookies, using their brother's secret recipe; however, they aren't aware this includes marijuana...
    • The guards seemed to like em too:
      White House Guards: Got the cookies?
      Betsy and Arlene: (nodding enthusiastically) Uh huh.
      White House Guards: YEAH!!
  • Intrepid Reporter: Parodied — Woodward and Bernstein are portrayed as clowns with overdeveloped egos.
  • It's All About Me: At one point, Betsy and Arlene happen to catch the tail-end of Nixon's famous "I am not a crook" speech. This is admittedly after discovering they are under surveillance, having received what are hinted to be some veiled threats from Nixon's goons, and consequently leading to them feeling a bit personally threatened for understandable reasons. Nevertheless, the speech itself — a significant public address broadcast live to the entire nation, let us not forget — provokes this particular response:
    Arlene: He's trying to drive me insane!
  • Jerkass: Richard Nixon, obviously.
    Nixon: That's the problem in a nutshell. The dog doesn't like me. Kennedy and Johnson, they had dogs that liked them. That's the problem.
    John Dean: With respect, Mr. President, maybe you should show the dog a little more affection—
    Nixon: Maybe I ought to fire you.
  • Kick the Dog: A literal use of this trope, with Nixon mistreating his own dog.
  • Large Ham: Nixon when he's pissed.
    Nixon: You don't mess with the big boys!
  • "Meet the Celebrity" Contest: The film opens with the protagonists sneaking out to mail a letter so Arlene can win a date with Bobby Sherman. In the process, they witness the Watergate break-in.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The girls cry at John Dean that Nixon is a bad person and so is Dean if he helps him. Dean has a personal revelation at the remark and looks hilariously crushed.
  • Mysterious Informant: Parodied; "Deep Throat" is definitely not what Woodward and Bernstein were expecting. Their keeping the girls' identity secret is because it's too embarrassing.
  • Only Sane Man: Kissinger, for the Nixon administration.
  • Power is Sexy: Arlene falls hard for Nixon (to the point where the entire "18 1/2 gap" was taken up by her message of love to him). Naturally, it doesn't last after they find out Nixon's true nature.
  • Precious Puppies: Nixon's dog Checkers is oh so this to the girls. Not exactly so to Nixon.
  • Seven Minute Lull: "You can't let Dick control your life!"
  • Shout-Out: To All the President's Men and various other movies about Watergate and Nixon.
    • In particular, the opening scene, a tight close-up on a typewriter, deliberately mirrors the opening scene of All the President's Men.
  • Smitten Teenage Girl: Arlene becomes infatuated with Nixon.