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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Being perfect and trying to fit in won't bring you happiness; it's more important to be curious and to have the courage to be true to yourself. Love is powerful and can change a person for the better.
Positive Role Models
Max has leadership qualities, thinks quickly on her feet, and is driven -- though her ambition sometimes clouds her empathy. Amy begins as an insecure woman who tries to be perfect (by other people's standards, at least), but she's curious and learns to prioritize her own needs over the course of the movie. A supervillain gives up a life of crime for love.
Written and directed by a Black woman who's openly gay, D.E.B.S. centers around a same-sex romance at a time when it was rare to find positive portrayals of lesbians and queer love on-screen. Though characters are mostly White, including the romantic leads, the movie also follows D.E.B.S. agents of color such as Meagan Good (who's Black) and Devon Aoki (ethnically Japanese and German-English). The squad is led by Mr. Phipps (Michael Clarke Duncan), who's Black. And the film has women in main roles and casts them in positions of power, such as D.E.B.S. leader Ms. Petrie (Holland Taylor). Unconvincing French and Russian characters do use cultural stereotypes, but in a purposefully campy way (Aoki's French character smokes incessantly and is described as "a sex addict"; she and Ninotchka have thick accents).
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Violence & Scariness
Characters, including the teen leads, frequently brandish guns, occasionally shooting them (no one is hurt). A crossbow is shot and pins a character by the clothes, played for comedy. There's a perilous scene in a booby-trapped vault where the D.E.B.S. are almost crushed by spikes. Homeland security officers, wearing tactical gear and holding assault rifles, storm an empty room. A missile is shot from a car, and something distantly explodes. A student punches a teacher in the face. All of these scenes are played for humor, and no blood is shown.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teen romance plays a central role in the movie. The main couple flirts, goes on dates, and kisses. In one scene, they're caught making out in bed and are implied to be naked, with sheets covering their bodies (bare shoulders are visible). A supporting character is portrayed as sexually active and called a "sex addict" by her friend; she wakes up with a man in her bed on two separate occasions (nothing sensitive is shown).
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Characters occasionally say "s--t," "bulls--t," "hell," damn," "bitch," and "oh my God." "Slut," "boning," "whore," and "retarded" are also used. Sexual innuendo includes "Are you blowing me?" when a character means to say "Are you blowing me off?" An ex-boyfriend calls a girl's same-sex relationship "that whole lezzie thing."
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Products & Purchases
Characters drive a VW Beetle, drink Dos Equis beer, read the Financial Times. A New York Post newspaper flashes on-screen.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teen characters frequently smoke cigarettes. They drink beer, mention having been drunk, and spike the punch at a dance.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that D.E.B.S. is a lesbian romantic comedy that spoofs the action-spy genre and has become a cult hit since its 2005 release. Teen romance features strongly, as main characters flirt, date, kiss, and fall in love. There's implied sex/nudity: Sheets cover characters' bodies, their bare shoulders visible. Another character is described as a "sex addict" and wakes up with a man in her bed on two separate occasions (nothing sensitive is shown). Characters occasionally say "s--t," "bulls--t," "hell," damn," "bitch," "retarded," etc., and an ex calls a girl's same-sex relationship "that whole lezzie thing." The teen agents often brandish guns and occasionally shoot them. Crossbows and booby-trapped vaults figure in perilous situations, and a student punches a teacher in the face (all of this is played for comedy, with no blood visible). Teens drink beer and smoke cigarettes -- one high schooler smokes nonstop. The movie broke barriers for its positive portrayals of queer women and was written and directed by filmmaker Angela Robinson, who's Black and gay. The movie is ethnically diverse and has women in positions of power, though main characters remain mostly White, and cultural stereotypes can be found in the film's campy takes on French and Russian women. Positive messages include the importance of being curious, having the courage to stand up for yourself, and the power of love. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Charming and campy, this movie captures a moment in time when Britney Spears-inspired schoolgirl uniforms and spy flicks were all the rage. Call it a B-version of Charlie's Angels if you will, but D.E.B.S. is entirely its own beast. Director Angela Robinson presses her tongue firmly in cheek as she has her main quartet of high school paramilitary agents drop from ceilings strapped with guns and cavalierly smoking cigarettes -- a picture that's comically at odds with their patent leather Mary Janes and knee-high socks.
At its best, this genre-blending romcom delivers a silly but positive and heartwarming romance between two young women. Rare for the aughts, the movie never dips into gay cliches, such as placing an emphasis on coming out or having school-age characters haunted by disapproving parents. Perhaps helped by Robinson's own perspective as an out lesbian director, the film's main couple, Lucy and Amy, refreshingly go through conflicts and drama that have almost nothing to do with their sexualities. As a gay cult classic, D.E.B.S. heartily delivers. But it's impossible for any movie to age perfectly. In particular, the film's embrace of handguns, machine guns, and assorted firearms in a high school setting may have felt silly and over the top when tragedies like the 1999 Columbine High School shooting were considered outliers. But now the image of students armed to the gills is no laughing matter.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.