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Happy birthday to DEBS, the gay Charlie’s Angels movie that’s still too obscure

Were you good at staying closeted? Try espionage!

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Three young girls in schoolgirl outfits hold guns and look down off screen in D.E.B.S. Photo: Samuel Goldwyn Films/Courtesy Everett Collection
Maddy Myers has run Polygon’s games section since 2020 as deputy editor. She has worked in games journalism since 2007, at Kotaku, The Mary Sue, and the Boston Phoenix.

Like most queer people who went to high school in the early 2000s, I lived for the lesbian romance of But I’m A Cheerleader and combed through other women-led movies like Charlie’s Angels and Josie and the Pussycats for queer subtext. And yet somehow, I missed out completely on a lesbian spy comedy called DEBS, written and directed by Angela Robinson (The L Word, True Blood).

Please do not take away my gay card if you are reading this and you grew up watching DEBS over and over. I missed out, OK?? Pity me, but do not judge me. And for the rest of you who never managed to witness Jordana Brewster’s hilarious performance as the lesbian supervillainess Lucy Diamond, strap in and get ready to hear about your future favorite film.

The film’s premise is based on a deliciously 2000s-era urban legend that standardized tests in America include secret screening questions for teens who’d be suited for a career in espionage. In the world of DEBS, that urban legend is reality, and no one has ever tested higher on the benchmarks than our heroine Amy (Sara Foster). For whatever reason, Amy just seems to have a real aptitude for pretending to be somebody she’s not. Turns out, that’s because she’s so far in the closet that even she doesn’t know she’s a lesbian. Lying to yourself is the most advanced form of lying that you can possibly do!

Just like the heroine of But I’m A Cheerleader, Amy has a pushy boyfriend and a weird fascination with a bad-girl brunette (the aforementioned Lucy Diamond), but it’s all set in a slapstick spycraft world reminiscent of the Charlie’s Angels movies (albeit with a lower budget — it’s indie queer cinema, so of course we forgive). Jimmi Simpson (Westworld) is also in DEBS, playing Lucy Diamond’s cohort, who is a total weirdo reminiscent of whatever Alan Cumming was doing in Josie and the Pussycats. It all feels like a movie that teenage-me, a queer kid who adored screwball comedies, was meant to watch a billion times.

I have to make up for lost time as an adult, and you might, too. Sadly, it isn’t streaming anywhere, but don’t let that stop you. I now own DEBS on DVD, but you can also rent it on Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play, Apple TV, or Vudu.

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