With the holiday season underway an overload of holiday and/or family movies are gonna flood our screens and remind us of the importance of family, and the greater reminder of why we only see them once a year in the first place. Nothing jogs this feeling more than when I re-watched the black cinematic classic, Soul Food (not the BET version), something about watching it as a 30 year old single woman hits different.
Every member of the Joseph family was on some b**llsh**t BUT TERI. We want to believe Ahmad Joseph, played by Brandon Hammond, was the hero because he went through the trouble of gallivanting through the cold Chicago weather to bribe black folks with money and Sunday dinner (like that was so hard) in the name of bringing the family together again for Big Momma but we were wrong.
The real hero of the movie was Teri Joseph, played by the incomparable Vanessa Williams. There are countless examples in the film where the Joseph family would’ve crumbled if it weren’t for Teri.
She paid her mother’s mortgage and hospital bills. She left her little sister’s (Maxine played by Vivica A. Fox) a** untapped for stealing her boyfriend when they were young whilst still being ridiculed for being twice marriage and a sketchy cornbread recipe. I don’t condone violence but Faith was the last member of the Joseph clan to screw her over. She had it coming.
There were almost no moments in the movie where anyone asked Teri how she was feeling or dealing or managing her emotions while taking care of her sick mother. Later in the movie, Teri is betrayed by her husband Myles and homeless cousin Faith when they sleep together after a random dance audition. The family finds this out and Maxine subsequently presses Myles to stay for a high caloric Sunday dinner, failing to consider her sister may still be processing the destruction of another marriage.
If we haven’t concluded already it’s safe to say : Maxine was the antagonist!!! Had this movie been set in 2021, it would’ve been a short film ending with Teri leaving the vaccination clinic on her way to catch a first class flight to Bali on an Eat Pray Love tour away from her dysfunctional family for the holidays. Instead, Teri demonstrated strength, fortitude and gave us an infamous line that has context but needs no explanation “The family fucked my husband!”. It’s not Black History Month, but d****t we honor Teri. Give her her flowers.