Every sister has a film she considers a black cult classic. Whether a family drama, a soapy Tyler Perry flick, or an oft-rerun-on-cable romantic comedy, there’s always that film that we’ve seen 100 times and can recite from opening to end credits. But when it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes our favorite flicks fail us. In epic proportions. Let’s revisit a few fan favorites that dispense pretty mixed and messy morals about courtship, marriage, and love.

1. “Let a man be a man.” – Vivica A. Fox as Maxine, Soul Food

If this advice were, “Don’t intervene unless you’re invited,” that would be great. But by making it gender-specific, something bad happens.

Men don’t need to be “allowed” to be men. Women don’t need to be unconditionally “submissive” so that men can “be men.” And if “being a man” means choosing pride over employment, as in the case of the newly married Lem (Mekhi Phifer) in Soul Food, you may want to reconsider the man you chose.

2. “Sometimes, a man and a woman have an understanding that no one else understands.” S. Epatha Merkerson as Nanny, Lackawanna Blues

This one sounds sweet on its surface. But if no one else understands why you’re with someone, that’s probably a red flag. In Nanny’s case, her ne’er-do-well, chronically womanizing, younger husband stood in stark and inexplicable contrast to her selfless, industrious, faithful personality. No secret understanding is worth that much heartache and that many headaches.

3. “I lie to you because I love you.” – Tyrese Gibson as Jody, Baby Boy

Is Baby Boy a satire? Ten years later, I’m still asking myself that. But let’s say we’re supposed to take it at face value, which is most likely. This one should be self-explanatory. Jody’s lying about the ridiculous number of women he’s sleeping with on the side. Nothing says love like the constant threat of STIs and HIV/AIDS.

4. “I might’ve been more prissy in the situation, but when I said Quincy could do better,” I meant you.” – Alfre Woodard as Camille Wright, Love and Basketball

I’m always a minority with this opinion, but Quincy never treated Monica well. They had a hot and heavy prom night and a low-stakes romance as college freshman. But the minute the relationship ceased to revolve around him, Quincy started being a grade-A jerk to the supposed love of his life. Even in the game-for-his-heart, he had to “prove something” by besting her and dashing her hopes, before deigning to reconcile with her.

So advising Monica to fight for Quincy was a bad move, Mom. Chasing someone who has never chased you is generally an ill-advised idea.

5. Vivica A. Fox as Shanté Smith, Two Can Play That Game

In art as in life, Vivica Fox is a fount of bad relationship wisdom. Take any of her advice in this film, with its complicated metrics for securing male devotion, and you’ll find yourself in a world of trouble. With rules like, “Break up with him before he breaks up with you” and “When your man messes up, no matter how small it is, you’ve got to punish him,” you’ll find yourself slinking up to your ex, hat in hand, hoping he’ll take you back, just like Shanté had to do. But then, that was the whole point of the movie: you can’t game a man into fidelity, attentiveness, or commitment. It’s a daily exercise in vulnerable, honest communication. Cards on the table, not stashed in the garter up your skirt.

  • nestafan2

    Perhaps we all are just watching movies “for entertainment,” but moviemakers are clever enough to know that the underlying messages in the movies they make can seep into the consciousness of the audience–especially females. Some women think they are “too smart” to take their romantic cues from movie characters, but these are the same women who will make detrimental romantic decisions because their favorite movie character did it and it worked for her. I’d venture to say that there are some women who believe that sleeping with a man on the first date like “Nina Mosely” did will get them a long term relationship with a Lorenz Tate-like knight in shining armor. But in reality it probably hasn’t and won’t.

    Then there are the “I watch this movie because it was funny” type of audience. These people rarely extract anything from anything. Perhaps from lack of maturity, but mostly from lack of perception. Even an insightful article such as this will fail to evoke a meaningful discussion.

  • Kai

    @ruggie LOL dead. That’s exactly what I was thinking when I read his post…

  • chanela

    i cringe whenever i hear anyone say something along the lines of “let him/her be” or” let them do what they want” especially pertaining to an able bodied adult. how can you “let” (a word that means to allow someone or give permission to do something) an adult be them?


    how does giving your opinion on something automatically mean that you’re not allowing someone to do something.

    huh? lol

    the things people say everyday that they realize don’t really make much sense. especially when people try to use “let him/her be” as a valid argument.

  • Nnaattaayy

    You’re not in the minority- I didn’t like Love and Basketball because the dude was so rude to her yet she continued to seek him out. My brother made me watch that movie because its supposedly a classic, but I think its crap lol.

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