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Film / Madea's Big Happy Family

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Madea's Big Happy Family is a dramedy film concerning an aging woman, named Shirley, with terminal cancer and how she tries to unite them under one roof (and table) to tell them that she hasn't long for this world. However, unfortunately, her family doesn't get along with each other with Tammy and Kimberly at each other's throats, Harold being a doormat to his wife, and Byron not having his life together.


Madea's Big Happy Family provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Subverted. Kimberly is this to her baby, but it’s with good intentions. She loves her child, but she’s tough so that he won't turn out like Tammy's kids. The problem is that she punishes him for doing things normal for his age (he's about 6 months old). Calvin (understandably) eventually has had enough and leaves, taking the baby with him.
  • Adults Are Useless: This is exactly why Kimberly is so resentful towards her mother, Shirley, because Shirley refused to seek legal action towards Kimberly's rapist uncle.
  • Awful Truth: Byron finding out Kimberly is really his mother.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: What the eponymous family really is.
  • Black Sheep: Kimberly is this for her family.
  • The Bully: Tammy is this towards her husband. He eventually has had enough and stands up for himself.
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  • Calling Parents by Their Name: Tammy’s oldest son calls his mother by her first name.
  • Child by Rape: Byron was revealed to be Kimberly’s son, not her brother, who was conceived after Kimberly was raped by her uncle.
  • Dirty Old Woman: Aunt Bam, who doesn't stop at anything to flirt with any attractive man she sees.
  • Exact Words: Madea tells Leroy Brown that he will say "something nice to him, for once." She literally tells him those words.
  • Extreme Doormat: Subverted. Harold wishes he had the strength to stand up to his domineering wife, but he doesn’t. Madea later helps him with that, and he succeeds.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: As we find out later in the story, Kimberly is really Byron's mother.
  • Fat and Skinny: Tammy, a short and heavyset woman and Kimberly, who has a tall, willowy figure.
  • Flipping the Bird: Tammy flips off Harold on their wedding anniversary after he brings her flowers, considering the gesture to be weak and overall annoyed by his doting behavior.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Byron arrives at Shirley's house, Shirley tells Bam "the baby's here". It's clear she isn't talking about Byron Jr..
    • When Shirley goes to Kimberly and Calvin's home to get bail money for Byron, Kimberly asks why she should help Byron, and she responds "a mother knows", to which Kimberly repeats the same thing.
  • Freudian Excuse: Kimberly resents her family because she had been raped by her uncle at 12 and had his child at 13, but her mother refused to take legal action against him and her family preferred to act as one big happy family instead of addressing their issues.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Although Madea is very sympathetic towards Kimberly’s Freudian Excuse, she chews Kimberly out on taking her anger out on everyone (though she is somewhat justified towards her family) and tells the latter to get some professional help. This is probably why Madea is one of the only family members that Kimberly isn't resentful towards. Other than Madea being... Madea.
  • Gospel Choirs Are Just Better: A whole scene is devoted to this at Shirley's funeral towards the end of the film.
  • Grew a Spine: After getting some advice from Madea, Harold finally stands up to Tammy and lets her know that her being mean to him is no longer going to be tolerated.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Both Kimberly and Tammy have these. Kimberly is consistently touchy with a chip on her shoulder due to her past while Tammy seems to angered for no reason, especially by anything Kimberly or Harold says or does. According to Harold, she was like this when he met her.
  • Henpecked Husband: Harold is this to Tammy, as she's loud and domineering.
  • Hypocrite: During the big family argument where it's discovered that Kimberly is Byron's mother, not Shirley, who is actually his grandmother, Madea and Bam stop Shirley from interfering with the argument, saying how it "needs to happen", then they get angry and upset about what was revealed. Let's not forget that Shirley raised her kids to tell no lies and keep no secrets.
  • Ill Girl: Shirley, which adds, as one might expect a lot of conflict to the plot, as her cancer's returned and so, she hasn't long, in which case, she wants to tell her family what her prognosis is.
  • Jerkass: Kimberly, Tammy, Sabrina, and Renee for varying reasons:
    • Kimberly is this mostly because of the pent of pain of being sexually abused by an uncle when she was 12 (having Byron at 13) and the inaction her family took regarding this issue and thinks she's better than her family though this is due to their willingness to ignore their issues.
    • Tammy is one because she belittles and undermines Harold and threw her sister's pregnancy, caused by rape, in her face to win an argument.
    • Sabrina is this because she mostly seems to live to make Byron (more) miserable than what he is, as she lies and mostly tends to spend whatever child support money she gets on herself, and does everything to force Byron back into the drug dealing game in order to get more money (including getting him arrested for back child support, which also leads to him getting fired from his job, and humiliating him on The Maury Show).
    • Renee, Byron's current girlfriend, as we know, is a Gold Digger, who wants nothing to do with Byron unless he's bringing in the big money from pushing drugs.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While Kimberly was unnecessarily harsh to her child, she admits that she only does this out of fear that her child will become as bad as Tammy's kids. The thing is, Kimberly is right about Tammy's kids being poorly raised. Even Madea says that the boys are spoiled and rude.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: A few:
    • Madea, as per usual, with her rather asshole-ish nature but she doesn't hesitate to help Shirley with her situation.
    • Byron, though he's not so much a "jerk", just painfully misguided but he does care about his family.
    • Tammy's sons become this later, though that wasn't without Madea slapping them, though.
    • It's implied that Kimberly will eventually become this after Calvin learns why she's so angry and mean.
  • Karma Houdini: Kimberly's uncle, who never got punished for raping her.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Tammy throwing back in Kimberly's face her teenage pregnancy, which was conceived through incestuous rape, and in front of their younger "brother", Byron, who was the result of that event and who knew nothing about the circumstances all of his life, just so she could win the argument. Even Madea calls her out on this.
    • After Byron gets fired from his job because he was arrested (thanks to Sabrina) and he knocks over some boxes in anger, his boss then insults him and tells him to clean them up.
    • Joe to Madea. See Laser-Guided Karma below.
    • Even as a genuine Nice Guy (and one of the few truly decent people in the film), Calvin does this to Kimberly after an argument where he decides to leave and take their baby son with him. Over her desperate protests not to take the boy, he then spitefully says "You already have the one you left on the doorstep". However, this played with in that A) Byron was conceived from sexual abuse and so, due to the situation at the time, Shirley raised Byron alongside her kids and B) he (and the viewers) didn't know this until later, retroactively making the move this trope.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: From all the annoying behavior she committed in the film and her calling out the family for all of their wrongdoings, Madea then goes on Maury for a paternity test and is devastated to learn that Mr. Brown is not the father of Cora. Meanwhile, Joe, watching the episode at home and amused by the turn of events, laughs at her and makes a Call-Back to his joke of "1-800-Choke-That-Ho".
  • Love Triangle: Between Byron, Sabrina and Renee. He actually likes the fact that both women are fighting over him, but he eventually settles his differences with Sabrina (with some forceful urging by Madea) and cuts ties with Renee by the end of the film.
  • Nice Guy: Calvin. He's nothing but patient with Kimberly, despite how she is and he goes out of his way to help Byron and Shirley, despite Kimberly being less inclined. He even comes to sympathize with Kimberly when he finds out about her terrible past and he and her have a better marriage as the latter agrees to get help.
  • Nice Girl: Shirley, who only wants to have a nice dinner and keep peace so she can tell her family about her terminal cancer, which isn't helping her situation any.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Kimberly to Shirley. She arrives at the hospital soon after she passes away.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Calvin is one of the few people in this film who has common sense.
    • While Kimberly is a jerkass, she veers into this regarding her family and the issues they have, as she's the only one not interested in running away from their issues.
  • Parting Words Regret: In the end, Kimberly never got to tell a passed on Shirley she's sorry.
  • Pushover Parents: Tammy allows her sons to be rude and disrespectful to their elders. This changes after Madea gets through to her and her family.
  • Secretly Dying: Subverted. It's not that Shirley is keeping her prognosis a secret, it's that her family won't get along well enough for her to tell them, so they find out as she's on her deathbed.
  • Shout-Out: The release poster seems to feature a vague one to ''The Brady Bunch.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Kimberly and Tammy.
  • Spoiled Brat: Tammy’s sons, but mostly because Tammy placates them and Harold is too much of doormat to do otherwise.
  • The Stoner: Aunt Bam, which adds some funny moments, as earlier in the film, she's seen smoking weed and, when it's brought up that Byron used to deal drugs, she asks about a dime bag.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Kimberly was raped at age 12 and gave birth to Byron at 13.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Kimberly comes off as this towards her family. It's justified, given what happened to her.
  • Useless Bystander Parent: Although Shirley prides herself on being a decent, single parent who brought up her children to be God-fearing and respectful, the reality is all three of her children have substantial issues. Worst of all is those of eldest daughter Kimberly, who was raped by her uncle at the age of 13 which culminated in her getting pregnant with her "brother" Byron, who Shirley, instead of pursuing any legal action from it, decided to turn to God and raise the boy as her own, which was withheld from him throughout his upbringing.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Madea rightly calls Tammy out on the way she revealed to everyone on the table how Bryon was Kimberly’s child instead of his sister. She also calls out everyone else on their flaws at the end of Shirley’s funeral.


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