“They Cloned Tyrone,” released in Jul. 2023 of this year, is a Sci-Fi film about a Black community that is being controlled by the government via fried chicken, hair products, grape drink and other items stereotypically consumed by Black people. It is set to be a comedic portrayal of Black stereotypes throughout the film; the main characters are a ‘dope boy’, a ‘pimp’, and a prostitute. Despite its satirical display of Black stereotypes and consumerism, “They Cloned Tyrone” is a display of Black unity against the boundaries created by stereotypes, through the underlying characteristics of the main characters and the general purpose of human experimentation within the film.
The protagonist, Fontaine, is a ‘dope boy’ who is rather pessimistic and aggressive in his interactions with other characters, having several enemies at the beginning of the movie. One of these enemies being Slick Charles, the ‘pimp’, who does business with Fontaine and is in debt to the aggressive drug dealer. Another enemy is Isaac, an opposing drug dealer whose 'pusher' was injured by Fontaine. Upon finding out about his alleged death, Fontaine decides to look further into it rather than brushing Slick Charles off. They turned to Yo-yo, a prostitute who previously worked under Slick Charles, who joined them, forming the movie’s key trio. Despite his cold demeanor, Fontaine also displays a rather caring nature in his interactions with a child called June-Bug who provides him with information. Another relationship portrayed is witha local drunk named Frog whom he often shares a bit of his beer with as he leaves the corner store. This is significant because this already contradicts his initial portrayal as a completely cold-hearted individual at the beginning of the movie as someone more vulnerable. This opposes the idea that Black men, like Fontaine, lack consideration for others.
Viewers are also able to see character development among other characters, including Yo-yo and Slick Charles. Yo-yo had quit working under Slick Charles the night of Fontaine’s murder because she had bigger goals for herself that she wanted to achieve. She had dreams of going to Memphis, but because she lacked the funds, she turned to prostitution to help get there. Later in the film, the viewer also learns that Yo-yo lives with her grandma in a well-decorated home, where she also avidly enjoys reading Nancy Drew books, and uses those books to help in her investigation process. This gives Yo-yo more character than what is immediately perceived through her career as a prostitute. She isn’t the sum of what is portrayed to the outside world, but instead, is a rather nerdy individual whose niche interest is reading. Slick Charles on the other hand is flashy like the stereotypical ‘pimp'. However, he isn’t exactly aggressive, never having mistreated any of his girls for not bringing enough money home and almost accepting the fact that his business wasn’t exactly booming.
Essentially, each of these characters, while fitting some stereotypes, are also given their own unique quirks or personalities that help them in their collaboration with each other. This sets them outside of the boundaries given to them by the labels they uphold. These characters also challenge stereotypical ideas about them and their careers.
After finding out about the underground government organization that’s putting a mind-controlling substance into various foods like fried chicken and grape drink and cloning members of the community to perform experiments on them, Fontaine, Slick Charles and Yo-yo devise a plan to get the whole community involved in freeing their clones and putting an end to the organization. They managed to pull all members of the community together, including Isaac, who agreed to work together with them despite having animosity towards Fontaine. This is where the viewers, along with Fontaine, find out that he is also a clone and the original Fontaine, who is an old man at this point. As a main element to the film, it is revealed that the elderly Fontaine is the lead geneticist behind the cloning. It is at this point that he, the original Fontaine, states, “Assimilation is better than annihilation,” in reference to his philosophy that the only way to achieve world peace is by being completely identical to each other. This relates back to the initial point that the stereotypes against Black people had become boundaries, limiting their opportunities for lives larger than their roles as drug dealers, pimps, and prostitutes within their communities. Living within the confines of their given labels puts them in a position of conformity with stereotypical expectations.
This particular event is foreshadowed in the beginning of the movie during Fontaine and Slick Charles’ altercation. At the time, Slick Charles asks an exasperated question, “Why does it always got to be Black on Black crime?” This statement is significant because the actions of one Black person within the community led to such a widespread experiment on his own people. He operated using the mentality that each person had to be exactly the same within a community in order to truly get along. However, this is negated when considering how the community came together despite their differences and formed a militia that would lead to the organization’s demise.
Ultimately, the main trio of Fontaine, Slick Charles and Yo-yo, are able to come together because of their unique personalities despite their differences. This connection reaches further than just the three of them and ignites complete cooperation among their other community members. In freeing their clones from the underground facility, they also free themselves from the stereotypical restraints of their character’s embodiments. In this sense, these characters learn to appreciate each other for their differences.
By Elaina Irving, Contributing Writer
Graphic by Shae-Lynn Henderson, EIC