Thursday, July 27, 2023

Nanoreview: They Cloned Tyrone isn't too far from how things are in real life

You'll laugh about it, then think it over, then realize with a shudder that it wasn't joking

The pitch-perfect Blaxploitation homage in the new Netflix film They Cloned Tyrone is so hilariously over the top, so absurdly far-fetched, that you may miss the realism just beneath the surface. It's not science fiction to say that US government agencies have repeatedly treated Black people as disposable and interchangeable. It's not science fiction to say that the US has had a murky relationship with medical ethics, especially with Black patients. It's not science fiction to say that a segment of WASP leaders sincerely believe that they have already built the common ground for interracial peace and the only step needed is for Black people to agree to it. When you consider all those details, They Cloned Tyrone proceeds almost like a documentary.

The best satire is that which shows us exactly what the problem looks like, maybe through a funhouse lens, but still recognizable. The film's trio of lead characters are comical exaggerations of overused stereotypes, but it is their distorted irrealism that frees the story to make its points more openly, to engage in the Black cultural practice known as real talk. A serious documentary about the benefits that WASP society derives from enforcing the status quo in depressed neighborhoods would barely be noticed. But a speculative farce with world-class actors, sharp dialogues, unafraid hyperviolence, expert direction, and an aesthetic sense heightened all the way to the top of Jamie Foxx's afro? Now that's how you get audiences to pay attention.

Partly due to the references to Blaxploitation cinema, the look and feel of this movie exists in a curious limbo where audio casettes and funk music coexist with smartphones and Bitcoin scams. Set aside the props, and the story might as well be happening in the 1970s or tomorrow, cleverly signaling how little has truly changed. This effect is achieved with loving attention to detail in costume design, set design, and cinematography. Of particular note is the protagonist played by John Boyega, a meticulously crafted performance that makes you forget that the actor's natural accent is British.

Lies that tell a truth, as Alan Moore called the narrative art. The movie's ridiculously freakish premise is part of the point: even in such unbelievable circumstances, the message still rings true, and it does because it comes from a place of honesty, from deep familiarity with the damage that the American Way of Life™ does to Black communities. It may be about fake people, but They Cloned Tyrone is the type of art that can't be faked.

Nerd Coefficient: 7/10.

POSTED BY: Arturo Serrano, multiclass Trekkie/Whovian/Moonie/Miraculer, accumulating experience points for still more obsessions.