What To Do When Family Fails Us: Lessons From The Movie They Cloned Tyrone

By | Aug 15, 2023


Written  By Hope Venetta, LCMHCA, NCC

Photo credit from Canva

Can we talk about the recent Netflix movie They Cloned Tyrone? As a psychotherapist with a passion for exploring the Black experience and promoting mental health in African American communities, I believe it is essential to talk about how relationships with our families shape us. In the movie, we see Fontaine’s distant relationship with his mother. This relationship puts a bright spotlight on the profound impact weak family relationships can have on an individual’s emotional well-being. In this blog post, we will examine this relationship through the lens of attachment theory. But we won’t stop there. We’ll also talk about how Fontaine manages to create new connections of his own that are like family, if not better. Guess what? If difficult family relationships are a part of our story, we can do the same thing too.

My take on Fontaine, his mother, and Attachment Theory

Let me give you a little backstory about attachment theory. According to this theory, the quality of the bond formed between a child and their primary caregiver, usually the mother, significantly shapes the child’s beliefs about themselves, others, and the world around them. A secure attachment fosters a sense of safety, trust, and emotional regulation, while insecure attachments can lead to emotional challenges later in life. OK, so in They Cloned Tyrone, Fontaine’s relationship with his mother is nothing but emotional distance and disconnection. He often finds his mother staying in her room, barely speaking to him or avoiding engaging in meaningful interactions. When I saw this, the lack of emotional connection clearly looked like an insecure attachment. We don’t see or hear about his father at all, so that made me wonder about Fontaine’s early years. Did he experience the consistent emotional support and responsiveness needed during his formative years? I don’t this so.

The researchers tell us what we already know. A distant relationship with a primary caregiver can lead to feelings of emotional neglect and isolation. Fontaine’s inability to connect with his mother on an emotional level may have left him feeling unimportant, unworthy of love, and struggling with low self-esteem. His lifestyle of law-breaking and violence is testimony to this.

Discovering the Truth: Impact on Emotional Well-being

SPOILER ALERT! – They really went there with this part. The revelation that Fontaine’s mother is not real was a gut punch. My heart hurt for him as he stared at the tape recorder in disbelief, experiencing that devastating blow, which deeply affected his emotional well-being. As a psychotherapist, I recognize that discovering such a profound deception can shatter one’s sense of reality and worsen existing attachment wounds.

But all was not lost for Fontaine, and friends, if you identify with his pain, all is not lost for you either. What if you have feelings of abandonment, betrayal, and confusion when you think about your family? What if your sense of trust is compromised and you question the authenticity of your relationships, which leads to difficulties forming and maintaining connections with others? It is essential to remember that healing and growth are possible, even in the face of profound challenges. Let’s talk about it.

1.      Found Family: Bonds Beyond Blood

In the movie, Fontaine’s relationships with Slick and Yo-Yo exemplify the concept of found or chosen family. Think about your “play” cousins, aunties, and siblings. They are a powerful testament to the possibility of positive attachments even when blood kinfolk abandon you. Despite the challenges you may have faced, these connections illustrate the resilience of the human spirit and the potential for growth and healing through meaningful relationships with those we choose to call family.

Found family refers to the idea that individuals can form deep, supportive connections with people who are not necessarily related by blood. Fontaine, Slick, and Yo-Yo’s bond transcends conventional definitions of family, as they find a sense of belonging and emotional connection with each other. In the absence of strong family ties, they have come together to create a supportive network based on mutual understanding, empathy, and shared experiences.

Your turn: Creating secure attachments starts with embracing vulnerability. Be willing to share your authentic self with others you believe to be safe people, revealing your hopes, fears, and dreams. Vulnerability fosters deeper connections and allows those around you to respond with empathy and understanding. By showing your true self, you invite others to do the same, paving the way for meaningful connections to blossom.

2.      Empathy and Understanding: Shared Struggles

Their shared experiences growing up in the Glen and facing similar struggles allow Fontaine, Slick, and Yo-Yo to truly understand each other’s emotions and challenges. The empathy they offer one another creates a strong foundation for trust and emotional validation. This connection fills a void left by their rocky family dynamics and empowers them to support each other through thick and thin.

Your turn: In nurturing secure attachments, empathy plays a pivotal role. Seek to understand the experiences, emotions, and perspectives of others. Engage in active listening, giving your full attention without judgment or interruption. Creating an empathetic space for others allows for a sense of safety and emotional validation, strengthening the bonds of trust.

3.      Chosen Support: Encouraging Emotional Growth

As chosen family, Fontaine, Slick, and Yo-Yo actively support each other’s emotional growth and personal development. Their encouragement and belief in each other help them create positive change. This nurturing environment fosters the belief that they are worthy of love and support, countering any feelings of inadequacy that may have stemmed from earlier life experiences.

Your turn: Look for shared experiences and common ground with people in your life. Whether it’s shared interests, values, or life circumstances, finding commonalities can bridge emotional gaps and form the basis for meaningful connections. Shared experiences create a sense of belonging and mutual understanding, paving the way for secure attachments to flourish.

4.      Loyalty and Trust: Rebuilding Faith in Relationships

Their chosen family dynamic exemplifies loyalty and trust, which are vital aspects of secure attachments. The ability to rebuild trust and loyalty in relationships, despite past traumas, is a testament to the transformative power of found family. Their mutual support helps heal wounds from their past and rebuilds faith in the potential for meaningful connections.

Your turn: Actively prioritize emotional support in your relationships. Share your strength with the trusted ones around you and seek support when needed. By being emotionally available and responsive, you create an environment of safety and trust, essential components of secure attachments.

5.      Healing Through Connection: A Sense of Belonging

Fontaine, Slick, and Yo-Yo find healing through their connection with each other, experiencing a deep sense of belonging that was previously missing from their lives. This chosen family provides a safe and nurturing space where they can express themselves authentically without fear of judgment. Through this sense of belonging, they develop emotional resilience and the ability to confront their past traumas with newfound strength.

Your turn: Seeking therapy or joining supportive communities can provide invaluable opportunities for growth and healing. In these spaces, you can explore your attachment patterns, process past traumas, and develop healthier ways of relating to others. Surrounding yourself with people who understand and support your journey can create a powerful foundation for secure attachments.

As people of color, let us recognize the significance of addressing attachment challenges and investing in our mental health. Seeking support through therapy, building empathetic communities, and reframing negative beliefs are crucial steps toward healing and forming healthier relationships in our lives. By exploring these avenues, we create fertile ground for secure attachments to blossom in our lives, enriching us with love, understanding, and emotional resilience.

Keywords: Clinicians of Color, Minority Mental Health, Healing for People of Color,

About The Author

Hope Venetta is a Nationally Certified Counselor with 14 years of experience in the field of mental health continuing education. Currently, Hope serves as an LCMHCA at a private group practice in Durham, NC, where she provides therapy to couples and individuals dealing with a diverse range of presenting issues. You can learn more about Hope at hopevenetta.com/therapy .



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