Clone High Intro
In the 1990s, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller came up with the perfect idea for an animated show. Historical figures were cloned in present times to be teenagers, and they all went to high school together. They would go through the struggles of pre-adulthood while trying to live up to their expectations of being the clone. They later went on to pitch this idea to multiple networks, but none of them liked the idea. Fortunately, MTV purchased the show, and Clone High was born.
Clone High follows a group of teenagers, Joan, Abe, JFK, Cleo, and Gandhi, and their battles of love, drugs, school, and much more. The clones were made as a secret government experiment for the military. They live in the fictional town of Exclamation, USA with “foster parents”. The school is run by an evil mad scientist who wants the clones to himself, coming up with a secret plan to take them and make an amusement park out of them called “Cloney Island”. The show first premiered on November 2, 2002, on the Canadian network Teletoon and later debuted in America on MTV. The show wasn’t a hit. It received low ratings, and it could not keep up with the other animated shows airing at the time. But, when you google Clone High, you will see it’s rated an 8.1 on IMDb and 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. So, why is that?
Let’s first look at the characters. Abe, the clone of Abraham Lincoln, is the protagonist. The story is mainly pushed by his actions and ideas. He’s a nerdy, awkward kid who falls in love with Cleopatra, the hottest and most popular girl in school. But he seems to ignore the signs that Joan, his best friend, is in love with him. He struggles to live up to his clonefather, for he is nothing like him, and throughout the series tries to find ways to connect with him.
Joan, the clone of Joan of Arc, is again, Abe’s best friend who is very much in love with him. She continuously helps Abe with his relationship with Cleo, but also tries to sabotage it. Most of her attempts leads Abe to fall in love with Cleo more, though. She’s gothic, having pink hair and dressing in mostly black. In the first episode, she explains that she doesn’t want to be like her clonemother and wants to be more like her own person. She also struggles to connect with Joan of Arc, even going as far as to believing God was talking to her and that she needed to spread his message, only to have it be a radio in her retainer with the Christian station on. She is one of the most relatable characters, being flawed, making mistakes, and being rejected in multiple ways.
Cleopatra, who is obviously the clone of Cleopatra, is the most popular girl in school. She’s portrayed as your typical mean popular girl. She begins the series dating JFK, the most popular guy in school but ends up with Abe. Throughout the series, it’s very obvious she’s manipulating Abe so she can get what she wants. In episode 5, where the clones must take a standardized test, she uses Abe as her “study guide” to help her get a good grade, leaving him sleep deprived. Her actions are extremely selfish, making her almost perfect for Abe, but at the end of the series, we see a more gentle side of her when she helps Joan with a makeover so she can get a date to the prom, something she never thought she would do.
JFK, the clone of John F. Kennedy, is the popular guy in school. He gets all the girls he wants, mentioning his “bang list” in the first episode with 152 girls on it. He first resents Abe for getting with Cleo but does get over it. He serves as competition for Abe, even when Cleo was over him. He knew he had to live up to JFK, which caused him to do over-the-top things for her. We get some character development in JFK by the middle of the series when he starts to like the new guy on the basketball team, not knowing its actually Joan in a disguise. He starts to question his sexuality, which soon ended when Joan revealed herself. Although he isn’t one of the main characters, he definitely has influenced the story and course of events.
Lastly, Gandhi, clone of Gandhi, is the comic relief in Clone High. He’s portrayed as a party animal and immature. He struggled to live up to his clonefather, so he decided to reinvent himself. He is the other best friend of Abe and helps guide him throughout his relationship with Cleo. He mainly sits as an outsider, especially in episode 3 where it’s revealed he had ADD, and people tend to be annoyed by his actions. But in the end, he is loyal to his friends and helps them with all of their problems, despite going through his own. Gandhi’s character is the most controversial one in Clone High, which I will get to later.
The first episode of Clone High sets up the story perfectly. We get introduced to the characters, what they’re about, and what their goals are. We immediately see Joan lusting after Abe with Ghandi making jokes in the background. Abe tries to talk to Cleo, very much flustered, and ends up getting invited to JFK’s beginning of the year party. JFK is intimidated by this, and confronts Abe telling him he’s not allowed. Abe foolishly says he’ll being alcohol, and JFK then agrees to let him go.
Abe ends up bringing non-alcoholic beer, but no one seems to pay attention to it. They all still act drunk, including Cleo. She sluggishly flirts with Abe, which JFK sees. She then runs off, saying she needs time to think about who she wants to be with. Meanwhile, Gandhi was supposed to be covering Joan’s shift at the teen hotline so she could go to the party but ends up going anyways and takes calls while drinking and poking fun at people’s problems.
Joan gets upset, for she wants to confront Abe about her feelings. The principal’s robot assistant, who is very good at connection with the teens, comforts her and tells her to go with her gut. As she goes to find Abe, she sees him and Cleo kissing, meaning Cleo has picked Abe.
Throughout the series, the audience feels for Joan. She constantly tries to tell Abe how she feels, only to be shut down each time. In episode 4, Abe puts together a film fest, and Joan makes a film expressing her feelings for Abe loud and clear, but he still doesn’t get the message and takes it as an act of friendship. This is only one of the examples of ways Joan tries to get Abe’s attention. Abe is too hung up on Cleo to think clearly. She’s an enjoyable character to watch, even if she goes through rough times. She’s the most relatable character, and the most realistic. She embodies the struggles of being a teenager, even if she is a clone.
But my favorite character has to be JFK. He’s hilarious. He has the funniest accent, mocking JFK’s real accent, that can only be described as an Australian mixed with a whale. I find myself talking like him on a daily basis. He also has some great liners. He makes sex jokes often, and mixed with bis accent, they land great. I wish he had more character development, though. We did get a bit of that in episode 6 where Joan disguises herself as a boy to be on the basketball team. JFK, not knowing it’s actually Joan, starts to think this new teammate is attractive. He goes to his gay foster parents, asking if he could watch Will and Grace with them, stating he doesn’t know if he liked sports or not anymore. This topic is a real situation, but the way JFK presents it is comedy gold.
Abe has to be the least liked character in Clone High, though. He only seems to care about Cleo and his relationship with her. Watching Joan get rejected multiple times by him is painful to watch, and it’s even more painful when he keeps going back to Cleo. He’s selfish, ignoring the people who actually care about him. Abe only realizes his feelings for Joan when she’s given the makeover from Cleo in the last episode. All it took for him was sexy makeover, which shows he didn’t really like Joan and only wanted her for her body.
The best episode in the series has to be episode 9. The school has an anti-drug assembly, which leads to the rumor that smoking raisins can get you high. They go to the Magic Man, dressed in an ominous cloak and has a scratchy, deep voice, who sells them the raisins. They go on acid-like trips, hallucinating and going deep into their minds. The teens start becoming like hippies, trying to spread the message of love through the raisins, and the foster parents attempt to build a wall to help stop them from destroying the town. This episode is mostly known for the musical numbers in it, specifically JFK’s part where he sings about his broken leg. The graphics are brilliant, bringing the whole episode together. Without the weird psychedelic visions from Gandhi and the rest of the crew, this episode would’ve been forgotten. It’s revealed in the end that the raisins don’t actually get you high and it was all in their minds, making the episode even more comedic.
Clone High perfects the hidden historical jokes in the series. They can sometimes be too straight forward, ruining the point of the joke. But for the most part, each joke is paired terrifically with the situation. When Abe and JFK have a drag race for Cleo’s love, JFK says the infamous line “Nothing bad ever happens to the Kennedys!” before getting flipped over in his car. Each joke relates to the character, sometimes even too well.
The fact that the characters seem nothing like their clones is also genius. If the clones were like their cloneparents, they would be boring. It wouldn’t make a good show. With bringing in different personalities, it gives a fresh new take on each person. It also gives each character an identity. They all struggle with living up to their expectations, but in the end, they are themselves, and that’s what makes it all come together.
Now, your probably still wondering, what happened to the show? Remember how I mentioned Gandhi’s character was the most controversial? Well, he’s the reason why the show got canceled. With portraying him as a reckless party animal, people were offended, especially in India. After the show aired, people protested outside of MTV’s headquarters in India and held a hunger strike. MTV didn’t want to lose their audience there, since it made up such a big proportion, so they canceled the show. So, in 2003 after the final episode of the season aired, the show was officially taken off the air.
But not all hope is lost. This year, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller announced there will be a reboot. Gandhi won’t be included, of course, but the rest of the characters will be in the show. It is rumored that the voice actors will be the same as well, which means we get to hear JFK’s iconic accent again. It’s still up in the air what the reboot will be exactly and when it’ll come out. The reboot is the main reason why it’s been so popular recently. Thanks to TikTok, the show is finally getting the recognition it deserves.
Clone High has paved the way for animated shows today. It’s clever use of mockery against teen dramas stereotypical teen issues opened up a whole new genre of cartoons. If you’ve ever watched Cartoon Network’s show Total Drama Island, you’ll easily be able to point out the similarities. Not only is the art style extremely alike, the idea of the show is also heavily influenced by Clone High, mocking reality T.V. shows.
Overall, I would recommend Clone High to everyone. It’s got the type of humor that everyone can enjoy, and with their only being 13 episodes, it’s a quick watch. You can currently watch it on Amazon Prime by buying the series, or you can take the obvious route and watch it free on YouTube.