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Monday, February 6, 2023

No Laughing Matter

Tony Tone
Tony Tone
Tony Tone has worked as a radio personality in Muscatine and the Quad Cities since 2006. He currently serves as Muscatine Community School District Communication and Community Outreach Director and writes Talk of the Town with Tony Tone for the Discover Muscatine newspaper.

Muscatine Living

My wife Kasey and I saw Joker on Sunday, October 6th, and were just floored by how great of a piece of film it was. Let me preface by telling you that it is not a kid friendly movie. The subject matter it deals with is something that maybe a fifteen or sixteen-year-old could process. I’m still trying to sift through it at thirty-six years old. Please don’t be the parent that thinks your eight-year old is mature enough to handle it. Take it from someone who probably saw a few too many ‘R’ rated movies growing up.

Joker is set in the 1980s, yet touches on so many relevant issues facing our society in 2019, Mental health services for those in need being defunded, prescription drug costs, poverty, childhood trauma, violence, just to name a few.

But perhaps one of my biggest takeaways from the film was how we can oftentimes blatantly ignore or not see each other. When was the last time you walked past a total stranger and said hello, or, shared a smile? I’m a forever optimist, and that’s probably why my current job fits me so well. I love talking to strangers, meeting new people, and at the very least acknowledging others.

Aren’t we all worth that much? I’d challenge you this week to notice people more. Especially our elderly, special needs, and those that are often overlooked the most. They matter, and you could literally brighten their day with a simple gesture of kindness. That’s a word I’ve written about in the past, and I’ll continue to advocate for more kindness in our world. It doesn’t cost you anything to be kind to a stranger.

Arthur Fleck (Joker) was struggling with mental illness, a victim of childhood trauma, and was just trying to be noticed. Yes, I realize that is a character from a fictional movie, but it is grounded in a reality that many of us are dealing with. How many of us are struggling with mental illness and lack of services? What’s the number of people here in Muscatine without quality healthcare that are left to struggle day in and day out? That’s not a fun statistic to think about, I get it. I will also acknowledge the recent efforts of places like MCSA and their new mental health peer drop in center. Those efforts will make a difference and potentially help save lives, but we still have our work cut out for us.

The majority of the time, we go to movies as an escape. You know that for a couple of hours you can forget about your troubles and feel good. Joker has scenes that are so unnerving I found myself thinking, “I can’t believe they left that in there.” The director, Todd Phillips, truly lets the character “breathe.” It is in those moments that the sense of escape is gone, and you’re left empathizing with Arthur.

I could argue that the true villain of Joker is society, and you would be hard pressed to convince me otherwise. Now, having said that, ultimately the character is responsible for the choices he makes, but not after a lifetime of systematic failures. Think of it this way; Arthur still endures the childhood trauma but has the luxury of necessary healthcare related services. Doesn’t that help set him up for success and on a better path?

I don’t have enough space to dive deeper. I’ll leave you with this quote by Scott Adams, “remember there is no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” I’ll keep trying to do better and I hope you’ll do the same.

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