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Tonya Harding Revisited

Skater Tonya Harding (R) with Coach

This afternoon, I saw the Craig Gillespie film I, Tonya (2017). I remember vividly the events of 1994, when Tonya Harding’s husband Jeff Gillooly conspired with lowlife friends to intimidate rival skater Nancy Kerrigan, but the intimidation turned into a physical attack in which Kerrigan’s knee was broken. Then a bunch of videos turned up on the Internet of Gillooly and Harding’s wedding night with its raucous nudity and sex play. Kerrigan was able to compete again, but Harding was banned from skating competition for the rest of her life.

The film was actually pretty good. The Australian-born Margot Robbie excelled as Tonya; and Allison Janney as her estranged mother LaVon was icily superb.

I always felt sympathy for Harding, because she was a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and from a dysfunctional family. Competition skating in America wants its competitors to be little suburban princesses with happy backgrounds (or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof). Although she was less responsible for the nobbling of Nancy Kerrigan than her husband and his friends and associates, they wound up serving light sentences, but Tonya’s harsher sentence essentially killed her career—for the remainder of her life.

We pretend to be a democracy, but it hasn’t looked that way for some time:  Talented blue-collar girls suffer for not being little bundles of perfection. Tonya is still around, but no longer is she performing triple axels on the ice. She performed brief stints as a wrestler, a boxer, and a racer; and  (according to the film)  she constructed home decks. I wish her well.