Will we ever ‘get’ Tonya Harding?

Thanks to the movie “I, Tonya“, Tonya Harding, the former Olympic figure skater has become a sympathetic figure.

At last Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards show, Harding sat with Allison Janney and other stars of the film and was treated as a returning hero when Janney introduced her when accepting her best supporting actress award.

Hollywood can create almost any reality. But the reality is Harding is not only not a hero, she’s a criminal who even the film acknowledges participated in a conspiracy to use psychological and emotional attacks on the real victim — Nancy Kerrigan.

No matter. Harding is on the redemption circuit. Last night she appeared on a two-hour ABC special, admitting to knowing “something was up” in the planning of the attack on Kerrigan, which, of course, escalated to a physical assault.

Her story has changed several times but the one that counts, the one she copped to when she agreed to a plea bargain deal in 1994, is that she acknowledged talking over a plan to hide the plot the night she got back from Detroit, where Kerrigan was attacked.

The plea deal focused only on what happened after the attack, but the prosecutor said he had plenty of evidence to lower the boom on her.

“If she hadn’t been willing to plead to a felony offense, we would have proceeded with an indictment on all possible charges,” Norman Frink said at the time. “And I have every expectation that that would have included conspiracy to commit second-degree assault and racketeering.”

If only.

“In the PR blitz surrounding the new movie ‘I, Tonya,’ Harding has been made to seem softer and more sympathetic than the cut-throat competitor accused, along with her then-husband Jeff Gillooly, of kneecapping Nancy Kerrigan before the 1994 Winter Olympics. But Tonya 2.0 turns out to be a lot like the woman we used to know,” pop critic Mark Shanahan writes today.

Harding’s publicist, Michael Rosenberg, cut her loose after she demanded that any journalists who ask her about the Kerrigan incident be fined $25,000.

‘I, Tonya’ is now ‘goodbye, Tonya,’” he wrote on Facebook, according to Christine Brennan, the USA Today columnist. “Unfortunately, we reached an impasse today on how to treat the press in the future. Her adamant and final position is that reporters must sign an affidavit stating that they won’t ask her anything ‘about the past’ or they’ll be fined $25,000. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way, and therefore I’ve chosen to terminate our business relationship.”

Keep in mind, Rosenberg has been with Harding since before Harding’s ex-husband arranged for someone to take a nightstick to Kerrigan’s knee.

This week the New York Times published a mostly sympathetic story about Harding in which Harding insists you can’t understand what happened without knowing what happened before and after the Kerrigan attack.

But even then, the writer clearly bristled at Harding’s — she’s now actually Tonya Price — refusal to address the only reason anyone suddenly cares about her again at all.

That’s it? I asked. That’s it, she confirmed. Those are her only objections. Which was confusing, because the movie doesn’t vindicate her by a long shot. It presents both sides of the story, both her and her ex-husband’s, and neither comes across looking particularly innocent. Nothing else you want to clear up? I asked.

On a couch at 38 Below, she leaned back, frustrated, made her hands into fists and rubbed her eyes. It’s exhausting. Nobody ever gets it. She’s been waiting for a way to tell the world that the abuse she endured was so much worse than they thought, that she was so much poorer than people could imagine. And then all people want to know is whether or not there’s something she’s not admitting to.

We just don’t understand, the Times says:

There were mitigating circumstances. Her life was terrible. She was beaten. She was threatened. You don’t get this way unless you were counted out completely. Her own mother didn’t seem to love her. The only time in her life she ever got anywhere was when she circumvented the rules and took for herself what appeared to be given to the Nancy Kerrigans of the world. Ms. Kerrigan was from a working-class family too, but she was loved.

Ironically, what is propelling “I, Tonya” in the awards season is the same thing that critics of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” think should disqualify it from consideration.

In not “confronting” the racism of some of the characters, it excused it by noting the upbringing he endured.

One film’s weakness is another’s success. Go figure.

As Tonya Price complains, “we just don’t get it.”

Meanwhile, the real victim hasn’t seen the film. Nancy Kerrigan says she hasn’t had time.

“I’m just busy living my life,” she tells the Boston Globe.

  • wjc

    Does anybody really want to get Tonya? I couldn’t care less.

    • OK, so I’ll change the headline to “Not everybody wants to get Tonya “

    • Rob

      Right? I’m still trying to Get Carter.

      • Zachary

        What about Shorty?

        • Rob

          Him too

  • MrE85

    Having seen the trailer (and having no particular interest in disgraced former figure skaters), the only reason I would buy a ticket is to watch the performance of Allison Janney. That’s C.J., to Bob….

    • It’s a very good film and Janney is fantastic and worth the price of admission. I still rank it below Big Sick.

      So far, in my awards season I’m going with (in order)

      1. The Big Sick
      2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
      3. I,Tonya
      4. Get Out
      5. A Disaster Artist

      The Shape of Water, Darkest Hour, and Mudbound are sitting here waiting for me to watch them but I haven’t had a chance yet.

      I also haven’t seen Lady Bird yet.

      • Kassie

        I did a terrible job at seeing movies this year, and am thinking I need to step up my game this weekend, but I also really enjoyed The Big Sick and Get Out. I want to see the others you have listed, as well as Phantom Thread which Stephanie Curtis talked about on The Current this morning. Wonder if I can convince Jerry go to a movie that isn’t Star Wars this weekend?

        • I realized while sitting through Three Billboards in a theater that I’ve been really bad at watching movies. The only reason I got into it this year is since the newsroom became a SAG union shop, we get to vote in the SAG awards and are getting screeners sent to us.

          So my new year resolutions, in addition to getting more immersed on MN’s music scene this year, is to see more movies and, really, to spend more time supporting artistic and cultural endeavors.

          • Kassie

            Before Jerry and I started dating, I saw a movie a week. Now we rarely watch them because we like very different things. I’m very jealous of your SAG union moving watching abilities. I have another friend in SAG and she is always posting about the movies she watches.

            As for your other goals, definitely check out Fringe Fest this year if you haven’t before. It is such a fun time and a great way to support local artists. We are members of the MIA and the Historical Society and really love both of those organizations too. And MPR of course.

            My goal for the year is to read War and Peace, one chapter a day. I’m currently one chapter behind because yesterday I couldn’t squeeze it in between work, shoveling and bowling league, but so far it is has been pretty easy to keep up and seems to be great way to read the book.

          • RBHolb

            That reminds me of Snoopy reading War and Peace one word per day.

          • Saw Lady Bird last night. It’s a good movie but I don’t think it lives up to the hype. Laurie Metcalfe was great but she wasn’t in Allison Janney territory. But the themes are real; it just feels like they didn’t have an ending for it so they — spoiler alert – end with the daughter calling mom and leaving a message “I love you.” Oh, please.

            I also realize I left movies off my ranking. The new ranking:

            1. The Big Sick
            2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
            3. I,Tonya
            4. Lady Bird
            4. Get Out
            5. A Disaster Artist
            6. Call Me By Your Name

        • Jerry

          Thor is playing at Riverview

          • Kassie

            Downvote.

          • Jeff

            Well I’m going to ask: Why should we go see shithole movies? Aren’t there any movies from Norway?

          • Jerry

            Can you get more Norwegian than the Norse God of Thunder (even if he talks in bad Elizabethan, is played by an Australian, and is directed by a New Zealander?)

          • Jeff

            Well ok, as long as we don’t let all those other movies in.

      • amycrea

        No ranking until you’ve seen Lady Bird.

  • Gary F

    I was behind Nancy Kerrigan in the buffet line at the Pooh breakfast at Disney World about a dozen or so years ago. Just saying.

    I’d rather watch the ESPN show on the Harding/Kerrigan ordeal and see the Star Trib’s Patrick Reusse in the movie.

    • Rob

      Were you close enough to see if her knee showed any signs of damage from the attack?

      • Gary F

        No visible knee damage. I wasn’t sure which knee or details like that.

  • 212944

    Reminds me of when former Trump Press Sec. Sean Spicer was embraced by the Emmys in the fall. Both are people of questionable character who did despicable things (in Harding’s case, illegal).

    As for those who embraced them (or posed with them), well, those who lie with dogs …

  • Zachary

    I was more of a fan of Katerina Witt…

    Yes – I have a love/hate relationship with “Ronin”

    • Jerry

      What kind of movie is it where Sean Bean comes out of it alive and Katerina Witt doesn’t?

      • Gary F

        Katerina Dies? Please no.

        • Jerry

          Umm….spoiler alert for a 20 year old movie, I guess.

        • Zachary

          Seriously? Go see this movie now! It’s amazing!

  • John

    So wait. . . the movie is about Tonya’s life/career up through the Kerrigan events, and she doesn’t want anyone asking about that? The single most significant thing that happened in her career? Seems unlikely.

    I’m pretty sure that without the kneecapping, Tonya would be at about the same footnote of history as Debi Thomas, which is not to disparage Debi Thomas, I’m just saying – not a household name. What made her (in)famous was what made the movie a possibility.

    • The movie goes through the period through her plea.

  • chaseitnow

    Tonya and her mother belong on the Dr. Phil. show. That, I would like to see.