I, Tonya (movie) and her guilt/innocence

Do you think Tonya Harding was a willing participant in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan? For those who knew of the saga before all the recent publicity surrounding the movie release, has your opinion of her changed over time? (I wasn’t sure if this belonged here, The Game Room, or IMHO. I settled on CS because it will probably attract movie commentary as well.)

As it was all unfolding, I reveled in the tawdry details. I laughed at the trailer-trash skater, her idiotic husband, and the incompetent goons. I knew without a doubt that she was in on the plan from the start.

But I find my opinion changing in the last few months of #MeToo. I no longer find it unbelievable that these guys planned the attack without her knowledge. She was an amazing athlete, #1 in the U.S. a few years earlier. She might not have been #1 at the time of the attack, but she was a solid #2 who didn’t need to resort to this to assure her trip to the Olympics. Her cocky attitude, considered another strike against her at the time, made her less likely to feel like she needed help.


[quote from a fan]
(http://www.vulture.com/2017/12/the-cult-of-tonya-harding.html) is a good summation:

The film is a hit-and-miss affair, but the best part about it is that it pays close attention to issues of class, especially in the snobby figure skating circles, and cycles of abuse (from both her husband and her mother). The film is also very articulate in making the audience complicit in the Access Hollywood voyeurism that made Tonya an easy target and laughing stock, drawing glib (and unfair) parallels between her lack of “style” and her more photogenic, “graceful” competition–this despite her having the athletic chops to compete nose to nose with them (the movie makes a point of how the subjective nature of evaluating performances were often held against her because of her homemade costumes, choice of music, etc.). She comes off at the end as resilient and no bullshit and slyly sympathetic.

Sadly, the movie gets hijacked with the kneecap buffoonery of Jeff, Sean, et al, which makes for some easy broadsides at stupid (if true-to-life) people, but makes the movie less interesting thematically. Still, I found it completely plausible that her blinkered focus on the skating and her poor judge of character were the worst of her sins and she didn’t have anything to do with the actual conspiracy.

I have not seen the movie yet, but MovieMogul’s is pretty much in line with the docs I’ve seen on the incident.

Personally I think knew about it and was in on it. In the various docs I’ve seen, she hardly comes across as a clueless bystander. And I’m one of the ones who always pulled for her and wanted to give her the benefit of doubt.

It’s possible she didn’t have prior knowledge of the attack. That’s all you can say, she says she didn’t, but she lied about many aspects of the whole sordid affair and there’s no reason to believe her self-serving statements.

New evidence found includes the address where Kerrigan would be training in Hardings handwriting.

Keep in mind, she was in an abusive relationship, and her initial lies could just as easily be considered as intended to protect her husband, not her.

I also question that “there’s no reason to believe her self-serving statements.” Is anything she says to defend herself automatically taken as false unless proven true? Why is the default to not believe her? If you start with the assumption she is telling the truth now about her role, all her past actions and statements make sense in the context of an abused woman.

Loudon Wainwright III had the most astute commentary on it all.

That might be more convincing if the evidence of an abusive relationship were substantially more than her own self-serving statements. She may or may not be telling the truth, but there’s certainly reason to find her claims to be suspect.

That evidence was publicly released in 2016, but it was not new. It was found soon after the attack and was considered during decisions on how to charge all the players.

It definitely proved that Tonya misled investigators with her initial statements. It did not prove she had foreknowledge of the attack or had any part in planning it. Maybe Gillooly told her they wanted to scout her practices to find out details of her routine.

Again, why is that the default assumption? There is plenty of proof that she was abused beyond her own “self-serving” statements (and what exactly would you consider a non self-serving statement from an abused woman to be?). If Gillooly denied abusing her, aren’t his statements only self-serving and not to be believed?

Her half-brother spent several years in jail for an attempted sexual assault on her when she was 15. That was a proven case, thus the jail time. Her stories of being forced by her mother to pee on the rink because “I’m paying for that ice time” are corroborated by other mothers. She filed restraining orders and had documented 911 calls against Gillooly. I see no reason to doubt she was abused.

Good lord that might be the most boring link ever.

You know what I find ironic about all of this?

Supposedly, the main reason this whole thing happened in the first place is, Tonya and Jeff were pissed off that Nancy was going to get all of the publicity, stardom, and endorsement deals that go with being an Olympic gold medalist. However, pretty much the only two female figure skaters that were skating after 1988 that most people can name - Tonya Harding and Michelle Kwan - never won an Olympic title. (Okay, you can make a case for Tara Lipinski, but that’s only because of her commentating for NBC.) Oksana Baiul? Sarah Hughes? Shizuka Arakawa? Kim Yu-Na? Adelina Sotnikova? Who?

I believe Tonya knew about the planned attack shortly before it took place. I don’t think she planned it.

She may have been too afraid of Gillooly to speak up and stop the plan.

Maybe she went along with the plan hoping she’d further her career.

I don’t know. Either way, she did play a small part in this story.

Does the movie go into Tonya’s recurring injuries?

I recall she paid a high price for landing the triple axel. She was the 2nd woman to do it successfully in international competition. I remember news stories it really messed up her ankles and feet.

I’m not sure she could have turned pro after the pounding her ankles took in training and competition.

The attack on Nancy got Tonya banned from the sport.

She trained & coached for awhile. I’m not sure why she quit.

I saw a Q&A with both the director and writer of the film, and the film’s RASHOMON structure (showing events from differing perspectives) is based on how they sat down and interviewed both Tonya and Jeff separately specifically for this film (not just going off of news stories or other documents) and their versions of what happened were often so different that that became part of the film’s screenplay (they often break the fourth wall to dispute what we see happening).

So in the film (largely based on these joint interviews, along with the public record), she wrote where Kerrigan was training because Jeff (as directed by Sean) asked and she transcribed it from a call she had w/the U.S. Olympic officials. In the film, Jeff is taken by surprised by the clubbing because he thought Sean was just coordinating some phony death threats on Kerrigan to rattle her. The clubbing is all Sean’s idea which Jeff (who immediately suspects Sean’s involvement), in his inept fashion, quickly tries to fix via poor damage control. In the film, Tonya doesn’t know of their involvement until the FBI gets involved. Again, this is how the film presents things based on these (often contradictory) accounts.

I’m making the default assumption that I don’t know. You are making the default assumption that she is telling the truth. I assume your assumption is based on watching a docudrama.

Were her half-brother and/or mother involved in the attack on Kerrigan? There’s plenty of evidence that 24 year old Tonya could stand up for herself. The history of abuse could also explain why she would participate in an attack on a rival. And if such abuse has made her a habitual liar, which would seem to be the case based on her life following the attack on Kerrigan, then I don’t see a reason to give her the benefit of the doubt.

The evidence is inconclusive.

You are correct on my default, although it’s not because of the movie (I haven’t seen it yet). Rather, it’s due to introspection after listening to so many women detail their abuse and harassment, stories that I might have previously dismissed because the “evidence was inconclusive.”

I see no evidence that her story is false, so why shouldn’t believing it be the default? On the other hand, I see reasons why it doesn’t make sense that she planned the attack.

The default used to be to disbelieve a claim of abuse. Lacking any other details I would assume someone claiming to be a victim of abuse is telling the truth because there isn’t much upside to making a false claim. However, this is a case where we have a lot of details, and there is a clear motive for Harding to lie about her participation. Still, I have no idea if she had prior knowledge of the attacks. I could easily see her talking about such things without knowing that anyone would put such a plan in motion, and then compounding the problem by lying after the fact.

She certainly had a rough life but after all, it is critical that the world have ice skating stars who give up their childhood and the possibility of a normal life, right? No, I don’t think so. She is definitely a victim in that sense.

Well, I’ve probably come off stronger in my defense of her than I intended. I think she’s telling the truth, but obviously I don’t know. What I found interesting was how my view of it has shifted in the last 23 years, particularly in response to the “Weinstein moment.”

Looking forward to seeing the movie. No matter what your opinion of her guilt or innocence, it’s a crazy and fascinating story.

I still need a mnemonic to remember which is the evil one.