I, Tonya - A Life Destroyed by the Company you Keep

I, Tonya - A Life Destroyed by the Company you Keep
I grew up knowing the names of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, but never knew the full story of what actually happened. Like most, I believed that Tonya Harding bashed Nancy’s leg in with a bat and was able to still go to the Olympics. I never questioned anything because that’s how the media painted the picture for me as a child. I was very excited when I saw the trailer for I, Tonya because I knew it would finally shed some light on an old story locked in my memory. How many grew up thinking Tonya Harding was a vindictive skater? How much of her identity had been stained by negative press? Most importantly, how many truly knew that her story was one of class discrimination and domestic violence?
The film pieces Tonya’s story through the use of real interviews post-scandal. Whether the audience is convinced that Tonya didn’t know about the assault on Nancy is irrelevant. Her biggest fault was the company she kept close to her, namely her husband Jeff and his crony. Her real competition wasn’t her fellow skaters who she could out skate on a technical level, but against the stereotypes of uneducated white America. She wasn’t poor, but still battled the prejudice of social class.
You begin to root for Tonya early on in this film when you see her mother’s tyrannical parenting style. Her father literally drives out of her life leaving her begging on the street to go with him. Tonya sacrifices her education for training. While all of her other teammates could afford expensive uniforms, skates, and trainers, Tonya had to work harder to stay in the ice skating world. She was the first woman to ever attempt and pull of a triple-axle because she was technically superior. What Tonya lacked in her performances, something she could never understand, was grace. Grace comes from belief and love. Tonya believed in herself, but she had a difficult time loving herself.
She allowed her boyfriend and then husband Jeff Gillooly to physically abuse
her because that relationship filled the void of her missing father. She didn’t love herself and that translated onto the ice. There came a point though where the abuse took it’s toll and she separated from her husband. She started focusing on her talent, but suffered a setback when a judge told her that she needed a family to be able to get into the Olympics. He basically told her that America needed a representative who little girls could aspire to be rather than someone they see themselves in. This advice screwed with Tonya’s head and caused her to fall back into her abusive relationship.
This choice is the one that destroyed Tonya’s life. The choice to surround yourself with poisonous snakes is one where the risk is not just against you, but anyone who gets close to you. From this decision came the entire Nancy Kerrigan fiasco.
Who we surround ourselves with defines who we are, whether it’s true or not. It makes us a part of that crowd. The longer you hang around people the more you are associated with them. The more you talk like them, act like them, synchronize your sense of humor… you become defined by them. Tonya may not have actually known the truth about Nancy Kerrigan, but she surrounded herself around the people who set it up. She is a victim of a life destroyed by the company you keep.
The movie is raw, honest, and worth watching for Margot Robbie and Allison Janney’s performances. This is The People Vs. O.J. Simpson on ice skates.
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