The Tonya Harding biopic is not the first cinema about women and sport. But, refreshingly, its one that isnt about female players trying to break into a male-dominated world
If Tonya Harding had been no more than the first female ice skater to territory two triple axels in race, the majority of members of us would have forgotten her by now. But in 1994, an affiliate of her ex-husband attempted to break the leg of her competitor, Nancy Kerrigan. In the precede media frenzy, Kerrigan was thrown as America’s sweetheart, with Harding as a soap opera villain. The incident turned “Trashy Tonya” into a cult figure, subject of TV movies, pop anthems, plays and musicals, and now a movie.
I, Tonya takes its stylistic clue from Martin Scorsese, presenting her narrative as freewheeling mockumentary substance with larger-than-life references, pornographic dialogue and inaccurate narrators. It is played for scabrous blacknes humor, but is a not unsympathetic character study of an intruder from an abusive background striving to make it in a discipline that expects its skaters to conform to public expectations of sweetness and femininity.
One thing I, Tonya is not about is a woman invading masculine turf. In movies, as in life, sporting prowess has long been a boys’ club. Games involving punching, throwing, violent form contact or sweat-inducing effort have always been viewed as unfeminine. A woman’s role in these macho narrations is gonna be dispelled to the sidelines as a Wag, supplying seeing sugar between boxing rounds, or as a cheerleader, egging on the male players.
And so most female-centric plays movies revolve around the struggle against misogyny. In Heart Like a Wheel( 1983 ), Bonnie Bedelia overcomes male resistance to make it as a drag racer. In Bend It Like Beckham( 2002 ), a west-London teenager overcomes the opponent of her Punjabi family to make it as a footballer. In Girlfight( 2000 ), Michelle Rodriguez is told:” No girlfriend has what it takes to be a boxer .” For women, making it in a male boast is invariably the story.
The very title of Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own( 1992) is the verbal equivalent of a paternal pat on the head. Inspired by the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was set up while male actors were fighting in the second world war, the film is a critique of patronising outlooks while simultaneously trivialising its female participates’ tries almost as much as the male characters, with coach Tom Hanks complaining:” I haven’t got ballplayers. I’ve got girls. Girls are what you sleep with after video games , not whatever it is you manager during the game .”
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