I have to admit to having only a vague recollection of the infamous events surrounding Tonya Harding in the early 90’s. Figure skating is not something that I know much about, I grew up within a family that watched a fair bit of sport on TV. I can just about remember John Curry winning his gold Olympic medal in 1976, but more significantly Robin Cousins, who was “a local” and became an Olympic champion in 1980. Then of course came Torvill and Dean who blew us all away in 1984.The new and somewhat controversial film about “the incident” is currently playing in cinemas and raises plenty of questions.
Chaos, Controversy and Context
Controversy centres around the accuracy of the portrayal of the facts, which are all important. The film attempts to clearly state that some of the “facts” are inaccurate, but others, are a bit more one word against another. In reality the film is all about relationships. The Tonya Harding (played by Margot Robbie) of the movie is young and hard-edged having lived without much affirmation. She receives constant criticism from an authoritarian, punishing mother (played by Allison Janney) who regularly struck her. This provides fairly much ideal circumstances for a relationship with a man that regularly beat her up. Sadly, all lack any emotional intelligence and none of them appear to have received much of an education.
The Real Thing
Despite a life of struggle, Tonya is certainly a brilliant figure skater. She is the first American female to successfully complete a triple axel. Clearly her home is on the ice. The film is clear that her success and support is lacking due to her inability to fit with the required image. It is suggested that she is thwarted by judges who simply don’t want her kind in the same circles. This of course is a mixed blessing, earning her fans. Harding managed to break the taboos and gained a place on the US team for the Olympics.
Behind the Curtain
The film is of course largely concerned with the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, a team-mate and rival, who is assaulted with a baton, with the aim of preventing her from competing. The movie contends that Harding had no involvement, that she was at the very worst involved in agreeing to send threatening letters to spook Kerrigan. Those that carry out the assault are portrayed as, frankly inept, half-wits who can barely operate a kettle.
Skating on Thin Ice
It’s an engaging movie, it lacks depth or analysis, but it’s a decent story. How much is fact, or a work of fiction is very much up for debate. As Harding has seemingly changed her version of events numerous times, there will always remain some scepticism over any claim to truth. What struck me was the resulting unfairness (in the movie) of the punishment. This implied that the thugs had a short sentence, whereas Harding had a life-long sentence of being unable to teach, coach or compete in any skating event, ever. This was her one unique ability, her one chance of being able to carve a career that could provide for her and her family. Kerrigan went on to win a silver medal.
Technical Merit and Artistic Interpretation
Harding had sufficient focus and natural talent to be hugely successful and make a good life for herself from skating. This was extinguished through folly. I was at a conference recently where a similar message was delivered. People self-destruct, human nature is the enemy of successful investing. A significant part of being a financial planner, is being a coach, helping clients to alter their investment behaviours from those that are more innate and self-defeating, to those that are based on a disciplined approach, with a long-term mind-set. In a lifetime of investing, remembering the one fabulous investment you made whilst blowing the whole plan, has only one possible result and it strips you of both your dignity and independence.
Anyway, here is the trailer for the movie which is currently in cinemas.
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