The answer to the question is probably best stated as, “Only in America.” The movie, I, Tonya is the most recent version of the story of Tonya Harding’s life, including her infamous attack on fellow Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan designed to keep Kerrigan out of the Olympics and open the door for Harding to shine on her own. The two were competitors on the ice skating rink, but little did Kerrigan know how far Harding was willing to go to grab the glory of Olympic fame.
Fast forward to 2017, Harding’s story is basically a narrative about how to go from zero to hero, back to zero, move up to get back in the limelight, be hated by some and ignored by most, then have her story put back in front of America to relive her sad and unaccomplished life. There is a lot for people to watch this train wreck of a life, so there is considerable interest in the movie. Critics at the Toronto International Film Festival raved about Margot Robbie’s performance, which may the only reason Harding has returned to the red carpet.
While many people may be surprised about Harding’s red carpet appearance, I am not one of them. Her history is that she has wanted for virtually her entire life to be recognized as someone deserving of the public’s adoration, so the movie is a primer of what she hopes will be a year or two of continued recognition. She went down this road before in a much different way, with her hard core porn film that was snapped up by the curious and prurient a couple of decades ago. After her skating career was unceremoniously ended, she turned to boxing for attention. The movie is supposed to be about her very difficult childhood and the effort it took for her to rise to the level of Olympian ice skater.
That is what she wants to be recognized for — her ice skating accomplishments. But that will never happen, despite the critics asserting that one of the best features of the movie is about Harding’s ice skating. Kerrigan earned the silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics, while Harding was soon to be banned from the U.S. Figure Skating Association — for life. All of this attention will never restore her public image as an exceptional figure skater, which is the one thing she wants more than anything else. Like most of her adult life, the sad thing is, she only has herself to blame.
Expect to see more red carpet appearances should I, Tonya receive critical and public acclaim. No word yet whether Harding will cash in on the success of the movie, but don’t be surprised if she finds a way. Money can act as a salve for many wounds, but her self-inflicted wound will never have history recalling her as one of America’s great Olympians. She will be remembered for her shenanigans and how she self-destructed at precisely the wrong moment.
Though for many this entire movie and its connected history seem to have been taken place far in the past, it happened just on the back side of the 20th century. Harding is only 47. If she is consistent, she will milk this opportunity for everything she can. But what we can expect 20 years from now is another sad ending to a misdirected life.
As for the red carpet appearance, as long as there are cameras snapping her picture, she will have no second thoughts about giving the public what it wants. What else does she have to offer?