In 1992, I was 16 years old and an avid sports fan of all kinds. The memory of Nancy Kerrigan crying ‘Why? Why? Why?’ after being hit in the knee with a billy club by an unknown perpetrator has been burned into my memory, and I can recall it just like it was yesterday. And the series of events that unfolded after became tabloid history. And now we have the new film ‘I, Tonya’ starring Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding, who was the rival of Nancy Kerrigan, but its retelling of the story comes from a more empathetic view.
Whether the movie’s version of the events are true or not, that’s up for you to decide. Many people are upset that the movie paints Tonya Harding in a more positive light than she deserves. However, even if we look at this movie as a form of fiction, there are still life lessons that we can learn.
Tonya was raised by a very domineering mother who didn’t treat her with love and positivity. Her mother was always telling her that she should do better. She’d hit her when she didn’t like her tone or if she felt she was ungrateful for the sacrifices she was making so she could be a champion. Her mother was her biggest supporter yet her biggest detractor. Tonya was being raised with tons of mixed messages about what love was and with tons of trust issues, as she couldn’t even trust her own feelings with her mother who is supposed to be your biggest confidant.
Needing to get away from her mom, she eventually shacks up with Jeff Gillooly, whom eventually becomes her husband. Unfortunately, she accepts the love she thinks she deserves and is physically and emotionally abused in this relationship too.
Before things go completely off the rails for Tonya, she continuously has to deal with Skate America and the perceived bias against her for not looking the part of being America’s darling. They viewed her as WHITE TRASH and that she wouldn’t be a good representative of American Figure Skating. They wanted someone who could be on the front of a Wheaties box.
From the lack of love from her mother, to the abusive marriage with Jeff Gillooly, to the prejudice from Skate America, Tonya Harding was dealt an emotionally and physically abusive hand. Besides trying to be a great figure skater, she had all these other things going against her in life, and she kept on plugging away when many people wouldn’t have had the strength to move forward.
In the strangest of ways, she was given every chance to succeed, but those same forces were also trying to make her fail. Talk about mixed messages. Eventually the mixed message or message becomes, America wants someone to love, but they also want someone to hate, and unfortunately for Tonya, when the events unfolded after the Nancy Kerrigan incident occurred, she became the person America hated.
Being hated is something Tonya’s had to live with no matter where she’s gone since too. It’s not easy going through life being a punchline to a joke and being publicly shamed like she’s been. It’s actually not fair, but Tonya has never known fair. It’s a gang up mentality that’s become even worse in today’s social media world. Yes, someone might have done something wrong, but does their life need to be destroyed and should they be shamed so harshly for a small mistake. In this case, it can’t even be proven that Tonya had anything to do with the crime at all.
From a social and mental health perspective, this film did a wonderful job of creating empathy for a character that we already pre-judged, and I think it’s a good lesson to learn going forward, as we never know where people have come from, what they’ve been going through, and what the reality of situations really are. So before, you start publicly shaming someone on Twitter or on Facebook; maybe it’s time we try to walk in their shoes, listen, and begin to empathize, before we ruin someone else’s life who may not deserve it.
If you or a loved one you know battles with any Mental Health Issues, please do get the help you need. If you need to talk to someone now, you can talk to one of the many fantastic therapists at Better Help by CLICKING HERE.
This post was created with the help of Grammarly.