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Posted February 18, 2018 by Nadine Flores in Movies/TV
 
 

I, Tonya: Another Version of the Truth

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Romanticizing real-life events in order to amp up the drama is a common habit of biopics, but not this one. I, Tonya’s unique take on the life and career of retired figure skater Tonya Harding (now Tonya Price), presents several different perspectives from the side of her former husband, Jeff Gillooly, her abusive mother, LaVona Golden, and her first coach, Diane Rawlinson, without losing track of Tonya’s own telling of her side of “The Incident”. The film does not shy away from the contradicting accounts given by the people involved, and the differences in their statements is mostly where the dark comedy is taken from. But how much of this is real and how much is just plain creative liberty? Here are the top five facts that separates the film from fiction:

LAVONA MAY HAVE NOT DONE ALL THOSE HORRIBLE THINGS, BUT STILL IS A CRAPPY MOM.

During the end credits, they reveal real-life footage of interviews and videos that the film took as references, and apparently Alison Janney’s fur coat-wearing, chainsmoking, bird-loving take on the character is pretty accurate. Tonya confirms in The Tonya Tapes that LaVona did force her to go to school with her skating outfit on, and says she has proof of it too. As for the other instances in the film such as being refused bathroom breaks during practice, and being hit by a hairbrush, people who took the same lessons as Tonya confirmed being witness to it. Tonya also confirms that her mother did try to record her making incriminating statements, although not in the way done in the film. But the knife-throwing, rabbit fur coat, and paid heckler scenes are still unverified.

THAT ENCOUNTER WITH CREEPY CHRIS WAS WAY WORSE

In the film, Tonya was able to fight him off after he grabbed her chest, but in reality, Creepy Chris continued to force himself on to her. This led Tonya to threaten him with a curling iron if he persisted, that then resulted into a long chase where Tonya resorted to hit him with a hockey stick, call the police, and stayed in a neighbor’s house until Chris got arrested that same night.

TONYA NEVER FIRED DIANE

One of the powerful scenes in the movie was when Tonya started lashing out to her coach, Diane, even going as far as throwing one of her skates near Diane’s head out of frustration–as a testament to the abuse that Tonya has undergone in her life, that she is starting to become an abuser herself. But in reality, this never happened. According to both Diane and Tonya’s accounts, it was both their decision to have Dody Teachman coach Tanya instead, because things weren’t working out. Dody was Diane’s first student, and had been working as a sort of assistant coach when Diane had started teaching Tonya. It was also Tonya that tried to convince Diane to train her again, and it was in a meeting with Diane that she promised to do what Diane wanted, including ditching the blue nail polish.

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SHAWN WAS PRETTY ACCURATE, BUT IT GETS WORSE

Along with LaVonya, an interview with Shawn Eckhart was also played during the end credits and it’s just as trippy as portrayed in the film. Not only did he brag about planning the attack, he used the publicity to promote his company, World Bodyguard Services. He even went as far as to play a tape recording of the planning to his friend, Gene Saunders, who encouraged Shawn to turn himself in. In an interview with Diane Sawyer, Shawn also claimed to be a counter-terrorism expert and saying, “My training and education has been in the areas of counterespionage and counterterrorism. I’ve done extensive research in the areas of terrorism trends and profiles. I’ve been quoted as an expert in terrorism trends and profiles.”

HER RELATIONSHIP WITH JEFF MAY BE TOXIC, BUT SHE NEVER CHASED HIM WITH A SHOTGUN

This scene remains unverified as Tonya herself never referenced it in interviews, but mentioned that at some point, Jeff did threaten her with a shotgun. Other instances shown in the film, such as Jeff closing a car door on her hand, and Jeff threatening to kill himself and accidentally firing a gun at her were indeed true, but happened differently. Another fictional scene was when Jeff drove all the way from Portland to Idaho just to tell her, “f*ck you.”

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All in all, it’s still as real as it can get–a subtle commentary on how the media blows a story out of proportion that we, as the audience so religiously latch on to and often forget that the characters in these stories are only human. Margot Robbie said it best herself, during an interview with the NY Times: “There’s always been an appetite for scandal, but this was an event that escalated and snowballed into this global phenomenon. Pinning two women against each other, categorizing people into neat little sound bites and splashy headlines.”

I, Tonya is a story worth telling, and a movie that begs to be watched. Because no matter how you view Tonya Harding’s experiences in and out of the rink, it’s just another version of the truth that she doesn’t owe you.


Nadine Flores