Analysis of the Movie I, Tonya

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I, Tonya is a movie based on the figure skater, Tonya Harding, and life during fame. Tonya was seen, to the skating world, as a low class redneck instead of a wealthy, classy, figure skaters. She was judged unfairly at the beginning of her skating career, because she did not have the money to buy fancy outfits, attitude was not acceptable, and the music that was played during the competitions was not appropriate. These played a huge factor in her skating career. Tonya grew up in a family that did not have a lot of money which caused little amounts of bullying when she was younger, and how the panel of judges, scored.

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An example was when she was younger and other girls had fancy fur coats and made fun of her hick like rabbit coat. “Lavona: What does she need a fucking fur coat for? I don’t have a fur coat. DIANE: Because it’s not just skating. The judges want figure skaters to be- Lavona: Rich, prissy, a-holes- ......Tonya, in a ratty rabbit fur coat walks past the girls also in furs. Snooty Girl: What kind of coat is that?”. This was only during the beginning stages of her skating career, and soon she was able to buy classy outfits from the catalogs. Because of the lack of money in her life, she had to make her clothes, including for competitions. “Judge: We also judge on presentation.”

The judges never put into consideration that not everyone has a lot of money and presentation should not be a factor in scoring. In one of Tonya’s performances, she skated to a ZZ Top song, and the judges prefer more elegant and classical music. This came as a shock for the judges which caused unfair scores from them. “Tonya performs to ZZ Top….... The judges clearly dislike her music selection…..This is no old fashioned ice princess. TONYA: They freakin’ hate me. Emily Ann fell and scored higher.” The judges decided at that moment that a classy, well put together skater, who fell, deserves higher points then a non-professional rock skater.

Tonya was expressing herself and was judged poorly, which caused her song selections in later competitions to change, and she lost a part of herself in the skating world. Her attitude increased as she lost herself in this world. Growing up, Lavona, Tonya’s mother, was aggressive with young Tonya and her achievements. In her mother’s opinion, it was love that was being shown, but Tonya believed that her mother is not capable of love. “Lavona: Are you even trying…..Tonya: I have to go to the bathroom. Lavona: Don’t tell me what you have to do. I paid for you to skate. You’re gonna stay on the ice and skate… I hit her one time with a hairbrush. Fucking terrible, scum sucking, loser!”.

Because of Lavona’s actions towards Tonya growing up, it caused Tonya to become like her mother almost, with her attitude towards people. “Judge: Maybe you need to pick another sport. Tonya: Suck my dick! This is fuckin’ rigged!....... She throws her skate hard just missing Diane.”

If Tonya grew up in a better household, then she would not have the attitude she has now. This is why the judges judged her unfairly, but then again, it was not professional either. During the beginning part of Tonya’s skating career, she was judged unfairly based on her personality. She would have had more championships and a better shot in the Olympics if the judges scored fairly. They did not like her choice of music, attitude, and attire of choice. She was expressing who she was, and her social class helped. It made her unique than other figure skaters. Granted, she could have maybe been a little nicer to the judges, but her social class was looked down on by the judges.

Works cited

  1. Bai, X., & McCarthy, M. (2008). Olympic ice skating judges under scrutiny. The Lancet, 371(9612), 1176-1177. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60548-9
  2. Frosch, D. L. (1994). The effects of social class on socialization and identity: A theoretical and empirical analysis. Journal of Adolescence, 17(2), 149-165. doi: 10.1006/jado.1994.1011
  3. Harding, T. (1996). The Tonya tapes: Tonya Harding in her own words. New York: Hyperion.
  4. Hines, N. (2017). I, Tonya: How the filmmakers managed to sympathize with a villain. Slate Magazine. Retrieved from
  5. Johnson, A. (1994). Class conflict in the United States: The influence of economic inequality and social class on consumer behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 21(2), 180-193. doi: 10.1086/209391
  6. Johnston, T. (2018). I, Tonya’s tragicomedy of abuse. The New Yorker. Retrieved from
  7. Knopp, S. (2013). The sociology of sport and physical education: An introduction. Routledge.
  8. Lipinski, T. (2018). A review of the Tonya Harding biopic I, Tonya. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  9. Lissak, M. (1998). Sport in a capitalist society. University of Massachusetts Press.
  10. Morley, D., & Robins, K. (1995). Spaces of identity: Global media, electronic landscapes and cultural boundaries. Routledge.

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