Boo Nancy! Yay Tonya!

Is it so wrong that I sympathize with the ice-trash hell spawn?

by doree shafrir
illustration by dame darcy

Is it so wrong that I sympathize with the ice-trash hell spawn? I’ll take Tonya Harding’s focused growl, obnoxious outfits, and teased bangs with the sketchy dye job over Nancy Kerrigan’s chilly demeanor, moose teeth, and facelift-y ponytail with its shitty scrunchy any day. I mean, have you ever heard Nancy speak? I swear she’s lying if she says 1994 is the first time anyone’s attacked her. Has anyone even asked about her history of being attacked and why she talks like that? I bet you’d be surprised by one of the answers—the other you’ll agree is just bad parenting.

Certainly this isn’t the most popular point of view. We’re all supposed to feel bad for Nancy, America’s darling, who earlier this year, on January 6, was attacked in Detroit by a then-unknown monster who took “some hard, hard black stick” to her right knee and clobbered her out of contention for the 1994 US Championship. I’ll admit that when it soon emerged that Tonya’s ex-husband was behind the attack, it wasn’t a total surprise. With the appropriately goonish name Jeff Gillooly, and his hillbilly pedigree that includes abusing Tonya psychologically and physically, he is the perfect villain to coordinate what is being portrayed as the battle between the gorgeous, graceful rink princess and her ice-hoodlum nemesis. At least Gillooly contracted the hit—meaning that, in his diminished capacity as a cognitive primate, he at least hoped to keep Tonya from being implicated. Who loves Nancy that much? In any case, the bummer of a result is that Harding’s been banned for life by the US Figure Skating Association.

I guess if pressed I can admit to feeling a little bad for Nancy. I just don’t really like her. I can’t see throwing back even a single Miller Lite with her. To say nothing of accompanying her to the mall to shoplift outfits from Contempo Casuals, slurp an Orange Julius (extra egg), and scam on a few hot arcade hosers. Nancy’s too good for Miller Lite and Contempo and Orange Julius. And the hot arcade hosers wouldn’t have her, anyway.

Besides, I respect that Tonya Harding is screwing with the supposedly refined, ladylike world of figure skating—which other figure-skating champion has herself a sex tape? Well, lots probably, but none that you can actually rent and pop in your VCR! (Have you seen it? It’s really romantic, actually. They have a water bed!) So she’s a character better suited for the WWF or even the NFL than the supposedly genteel world of ladies’ figure skating—who cares? Even before the “incident” Harding was a rather unlikely—and, for many, uncomfortable—icon. We stuffed her in a corner. Is it any surprise she came out swinging?

But come on. Nancy Kerrigan is so goody-two-shoes she could afford to lose a leg. An oft-repeated story went that in high school she woke up at 4 AM to practice and was asleep by 7 PM, sadly missing out on wholesome high school experiences like sniffing rubber cement. She’s just the kind of girl who’d walk by you prissily if, God forbid, you were smoking after school or if, Jesus Christ, your boyfriend was in a scuffle with antiabortion protesters while you were visiting the clinic. Nancy is everything most prepubescent chicks want to be and nothing a girl should become.

Tonya, on the other hand, worked just as hard to make all her figure-skating dreams come true. But her story resonates: Her mother, a waitress who had been married six times by the time Tonya was in high school, called her fat and lazy. They moved around a lot. Tonya was reportedly abused by her half brother. As a child, when she’d go to ice-skating competitions, she and her parents slept in the back of their truck to save money. She’s a girl who should’ve been flipping burgers, but instead she’s ripping triple axels.

But the skating establishment, and the media, is pissed she’s not more like Nancy. As People magazine wrote recently: “If there were ever to have been a bond between Kerrigan and Harding, it might have been forged by their blue-collar backgrounds. But that is where the similarity ends. While Kerrigan has become the sweetheart of the skating establishment, Harding is its hellion—Charles Barkley on ice, as she recently referred to herself.” And this was before Tonya even admitted to her involvement.

But this brings us back to the knee bashing, and a couple of unanswered questions surrounding it: Was it even all that bad? Will Nancy skate again? They say the “wound” bled a little and swelled up. Doesn’t sound so bad. I think history will show that Nancy is a better person for it. And we’ll have Tonya to thank.