When I was informed that a biopic of Tonya Harding was in the works, I was initially excited. I had watched the many documentaries and television series that focused on Harding’s complicated career. Historically biopics have largely focused on “great men” throughout history. Therefore, the idea of a biopic centering around not only a female, but a female athlete, surprised me. Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya (2017) tells the Tonya Harding tale through a mock-documentary style that plays with both brutality and comedy. Through the interview style used throughout the film (seen in my clip), Gillespie demonstrates the unreliability of any character’s testimony.
Gillespie’s use of these confessionals along with character’s asides to the audience (breaking the fourth wall) could be seen as an experimental approach to the biopic. Yet, while Gillespie uses these different meta-techniques to show all sides of the story—he ends up creating a sensationalized and farcical chronicle of Harding’s life. I, Tonya falls into the gendered trap of the biopic. While the male biopic often focuses on a man’s great accomplishments, the female biopic often focuses on female victimization. While this is not a hard and fast rule—we can see it in effect in I, Tonya. Through a comedic interpretation of Harding’s life (that also makes light of the many abusive relationships in her life), I, Tonya leaves the audience understanding Tonya Harding as an unreliable narrator, as a woman whose relationships and socio-economic status may have tainted her success, as a victim of the American class system. The film didactically expresses the notion that there is no single truth when it comes to the Harding story—it is a web of contradictions. But so is Gillespie’s stylistic and narrative choices for the film—he uses comedic timing and quirky talking-head confessionals to both play into the media’s stereotypes of Harding, but also hint at a more complex conception of Harding’s life story. I, Tonya tries too hard to be too ambiguous. While seemingly trying to update the often-tiresome genre of the biopic, I, Tonya instead cynically plays into a sensationalized portrait of Tonya Harding—leaving us with nothing new.
 Bingham, Dennis. Whose Lives Are They Anyway?: The Biopic as Contemporary Film Genre, Rutgers University Press, 2010.