Tonya Harding — the former Olympic figure skater who, it turns out, was probably not directly involved in attacking her onetime teammate and competitor Nancy Kerrigan — has become something of a cult hero in recent years. Just at the end of last year, as the (really good!) harding biopic I, Tonya was coming out, Sufjan Stevens released a new one-off song called “Tonya Harding,” a loving tribute to the skater. Stevens clearly meant Harding well, but Harding herself didn’t take it that way.
Harding, whose name is now Tonya Price, is the subject of a new New York Times profile, and it includes a bit about the recent attempts to recast her role in the attack on Kerrigan. Price might be considered a sympathetic figure in many circles these days, but she still resents the way that the media and the public at large treated during her moment of infamy. Here’s a bit from writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s piece:
I told her about the essays I’d read about how we should have been kinder and protected her back then. She doesn’t want to hear it. What do we know about her? We never asked. She doesn’t want anything to do with Sufjan Stevens’s lovely song about her. Did he call her first to talk to her? Did any of those people writing their defenses of her call her up and ask if they could make money using her name? No! “Who gives these people permission to use my name?”
“The media abused me in the first place,” Price says. It would seem that she still considers something like Stevens’ song a part of the media. But at the end of the piece, Brodesser-Akner quotes Stevens’ song to her:
With her head against my chest, I leaned down and hugged her. Here is something I’ll never understand, that you can be sitting across the table from someone who certainly did something bad, who appears to show no remorse for it and you can still feel the oxytocin rush of love and sympathy for her. “This world is a bitch, girl,” I told her. “Don’t end up in a ditch, girl.” She looked up at me and smiled and then Mrs. Price hopped into her truck and drove home to her husband and son, who were eagerly awaiting her return.
You can read the whole profile here.
UPDATE: Sufjan Stevens has shared a brief comment on the Tonya Harding New York Times article via his Tumblr:
The world is abundant and strange. The New York Times interviewed Tonya for a recent long-form feature (spoilers: Tonya is not interested in hearing my song!), and The Believer has a great think-piece on Tonya and the complicated world of women’s figure skating. Riveting journalism. Enjoy! Take two Aleve® and keep it moving!