Women's Lives on Screen

American Poverty and Social Rejection in Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya





sports movies, film, social rejection, poverty studies


This paper examines the image of American poverty, rejection and social engagement in a recent sports biopic inspired by the story of American skater Tonya Harding, Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya (2017). It draws on data presented in recent poverty studies to determine the extent of deprivation and attend to its representation in American cinema. In the light of the above, I closely analyze the biopic, focusing on its depiction of professional figure skating, expectations of female athletes, and most importantly, the figure of Tonya Harding. I argue that the protagonist’s social background dominates her portrayal, which also challenges the common conception of a sports biopic; Harding’s narrative is defined by her mismatch with ice skating’s normative expectations and, most importantly, by her social standing.

Author Biography

Paulina Korzeniewska-Nowakowska, University of Zielona Góra, Poland

Paulina Korzeniewska-Nowakowska is an academic, poet and translator. She holds a PhD in literature and works at the Institute of Modern Languages, University of Zielona Góra. Her academic interests include American confessional poetry, postmodern studies, Olympism, and sport-related film and literature.





Women's Lives on Screen