Margot Robbie Defends the Controversial Way 'I, Tonya' Handles Domestic Violence

Since it came out in December, “I, Tonya,” the biographical comedy about figure skater Tonya Harding and her connection to the 1994 attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan, has been a topic of conversation for multiple reasons, including how it portrays domestic violence.

Responses to the film’s comedic and irreverent tone have been mixed when it comes to the way it handles domestic violence.

On Tuesday, actress Margot Robbie (who plays Harding) defended the film’s depiction of domestic violence in an interview with the New York Times. When asked about the criticisms that the movie “makes light” of domestic abuse, Robbie said,

Something that struck me most about watching all the footage [of Tonya Harding] was the documentary made about her when she was 15. She’s very candid and vulnerable, and insecure. She’s just looking at the camera, saying, ‘My mom’s an alcoholic, and she hits me, and she beats me.’ The worst thing [about] a domestically abusive relationship is that it’s a vicious cycle. And you see her go back to [her first husband, Jeff Gillooly] time and time again. We wanted to emphasize that this is a cycle and this is so routine for her, because it’s happened her whole life. She can emotionally disconnect in that moment and speak to the audience, completely matter-of-factly.

In an interview with Vulture, director Craig Gillespie said each scene featuring domestic violence was carefully considered, and they ultimately decided “breaking the fourth wall” was the cinematic way they could show how desensitized Harding became to the abuse.

“It was part of trying to get into the mindset she’s in,” Gillespie said. “The idea of breaking the fourth wall — which wasn’t scripted — I thought, ‘Let’s try this in this violent moment. It reinforces that she’s not connected.’”

Despite the controversy surrounding “I, Tonya,” it’s important to have discussions about domestic and intimate partner violence. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, one in four women and one in seven men have been the victim of severe intimate partner violence, and about half of all women and men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner.

If watching “I, Tonya” or reading coverage of the film was hard for you, you’re not alone. If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Photo via “I, TONYA” Facebook page

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

couple embracing in front of misty field in fall or winter

Relationship Tips If You Have a Mental Illness

Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here. I’ve been with my partner for four years. Before that, I’d pretty much [...]
Close up image of woman putting white round pill in mouth. Sick female taking medicines, antidepressant, painkiller or antibiotic. Young lady drinking contraceptives. Pharmacy and healthcare concept

When You're Jealous of Friends Who Don't Need Medication to Feel 'Normal'

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication. Imagine this. When you’re at the pharmacy you feel like you’re at a drive through window ordering takeout for the whole car. “And is that all?” The pharmacist asks, when you still have six medications left to ask for. “No” you say sheepishly [...]

How to Cast Your Own 'Patronus' in Tough Mental Health Moments

For the two or three of you who are not big Harry Potter fans (tsk tsk) this might be a little hard to understand, but I encourage you to hear me out anyway. In the world of Harry Potter, there is an extremely valuable spell called the Patronus charm. This spell has the specific effect of [...]

The TV Shows That Have Been Doing a Good Job Addressing Mental Health

Recently the musical comedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” gave its lead character, Rebecca, a diagnosis. The reveal was complete with a full broadway-style musical number after Rebecca finds out she has borderline personality disorder (BPD). She’d previously believed she had depression and OCD, and throughout the song, she lists a number of misdiagnoses she’s received over the [...]