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April 1994


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Abigail Miriam Feder <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 12 Apr 1994 19:11:42 -0700
text/plain (307 lines)
Cynthia Baughman of Ithaca College is editing an anthology of essays on the
 Tonya-Nancy incident for Cornell University Press.  The following is her
 description of the book and of essays planned for it.  If you are interested in
 submitting an essay for her consideration, e-mail a message directly to her at
 Ithaca.  NB:  This book is on the fast track.  Any essay would have to be in
 her hands no later than May 15.
Abigail Feder Northwestern University
e-mail: [log in to unmask]
Forwarded message:
> From [log in to unmask] Tue Apr 12 18:03:14 1994
> Date: Tue, 12 Apr 1994 21:01:00 -0400 (EDT)
> From: Cynthia Baughman <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: tonya & nancy:  the book
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Message-id: <[log in to unmask]>
> X-VMS-To: IN%"[log in to unmask]"
> MIME-version: 1.0
> Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT
> Abby--
> Great talking with you; I'm glad you're aboard.  Your FAX
> may be in my office now--I'll get it in the morning.  Here comes
> the proposal.  If it comes to you scrambled, let me know & I'll
> FAX it tomorrow.
> Cynthia
> Cynthia Baughman
> Dept. of Cinema & Photography
> Ithaca College
> Ithaca, NY  14850
> 277-6227; 274-1626
> March 28, 1994
>           If Looks Could Chill:  Feminist Responses to
>           the Saga of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan
>                    Edited by Cynthia Baughman
>       "Why me?" Nancy Kerrigan wailed when she was clubbed on the
> knee, January 6 at the National Figure Skating Championships in
> Detroit.  Her sobbing face ("racked with pain and fear, its beauty
> distorted," in the words of Newsweek) and her lament were replayed and
> reprinted so many times in subsequent days that "Why me?" became for a
> while her defining line.  It was the entire audition speech used in
> comedy skit tryouts broadcast on the evening news:  one after another,
> Nancy lookalikes scrunched up their faces and cried "Why me?" while
> ponytailed blondes intoned Tonya Harding's signature line, "It's my
> dream."
>       As Nancy Kerrigan's question began to be answered, other
> questions formed:  Why she--Why Tonya Harding--Why did these two young
> women kick Bill Clinton's first trip to Europe and the former Soviet
> Union, off the cover of Time and Newsweek?  Why did their sufferings
> overshadow Sarajevo's darkest days?  Why was the rehearsal for a
> figure skating competition, during the final week of the Olympics, one
> evening's lead story on all three networks?  Why, at any time of day,
> could one or the other of these women, or their relatives, friends,
> trainers, agents, or henchmen, be seen in some television format or
> other--news, tabloid shows, talk shows, Olympic coverage, late-night
> comedy, and commercials, you-name-it?  (If Disney had been able to get
> the made-for-TV-movie out that week, they would have, but all they
> were able to do was begin to hype it.)  Why was the world transfixed,
> and why were we?
>       In this book feminists from many different
> fields--journalists, writers, and academics in women's studies,
> philosophy, politics, history, literature, film, television, dance,
> and theater--address the questions of why we watched and read, and
> what we saw.  Some of these essays will focus on the events
> themselves, the crime against Nancy Kerrigan, the life of Tonya
> Harding, the skating performances.  Others will focus on the ways in
> which these events were packaged, transmitted, reported, and received.
> Through the lens of feminism, these writers see that the most popular
> women's winter sport features makeup, hairdos, beautiful smiles, and
> tiny little dresses which make athletes look like children as they
> rotate in an ecstasy of solipsism (in what other sport are the
> competitors regularly called princesses?  only in ladies figure
> skating--not in women's speed skating).  The successful figure skater
> projects ideal femininity; she is a lovely creature, skating through
> life.  Tonya's dream provided material for ours, for national
> fantasies and personal ones:  that in America upward mobility is still
> a smooth glide, and like Cinderella, all a girl has to do is put on
> the right shoes (and lace them up tight); that women really do come in
> two varieties, good and bad, virgin daughter and slut, white lace and
> red glitter; that Thelma & Louise really did get it all wrong--women
> don't want to bond with each other to fight patriarchy, they want to
> scratch each others' eyes out over who is the prettiest and who gets
> the fur coat and the limo--who gets to be the star.  When Tonya's
> reality--her saga of childhood abuse, sexual molestation as an
> adolescent, battering, minimum-wage service jobs, and financial
> desperation--threatened to rupture these fantasies, she was demonized,
> and used as the foil to make the gold and silver girls shine all the
> more brightly, while women who knew that they never were going to fit
> into the glass slipper responded to her refusals, her resentment, and
> her aggression; she became, like Lorena Bobbitt, the heroic victim.
>       George Vecsey, who covered women's figure skating for the New
> York Times, wrote that he took comfort in the fact that his wife, and
> millions of other women, gave women's figure skating this year the
> highest ratings of any Olympic events ever--that knowledge, he said,
> was all that kept him "from feeling like Humbert Humbert with a word
> processor."  So the fact that women watch an event means that a man
> doesn't have his (sexual) fantasies?  Or that the women don't have
> fantasies of their own?  Why assume that men and women are watching
> for the same reasons, and with the same thoughts, the same responses?
> This book will argue that there were many reasons for watching, and
> much to see, as Harding-Kerrigan unfolded, and a feminist perspective
> will help us to understand what the events, and the spectacle they
> became, have to tell us about the conditions of femininity in public
> and private America today.
>       We envision a book of 256 pages, composed of about fifteen
> essays culled from the many which have been solicited for this volume.
> Cynthia Baughman in her capacity as volume editor, and Cornell
> University Press in its commissioning role, will be the final arbiters
> of which essays are included, applying the dual criteria of excellence
> and thematic coherence.  The introduction will be written to show off
> the subject and the essays to their greatest effect.
>       The essays will be grouped in four sections.  The first, "The
> Fairy Tale and the Dream," will include essays by Robyn Weigman,
> Melanie Thernstrom, Ellyn Kestynbaum, Cynthia Baughman, Mimi White,
> and Ann Cvetkovich, which examine the individual fantasies of
> transcendence and destruction which were prompted by the stories of
> Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.  Section Two, "Two Women, Always
> Opposed?" will include essays by Helena Michie, Lynda Zwinger, and
> Marjorie Garber.  Michie and Zwinger will ask why the "catfight" seems
> to be such an appealing spectacle, and Marjorie Garber will examine
> the heterosexuality of figure skating, offering a final appeal for the
> daring innovation of same-sex paired skating.  Section Three, "On Ice,
> On Screen:  A Spectacle of Femininity," will include essays by Jeanne
> Allen, Susan Bordo, Nicole Gantschar, Jane Feuer, Laura Mumford, Sam
> Stoloff, and Steven Tropiano.  Essays in this section will ask what
> vision of femininity is being projected by the conventions of figure
> skating, and by the way in which the sport is packaged, broadcast, and
> reported, in a wide range of media modes.  In the final section, "An
> American Fantasy--Class Mobility and National Pride," Stacey D'Erasmo,
> Sam Stoloff, Marsha Kinder, Zillah Eisenstein and Patty Zimmermann,
> and Susan Jeffords will place the Harding-Kerrigan affair in the
> context of debates about the value of American life--the belief in
> upward mobility, the avoidance of explicit discussions of class, and
> the fantasy of national triumph in an increasingly global economy.
>       The volume will also include a chronology of events in the
> Harding-Kerrigan affair, and a glossary of figure skating terminology
> compiled by Nicole Gantschar, who, as a figure skating expert, is
> serving as a consultant to other contributors to the volume, and to
> the editor, to insure accuracy and precision in references to the
> sport, its rules and practices.
>                       List of Contributors
>       1. Jeanne Allen, Associate Professor, Temple University,
> edited Now, Voyager in the Wisconsin-Warner Brothers Script Series,
> and is author of many scholarly articles on film, including essays in
> Fabrications: Costume and the Female Body (Routledge, 1989), and
> Female Spectators:  Looking at Film and Television (Verso, 1988).
> Allen will write about how and why the Nancy-Tonya affair has spanned
> just about every television genre:  sports, news, talk shows,
> commercials, soap opera, mini-series, and, soon, movie.
>       2. Cynthia Baughman, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Cinema and
> Photography, Ithaca College, short story writer, co-editor of Mary
> Woronov:  Cult Film Star (Cornell Cinema, 1991), has published on film
> adaptation and co-wrote the screenplay of Melanie Thernstrom's The
> Dead Girl for Warner Brothers.  She will write a personal essay,
> "Dreaming of Tonya," on becoming fascinated by the Tonya-Nancy
> spectacle.
>       3. Susan Bordo, Professor of Philosophy, LeMoyne College,
> author of Unbearable Weight (University of California, 1993) will
> argue that Tonya and Nancy are in many ways representative of women of
> their generation, taking back with their bodies the gains which
> feminism has made in the political sphere.
>       4. Ann Cvetkovich, Associate Professor of English, University
> of Texas at Austin, author of Mixed Feelings:  Femininity, Mass
> Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism (Rutgers, 1992), and essays on
> popular culture, would write on this melodrama as a symptom of
> cultural fantasies about women.
>       5. Stacey D'Erasmo, television critic for the Village Voice,
> will write about the way in which the media coverage of the
> Tonya-Nancy affair fed American fantasies about the ease of upward
> mobility.
>       6. Jane Feuer is Professor of English at the University of
> Pittsburgh, and author of The Hollywood Musical (Indiana, 1992) and
> co-editor of MTM:  Quality Television (Indiana, 1984), and an ardent
> figure skating fan.  She is watching Sonja Henie movies and will write
> about femininity in figure skating spectacles.
>       7. Nicole Gantshar has an MFA in Dramaturgy from SUNY
> Stony-Brook and is Assistant to the Artistic Director at the Richmond
> Ballet.  She has extensive knowledge of figure skating, and will write
> about how the gender conventions of figure skating choreography played
> out in the Nancy-Tonya episode (male figure skaters tend to adopt
> personas in their performances, whereas female figure skaters are
> expected to be "themselves," exuding femininity.)
>       8. Marjorie Garber, Professor of English and Director of the
> Center for Literary and Cultural Studies at Harvard University, is the
> author of Vested Interests:  Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety
> (Routledge) and editor of Media Spectacles (Routledge 1993).  She will
> write on the heterosexuality of figure skating and its homosexual
> subtexts.
>       9.  Susan Jeffords, Professor & Chair, Dept. of Women's
> Studies, University of Washington, and author Hard Bodies:  Hollywood
> Masculinity in the Reagan Era (Rutgers, 1994), will write on the
> Tonya-Nancy rivalry in a context of a crisis of American nationalism.
>       10. Marsha Kinder, Professor of Critical Studies in the School
> of Television-Film at USC will write "Nancy, Tonya and the Dream
> Scheme:  Narrativizing and Nationalizing the 1994 Winter Olympics."
>       11. Ellyn Kestnbaum is writing her dissertation on ice dancing
> under the direction of Sally Banes at the University of Wisconsin.
> She attended the Detroit Nationals at which Kerrigan was attacked, and
> the Olympics in Lillehammer.  She will write about the different
> versions of femininity conveyed by the skating styles of Tonya
> Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, Oksana Baiul and Surya Bonaly.
>       12. Helena Michie is Associate Professor of English at Rice
> University, and author of The Flesh Made Word:  Female Figures and
> Women's Bodies (Oxford University Press, 1989) and Sororophobia:
> Differences Among Women in Literature and Culture (OUP, 1992), which
> includes an inter-chapter on the skaters Debi Thomas and Katarina
> Witt.  She will write on why the spectacle of women fighting each
> other captured the collective imagination in the Harding-Kerrigan
> affair.
>       13. Lynn Spigel, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts at
> the University of Southern California, co-editor of Private
> Screenings:  Television and the Female Consumer (University of
> Minnesota Press, 1992).
>       14. Laura Stempel Mumford is an independent scholar who has
> published articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Narrative,
> and is writing a book on women and soap opera.  She writes a weekly
> television column for the Madison, Wisconsin arts paper.  She will
> write on how and why the Tonya-Nancy affair became a staple of
> late-night comedy shows such as Jay Leno and David Letterman.
>       15. Sam Stoloff is a graduate student in American Studies at
> Cornell, completing his dissertation on the growth of popular culture
> industries (especially spectator sports and Hollywood) in the teens
> and twenties.  He will ask why social class played such an important
> role in popular discussion of the Harding-Kerrigan saga, and discuss
> the place of class hierarchy and gender hierarchy in spectator sports,
> as well as the place of figure skating in a hierarchy of sports.
>       16. Melanie Thernstrom, author of the non-fiction memoir The
> Dead Girl, (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1990), will ask why the
> coverage of the Nancy and Tonya stories focussed on their families and
> on their status as daughters.
>       17. Stephen Tropiano is finishing his dissertation at USC on
> homosexual narratives in European cinema, several chapters of which
> have been published.  He is currently the Director of the Ithaca
> College Los Angeles Program.  He will write (with some insider
> knowledge) about the selling of Nancy Kerrigan to Disney.
>       18. Robyn Weigman, Assistant Professor of English at the
> University of Indiana, will write on "Tonya's Bad Boot," arguing that
> the Cinderella myth, with its quarreling stepsisters, and
> rags-to-riches fantasy, has been present in the response to the
> Tonya-Nancy story from the beginning, and culminated in the dramatic
> spectacle of Tonya's broken shoe lace--the moment at which it became
> clear, once and for all, that Tonya was not going to fit into the
> glass slipper.
>       19. Mimi White, Chair of the Department of Radio, Television,
> and Film at Northwestern University, author of Tele-Advising:
> Therapeutic Discourse in American Television, will write "A Skater is
> Being Beaten" an analysis of why the image of Tonya weeping on the ice
> is so fascinating, painful, and pleasurable.
>       20. Patty Zimmermann , Associate Professor, Dept of Cinema and
> Photography, Ithaca College, is author of Reel Families:  A Social
> History of the Discourse on Amateur Film 1897-1962 (forthcoming
> Indiana University Press, Art and Politics of the Everyday Series) and
> Endangered Species:  Documentaries and Democracies (forthcoming
> Westview Press).  Zillah Eisenstein is Professor of Politics, Ithaca
> College, and her latest book is The Color of Gender:  Reimaging
> Democracy (University of California Press:  1994).  They will write on
> the Tonya-Nancy story as a distraction from the other conflict alluded
> to frequently in Olympic Skating coverage--the Bosnia and Sarajevo
> conflict.
>       21.  Lynda Zwinger, Associate Professor of English, University
> of Arizona will write on the constructed cat fight and made-for-TV
> movies.
>       22.  Judith Mayne.