Kat: You’re In The Loop! We’re here to discuss the ups, down, and sideways of the sport of figure skating, and maybe give you +5 GOE along the way. Let’s introduce this week’s hosts.
Yogeeta: Hi, I’m Yogeeta and I’m from New York City. You might recognize me as your friendly neighborhood Rabbit queen, but if not, my Twitter handle is @liliorum.
Tilda: Hi, I’m Tilda, your friendly neighborhood Swedish political scientist. My Twitter handle is @tequilda.
Kat: Hi, I’m Kat, I’m from New York and you might remember me as the girl screaming about Chinese pairs in the second episode. You can find me on Twitter at @kattwts.
Lae: I’m Lae, I’m a freshly minted Media Communications and Law grad from Sydney and I’m currently abroad. I’m on Twitter at @axelsandwich. Yay! Welcome to this week’s bonus episode!
Tilda: So as this is a bonus episode, we don’t have a proper News Section, but we were just going to quickly touch on two big news that happened this week.
Lae: So the first being that Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed have split up. They’re the top Ice Dance team in Japan, so unfortunately they have announced their split and they’re both looking for new partners.
Kat: In addition, Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson have signed a contract with the Chinese Figure Skating Association to help Team China prepare for the Beijing 2022 Olympics, and it was also stated that Jin Boyang has put his plans to go to Toronto for training on hold, and we don’t know how this will develop at the moment but yeah, we shall see.
Lae: I’m a little bit sad but yeah, that is the thing that’s happening and how the early-season rumours or off-season rumors were panning out, so this is the outcome. But if you want any more news, the In The Loop team are going to be starting a Weekly News Round-up series on our Facebook and our Tumblr, so please keep an eye out for that. We will be posting links on our Twitter account when that happens.
Tilda: So… exciting bonus episode topic! When I suggested this, I thought this would be a really fun thing to do together as research. Turns out that watching half a dozen tween movies in a row is not -
Lae: It was very amazing as an experience, we were all slightly drunk for it I think, but -
Kat: We bonded, it was a serious bonding -
Yogeeta: It was a great bonding experience. I never want to watch these movies again. (Laughs).
Tilda: Mandatory spoiler alert: we will be talking also about the endings of some of these movies, so you can find the full list of it on our Twitter. So if you don’t want to be spoiled for a movie released in 2005, you can go and see that.
Kat: Although I feel like the threshold for spoilers has been long past for a lot of these movies, so sorry if we’re about to spoil Blades of Glory for you, but it’s been 16 years.
Yogeeta: And also, like, all of these are pretty similar for the most part, so if you spoil one, you spoil them all.
Tilda: The plot is not revolutionary in any of them.
Lae: But we’ll have summaries of all the movies in the lovely graphic that Gabb, our graphic designer’s put together, so please go check that on Twitter first. If you have to pause this, then that’s fine, go check that out, watch the movies you want to watch and then come back to us.
Kat: I feel like we should also say that this is not really a recommendations list, this is just the movies that we watched and discussed.
Tilda: Definitely not. Some of these I would not recommend.
Kat: We also weren’t able to find some of the movies that we wanted to see, just because of, like, accessibility issues, in addition they have to be subtitled in English for most of us to watch, so -
Lae: It’s not a very big genre of movie and it’s not - they’re not Oscar winning - apart from I, Tonya perhaps, they’re not Oscar winning productions by any means, but as figure skating fans we take what we can get and this is just a fun discussion revolving around the things that we do have. So slim pickings, but it’s fine.
Kat: Beggars can’t be choosers.
Lae: Yeah. With that, let’s move onto figure skating being portrayed as a sport. I think the whole point of this entire episode was to kind of identify the common issues and themes that we see in fictional skating media and so, when we’re talking about how realistic the skating is - which is obviously a concern for us as figure skating fans - I think that the skating actually looks generally fine, just extremely weak in terms of the difficulty of elements and the sort of moves that the skaters are doing compared to the circumstances in which they’re supposedly skating. For example, in the movie Go Figure, Caitlin was supposedly skating at Nationals with only doubles and no combos, so as a skating fan, it does sort of look like you’re shoving non-pro or non-elite skills into a very very elite and prestigious setting.
Kat: There are obviously logistical reasons as to why the figure skating might look a little bit more amateurish, I mean, obviously there are only a slim handful of elite national or international level figure skaters that currently exist period, let alone in the US or another movie making market, and also all of these figure skaters tend to be well-known, so there’s only so much that body doubles could get you to realistically portray for, say, a low-budget Disney movie.
Tilda: But it does definitely impact the suspension of disbelief. You know, when you mention - in Go Figure, they mention that the girl can do a triple axel, but then they only showed her doing doubles. It’s the same for a lot of these movies and it is very obvious to us that
we can tell a double from a triple.
Yogeeta: Yeah, and sometimes the skating isn’t realistic at all, to any degree, like in Blades of Glory, but in that case it’s not really meant to be taken seriously, so it doesn’t matter that much. If they aim for realism and fail, then for us as figure skating fans it’s a little more annoying than if they just completely ignore the rules of figure skating and go and do whatever they want.
Lae: Yeah, and you’ll see this theme quite throughout the podcast, but there is a huge shout out of appreciation for the realism in Yuri!!! on Ice. I think no other movie or show has come even close to that level of realism and accuracy, and so it really is a huge difference if you compare it with the other figure skating reviews in fictional depictions that you see.
Yogeeta: Yeah, and I think many of the movies and TV shows don’t actually focus on the figure skating. Like, in Kiss and Cry, they kind of only had around 10 to 15 minutes of figure skating and the rest was about the story of the main character, which is fine, of course, but it’s not what we are ideally looking for in a figure skating movie.
Tilda: And then The Cutting Edge, they really only showed us the two people skating in any detail. It wasn’t really cringingly bad and the Pairs element looked fairly accurate, but then they put in the secret weapon, ultra move that was literally impossible to do.
Kat: I lost my mind.
Tilda: And the fact that he’s a hockey player and manages to become an Olympic level figure skater in, like, a year. In the beginning he literally didn’t know what a toe-pick was, he called it “claws”.
Kat: Yeah and in addition, a lot of these movies tend to not show complete programs, for obvious reasons. They usually just show jumps or spins, the elements that a layman viewer would probably be most familiar with and would probably associate with figure skating. And probably some of the most realistic skating that I’ve seen in a film, in real life - sorry, a live action movie, is probably I, Tonya. They made sure that the skating in the movie was pretty close as possible to Tonya’s actual skating, but that’s probably because there are literally videos of the programs that she performed in real life, like her Nationals figure skate. So it probably helped that they had these programs to model them off of.
Lae: Yeah and it probably also helped that their budget was, you know, several times that of your average direct-to-video Disney movie. I think the need to make it realistic was also more important because it was like a biographical - or presented as a semi-biographical movie and so there are people who can compare it to the real deal. There are some exceptions where the editing was off, for example when a skater was entering a lutz but then they showed an axel entry, that’s sort of - there are little details that are probably the fault of the editor, but it’s something we’re going to discuss a little bit later on.
Tilda: And I was pleasantly happy with Coach, the Japanese movie where the main character was a pro skater. They actually showed parts of her ice show based on Prince Ice World and if you’ve ever seen the show, you’ll know that the movie really nailed the feeling of the show, you know, with the costumes, choreography and rink. And actually the main actress worked as a pro skater for Prince Ice World, so that really explains why it was so realistic. And it actually even featured guest skating by Shizuka Arakawa and Miki Ando, so the mood of the rink and the skaters were very realistic, regrettably the plot wasn’t really.
Lae: The skating was fine, but no, not the plot. (Laughs).
Tilda: It became clear when they tried to portray the Olympic level skaters later on, that they were still at pro skater level, but still it was a nice touch.
Lae: Ice Castle had really nice ice skating and they showed an actual choreographed program, which is really wonderful, but then the effect was slightly ruined by having three double axels in a program and have the main character get 81 PCS for a program and not having a short program at all. They get to the point of, like, you were almost there but just not quite.
Tilda: And also, if we look at off-ice conditioning, there’s very very little attention paid to this. Yuri!!! on Ice does a little, but more as a means to an end, which is weight loss, and some dancing as well.
Yogeeta: Love on Ice and Coach also show it. They show them working out in the gym, but it’s not really a focus and nobody really talks about it as actual, like, conditioning for figure skating.
Kat: Yeah, but again, this is going to be a common theme throughout the episode, you’ll see. But, like, Yuri!!! on Ice - the fact that Yuri!!! on Ice even mentions it is impressive, but they did have a 12-episode anime versus the time constraints that you would have had with a feature-length film. They’re not quite the same and you obviously get a lot more creative freedom to accurately portray some of these.
Lae: Absolutely. And then the other issue that we saw in terms of off-ice conditioning was that stories kind of have a pattern of featuring sort of restrictive eating and food issues, which obviously is not ideal in a sport where eating disorders are rife and it is important to kind of have a think critically about how these are portrayed. So, for example, in Ice Princess, the two figure skaters are not allowed to eat sort of normal food, and there are recurring jokes about salad containing chickpeas, and then a character criticizes eating cheese as the worst possible thing and she says “I can pig out, it’s the weekend”. That’s the attitude that’s normalized through how food is portrayed in these movies, which is pretty - it is something to be critically aware of.
Tilda: A lot of viewers felt uncomfortable with the mocking of Yuuri’s weight gain in the early episodes of Yuri!!! on Ice. In a sport where these eating disorders are extremely prevalent, that storyline hit very close to home and there was such a focus on it in the early episodes. You know, referring to them as “pigs” when they gain weight -
Lae: I think it was, you know, a comedy point, but it’s kind of like ehhh we passed the era where that’s something to be joked about, like, is that really gag humor?
Tilda: I mean it’s perpetuating extremely harmful stereotypes, in my opinion.
Kat: Especially if you consider Yuuri suffers from anxiety and he kind of has a really negative image of himself early on, so that does feel a little bit insensitive.
Tilda: So, the next question is who are the skaters in the movies? What is a figure skater portrayed to be in these movies?
Yogeeta: It’s very telling that we really haven’t seen any English language movie that actually depicts Men’s figure skating. Like, Blades of Glory doesn’t really count. (Laughs). So we’ve seen men be coaches and maybe Pairs skaters who used to be hockey players and somehow became Pairs skaters, but there’s no real focus in Men’s Singles, it’s very much a focus on Ladies’ Singles. You see all of these ladies who want to make the next stage, take on Nationals or the Olympics, etc. And that’s an extreme gender divide in popular culture. To me it’s really shocking that such an extreme dichotomy still exists in the media in this day and age, but also, all of these movies are still pretty old, we haven’t really had more modern day figure skating movies in the US other than I, Tonya, because figure skating has kind of lost its touch with the media today. I can’t really come up with any other sport or activity that’s this gendered in movies, except gymnastics and ballet, so does it detract from the ‘I can do this too’ feeling that’s required to keep this sport alive? Especially here in the US where the media is constantly going ‘figure skating is dying, figure skating is dying’.
Lae: But if only one type of skater is being shown and she’s a pretty young girl, like, does that help the people who don’t conform to that type to feel like this is a sport that they can understand and they can do themselves? I think it is worth noting how these stereotypes have been reinforced again and again through a lot of these movies.
Tilda: And I mean, Blades of Glory focuses more on male skaters and it portrays them only two ways: stereotypically outlandishly flamboyant, though definitely not gay (Chorus of laughter and ‘no homo’), or extremely hyper masculine and it’s, you know, really archaic stereotypes of what a Men’s skater can be like.
Lae: Yeah, and if you listen to our episode on gender, which Tilda and I were on, we talked about how these stereotypical expressions of Men’s skating is kind of still perpetuated in the media and this is kind of a perfect example, because, you know, when they announced in Blades of Glory that they were a pair, there was this montage of people who were disapproving and it was even said as a specific line, “as if figure skating wasn’t gay enough already”. It’s all presented as comedic laughing points and it is sort of perpetuating the stereotype and even though the plot is about Pairs skaters, they also don’t heavily feature any other Pairs skaters besides the villainous sibling duo. And Ice Dance doesn’t exist at all either, so it all becomes this whirlwind of stereotypical gender perceptions about Men’s figure skating.
Tilda: Yeah, and Ice Dance doesn’t exist in any of these movies, like, the discipline literally does not exist in movies.
Kat: I mean, to be fair though, Ice Dance wasn’t - I feel like it’s because Ice Dance wasn’t as popular in the US. The rise of US Ice Dance is actually fairly recent and at least with American figure skating history, because it always was focused on Ladies’ and Men’s Singles and now it’s almost like the tides have turned, so to us it seems like obviously you should be promoting Ice Dance, because it’s way more popular - or at least ice dancers are a lot more in focus now, but I feel like there is a historical aspect as to why Ice Dance wasn’t as featured in some of these older films.
Tilda: But then we have Yuri!!! on Ice where we finally see the men be actual athletes and we see a wide range of different skaters, a couple of ladies as well, and we get to explore different skating styles and different strengths, which I think is really exciting, like, you know Yuuri is known for his step sequences and I’m just wondering how many movies even acknowledged the existence of step sequences?
Yogeeta: I do want to also shout out, because Yuri!!! on Ice did mention Ice Dance and I was very happy, the fact that there was even a slight mention of Ice Dance, because none of these other movies talk about it.
Kat: Justice for Ice Dance. (Laughs). We’ll take the tiny sliver.
Lae: So moving on, we get to the topic of the portrayal of lady skaters, which is obviously the very very niche-y topic when it comes to media representation of figure skating in general. So firstly, there’s this Ice Princess, Love on Ice, tween movie stereotyping representation, where basically Ladies’ Singles is the only thing that ever exists in figure skating. They’re always teenagers competing on a regional level, with subtle hints at Olympic potential, but Regionals is a thing, they all want to go to Regionals. (Laughs). So in this genre, the sport is portrayed as something that’s possible to pick up after only a few months of hard work and ladies in particular are sort of portrayed as openly catty and mean to each other, you can sort of see that in Go Figure where the girls are actively rooting for the main character to fall as she’s competing, and so I think it’s - we’re going to sort of deconstruct a little bit of this representation and I guess how it affects the way that the sport is viewed by especially casual audiences.
Yogeeta: Oftentimes they’re not really portrayed as hard working athletes, which really works against the sport for a casual viewer. I remember during the Olympics there were so many arguments about whether or not figure skating is a sport and of course it’s a sport, they’re athletes, they work hard. But these movies don’t focus on them actually being athletes, it focuses on the grace that they have on ice and the ease that they go through practice with. They’re always pretty, regardless of how hard they’re training, or they still have perfect hair and they still look great and they have their makeup perfectly done and they are always practicing in costume, because apparently that’s what figure skaters do in real life. So the failure of these movies in depicting women without makeup and in their more natural state of being an athlete is definitely a relevant issue for women in all of these films, it’s an insult for when you’re trying to depict an athlete on screen in any way.
Tilda: In Ice Castles, the main character who was a perfectly normal girl needed a full makeover, with manicure and haircuts and everything, to become a contender. That was what they focused on before the competition. Photoshoots and glam. They even showed her getting foot treatments and her feet looked pristine. She’s a figure skater, her feet aren’t going to look like that. (Laughs).
Kat: In Go Figure, the main character says that the reason that she skates is the glitter, and, like, contrast that with Ice Princess, where the main character says “You think it’s about glamour? It’s a sport” (Lae: props to Ice Princess), so I appreciated that.
Tilda: And then in Ginban Kaleidoscope, the girl’s biggest weakness was that she didn’t smile while performing, but then the girl actually went off about being disliked because she didn’t fit this traditional image of femininity and said that she had no intention of changing herself, because, you know, she’s outspoken and she’s prone to anger, she doesn’t smile and she is risk-taking and an athlete, so that scene was really good.
Lae: Yeah, you can contrast that with Coach, which was pretty brutal in the opposite direction. So the main character says that none of these skaters, the ones who train so hard, are probably going to make it, and it kind of takes the opposite direction of portraying skating at this really harsh and ruthless sport and it’s just very cynical. And I kind of wonder whether or not it’s because the target audience for Coach seems to be more adults, so a cynical view was probably more appropriate than the Disney sparkles and ‘anyone can make their dreams come true’, but again it feels like it’s one extreme or the other, and if you do watch competitive figure skating it’s nothing like either of the two, it’s somewhere in between. So it is kind of - the exaggeration is a little bit… it makes you pause.
Yogeeta: There’s also this huge gender divide where women are figure skaters and men are hockey players and they can’t overlap. I would have really appreciated Go Figure if it had actually done something about this. There’s a part when the hockey girl said “We hate figure skating, because people think that figure skating is for girls and hockey is for boys, so no one takes us seriously, because they expect girls to skate around in circles in frilly dresses”. And honestly this was a great setup to actually challenge the dichotomy between masculine and feminine sports and show that they were both valid and they’re both great. But then they just kept saying that figure skating is lame and only about the glitter and the twirling, and that figure skating is silly and it’s something to look down on and it’s really rubbing in that figure skating is not a masculine sport. It’s meant - it’s very much for the feminine ‘ice princess’ type characters and that’s really important - is this what you want young girls and boys to be believing when they’re watching these movies? That you can’t take figure skating seriously because it’s a girly sport and if you’re a guy, if you’re a young boy, who is interested in skating, and they watch these movies, they’re like ‘oh, I guess I shouldn’t be a figure skater’.
Lae: Yeah like, off to the hockey fields for you!
Tilda: Yeah, but even for the girls, this was girls saying this, sort of like that the girls were hating figure skating because they felt like it was… it was too silly and they were above that, so it’s really internalized misogyny basically.
Yogeeta: Yeah, it’s not ideal at all…
Kat: It’s definitely one of the worst offenders, it’s a pretty low bar but… Go Figure, it was not a good portrayal at all, I think. Especially because they kept beating down, they kept doubling down on how figure skating was only for girls and it wasn’t until the very end that the girls from her hockey team started supporting her and I was like ‘where were you this entire time, are you kidding me?’.
Tilda: But it was kind of half-hearted. Because the entire time they said that Kristi Yamaguchi made them want to vomit, stuff like that. It was terrible.
Kat: What did Kristi Yamaguchi do to you?
Tilda: Yeah, exactly! No, but she’s girly!
Kat: Yeah, and I think that Cutting Edge also seriously reinforced the gendered sports narrative. Again, this movie is from 1992 so it’s super dated. But there’s a scene where the hockey player, the main character, has to tell his friends and his family that he started figure skating, which is interesting because you can tell that he’s shameful - or it’s shameful and emasculating from their view and from his as well. But then he admits he likes it and that it’s a real and difficult sport, but he still didn’t want his friends to know, and he wasn’t proud of it in any way. And they literally say “What’s the difference between figure skating and hockey? Women”. That’s such an archaic view, oh my goodness!
Lae: There’s a fine line, I think, between having this be generating conflict, because obviously you need conflict in a narrative and in a movie. But it’s very telling, it’s kind of like in films portraying LGBT people, the problems are always about them coming out, it’s never about any other dimension. So this gender barrier, trying to overcome the gay stereotype for male skaters or this ‘figure skating is for women and hockey is for men’, that seems to be a recurring plot point and it’s just very one-dimensional.
Kat: It’s also that they don’t even really resolve that conflict, if it is a conflict.
Kat: Because The Cutting Edge is literally just a romance story. If you just strip everything else away from it, it’s just about the romance between the two main characters. So, yeah, they have the stuff where he’s ashamed about being a figure skater, but then the literal end of the movie is them at the Olympics and skating their program and they kiss and the credits roll. So they don’t even really tackle that as an issue. That’s a huge problem.
Yogeeta: So we also tried playing phone games about figure skating, which was a disaster. (Laughs). So the game that we tried is called Ice Skating Ballerina, you can download it for your phone, it’s free. And it’s completely aimed at young girls and it’s a dress up game, you don’t actually learn anything about figure skating. You don’t know how jumping works, you don’t learn how scoring works. I played this game for two hours and I still don’t understand how this game works. (Laughs). You basically spend all your time finding clothes, putting on make-up, getting your hair done, going to the spa. And after you do that, then you go to Singles or Pairs because you can randomly just team up with someone right before a competition and do Pairs.
Tilda: It’s hilarious.
Lae: A wild Pairs partner appears.
Yogeeta: It reinforces that…
Tilda: Yeah, she jumped from Singles to Pairs in 5 minutes and then back again. Just for fun, just for a laugh.
Yogeeta: It reinforces that figure skating is for pretty young girls and all that really matters is that you look pretty while doing it, and it doesn’t really show that there’s actual training involved here.
Tilda: Of course, what makes you think that there’s actual training involved in sports? I don’t know!
Lae: No, not at all. We’re gonna move on a little bit to discussing tropes. So these are recurring themes or issues that appeared in a lot of the movies that we watched. Tropes by nature reinforce certain stereotypes, so we want to firstly identify some of these recurring tropes and then also question how well they actually fit with reality. So what we’ve been already doing, but organize it a little bit more by these recurring themes.
Tilda: So the first one is the cattiness stereotype. The unfriendly rivals, catty mean girl culture is a theme in a lot of these movies. You know, Cutting Edge, Ice Princess, Go Figure. Go Figure doesn’t have a single nice figure skater. They’re all Regina George taken to a hundred, basically.
Kat: There are just a few nice characters in that movie in general, even the hockey players.
Tilda: That’s true. But yeah, this is a general teen movie trope, so it doesn’t just apply to figure skaters. But it is an issue when that’s the only skaters that we get to see.
Kat: Right. And the main figure skater in The Cutting Edge is also a really obnoxious control freak kind of tendency and verbal abuse tendencies kind of person. She yells a lot, she is kind of spoiled and has a serious attitude when she doesn’t get her way. And we aren’t really exposed to any other figure skaters in the movie, which is completely wild, it’s literally just these two characters and they have all this free ice.
Lae: Their exclusive ice rink.
Kat: Exactly, all this free ice. But besides the hockey player/figure skater that eventually becomes her partner, there’s really no other figure skaters that we get introduced to. But he’s kind of portrayed as vulgar and crass and all of those hyper masculine stereotypes that we previously mentioned. So they’re both portrayed kind of poorly and they’re the only ones we’re introduced to, so, you know, I hope that people aren’t making general assumptions on figure skaters as a whole just based on this movie.
Yogeeta: I do appreciate that in Ice Princess they showed some friendship development between actual training mates, but there’s this overarching theme of you have to do anything it takes to win. While that does get called out on, it shows that this is what people think skating culture is like, that you have to do anything it takes to win, when it’s not anything like that at all.
Lae: I mean, to be fair I give credit to Ice Princess for also tackling skating parent culture, because I do think that is a thing that exists in a lot of competitive sports and performance. And more particularly they tackle skating mom culture. So one of Ice Princess’s main conflicts is between a skating mom and her daughter, who she constantly projects her own dreams and desires onto. So I think the one thing that movie really did do decently is show that mean rivalries between skaters isn’t necessarily due to their own personalities, but could be because of their environments or their parents’ attitudes that they’re projecting onto them, or feeling the need to be a certain way because they think that’s how they should act. So I really like that Ice Princess explores that quite a bit.
Tilda: Yeah, and Ice Girls is also a good example of this, because there’s a rivalry between the two girls, but it’s mostly created by the obsessed skating mom and once that drama gets resolved the girls end up as friends, so it’s kind of similar.
Kat: In Go Figure unfortunately all of the figure skaters are portrayed as - spoiler alert, we’re not a huge fan of this movie -
Lae: Tell us how you really feel, Kat! (Laughs).
Kat: But yeah, they’re all portrayed as spoiled brats and the hockey girls got to be the “real friends” with their team solidarity, but not really, it’s kind of fake but - the conclusion we’re supposed to draw from this I guess is that team sports are inherently better because they somehow promote friendship over rivalry… I don’t know, or maybe that girly girls like figure skaters are catty and the tomboy hockey players are friendly. It’s just a mess all around.
Yogeeta: So we also want to talk about the difficulty level of this sport. Because a lot of the time the way it’s portrayed in these movies leads to an underestimation of how difficult the sport actually is, and an unrealistic expectation of what’s possible, and how long it takes to reach a certain level to go to Nationals, to go to Regionals or even the Olympics. A common narrative that you see is that you can one day decide that “I want to be a top skater!” and in like, three days - well, not really, but in a month you can land all of your triples and then go on and win Sectionals or Regionals or Nationals. And they rarely even show them landing triples on the screen, and even when they do you can tell that it’s very forced and it’s not actually a good, strong jump.
Lae: Yeah, I love this music cut to the teen pop music bop of the decade or something and then it’s a montage of training!
Yogeeta: I do love a good training montage.
Tilda: My favorite trope is the extreme underdog or secret weapon trope. Because to build drama the skaters have to be at such a disadvantage that they have to do something that’s never been done before. And there’s hardly a realistic way of creating that zero to hero narrative in a sport where you build up year after year from a very young age. So I guess that’s why the trope exists and it’s really annoying. But sometimes the extreme feat is just landing the jumps without hardly any practice and sometimes it’s inventing an extreme new element, like in Coach, Blades of Glory or Cutting Edge, that is realistically impossible which is why it’s “Woah!”.
Lae: I like how YOLO triple lutz because physics in Ice Princess. Physics definitely helped her do that.
Kat: Ice Castle takes this to a ridiculous degree. Not only is she completely new to competing and she manages to place at Regionals, Sectionals and Nationals even - they turn her blind before Nationals. (Laughs). So skating a full clean program while completely blind - like how?
Yogeeta: Who even thought that was even a good plot point, I’m so confused. But Yuri!!! on Ice is a less extreme example of this, where Yuuri is supposed to be the best skater in Japan, but not quite breaking into the absolute top overall, hence his 6th place finish at the Grand Prix Final in the first episode. Which still makes him one of the top skaters in the world ,but you can see when you’re introduced to him at the very first episode, if you knew nothing about figure skating, you would think that he was the absolute worst at figure skating.
Lae: He didn’t even get a bye for Nationals.
Yogeeta: He didn’t even get a bye for Nationals, he had to go and compete at Sectionals or Regionals. It’s really interesting how this underdog narrative was framed, so people think that he’s a complete nobody before Victor showed up and made him this top skater. But he was a top skater.
Kat: I would even call that almost a subversion of the trope, because you’re framing him as the underdog, but he really is one of the top skaters in the world -
Lae: He’s on the JSF homepage as the banner image, come on Yuuri.
Kat: And Japan doesn’t seem to have any other male skaters, like, elite international male skaters.
Lae: You can sort of tie this - or you can argue that this ties into the show’s exploration of Yuuri’s anxiety and his low self-esteem, so he’s kind of prone to over-inflating his own uselessness basically, but I think it’s something that may be likely to be lost on a casual viewer who doesn’t know how the Grand Prix Final works, and they kind of - they never really address the fact that hey, Yuuri, you’re the number one ace of Japan, maybe acknowledge that.
Tilda: Chill a bit.
Yogeeta: It did amuse me that he still had to go to Regionals so he could compete, but he got his two assignments for the Grand Prix.
Kat: Nice Daisuke Takahashi reference.
Lae: Predicted the future.
Tilda: And also we have the mid-season program shift trope. This existed in Ice Castle, Blades of Glory, Ginban Kaleidoscope, Ice Princess, in a lot of movies where we see skaters compete with one program but then suddenly at the climax of the movie, which is Nationals, or Sectionals, or whatever, they suddenly have a brand new program that we’ve never seen before, we’ve never even seen them train it. I mean understandably, the filmmakers think that this makes it more interesting, I suppose, for the audience, and creates more of a magical moment and avoids us seeing too many scenes of the same program.
Lae: Yeah, but I think part of the magic of figure skating, at least for actual fans, is in seeing the same program developed and sort of become attached to how it improves
over the course of the season. So I think, once again, Yuri!!! on Ice did this really well, they showed Yuuri’s programs at multiple competitions, but he was sort of struggling to nail certain elements until his magical record-breaking free skate at the Grand Prix Final. It was funny because it felt very unrealistic at the time and then Yuzuru [Hanyu] did the same thing basically at Worlds. I think that was satisfying because we got to see him finally perfect the skate that he’d been fighting for all season, and I think that’s kind of an overlooked aspect of the appeal of the sport. It doesn’t have to be this absolutely new program, it could be someone just chipping away at something they’re struggling with and that is very much what actual figure skaters do and for me it’s a lot more satisfying than a last-minute new program that’s magically perfect.
Tilda: As an audience, we want to see the skater struggle and then finally triumph, but in many of these movies we don’t really get to see the skater struggle to put out performances, like in Ice Castle, she put out flawless performances just like that at her previous competitions and then they needed to make her blind and switch the program to show her have a truly magical skate. (Laughs). You could have just showed her struggling with the triple lutz over and over only to finally get it in the last competition, you’d get the same triumphant effect.
Kat: Yeah, and I think obviously what this shows is that most of these films they’re not really trying to make us invested in the skating itself, they’re generally not really figure skating focused. Either they just don’t know enough or they don’t care enough, they clearly did not put the research into it or they just think that the audience isn’t going to know enough to be distracted by the nuances, so it’s better to just create drama instead of caring about the accuracy.
Yogeeta: Something that was really annoying for me whenever I watch these movies is that oh my God, there is nobody else at these rinks. This is completely untrue, in Cutting Edge apparently there doesn’t exist any other figure skaters, so of course they get the rink. And in Love on Ice you see them actually training, though apparently the ice is empty at all times and then they ask to be able to use the rink late and they’re like “Sure, you’re fine, you don’t have to pay anything for extra ice time”.
Kat: Yeah Kiss and Cry, which I just kind of skim watched yesterday, this was literally filmed at the Toronto Cricket Skating Club where Yuzuru Hanyu and Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson train, but there’s no one in the rink, when are they going to have free ice at TCC like that.
Tilda: In Coach for example, they do actually show the rink completely full a lot of the times, it’s a really fun contrast when you watch them back-to-back.
Lae: Yeah, understandably I think it’s easier to film in an empty ice rink, but it’s just these little nitpicky things that you’re just like ‘of course, this makes it a movie’.
Kat: Yeah, we get it from a logistical standpoint.
Tilda: Another trope is there are no international competitions, so I wonder if this is American movies being especially America-centric, because none of these movies show the skaters doing any international competitions except the Olympics. We’re supposed to believe that the skater is good enough to be picked for the Olympic team, but then she’s never competed internationally before, so there’s not even a mention of it and it’s almost baffling how the season is Regionals, Sectionals, Nationals, and then maybe the Olympics.
Lae: And I think it does make it difficult - I suppose then it makes it difficult for people to realize that there’s actually international competitions like Worlds and Four Continents and all of those other international competitions that they can watch in actual figure skating as well. It just sort of sets it up as it’s a national sport and then the Olympics.
Kat: I think to be fair though, because a lot of the movies that we’re watching are American, historically US Nationals has always gotten higher ratings than any of the other international competitions within the US, so I think there’s just this assumption that no one is really going to care about if they’re international competitions anyway, because most Americans viewers just tune in for Nationals anyway.
Lae: Oh, America.
Kat: What can you do.
Yogeeta: So another trope that absolutely drives me crazy is at competitions they just put out exhibition lighting, because why not? This is something Adam Rippon a week ago released a video of him reviewing figure skating in fiction movies and he said he absolutely hates this, because he said that jumping under a spotlight felt like jumping from a building, so to compete this way seems absolutely insane. But we see these in a ton of movies, in Ice Princess, in Coach, in Go Figure, in Cutting Edge, and this reinforces this idea that figure skating is more of a performance and less of an actual sport. And I think it really does contribute to the “figure skating is not a real sport” narrative that we see so often, especially here in the US.
Tilda: Yeah and also one trope we see for example in Ice Castle, Ice Princess, and Go Figure is the big audiences for Regionals and other minor competitions. People are cheering and screaming and throwing stuff onto the ice and from a movie making perspective, I think it’s natural that you’d want a proper audience for competition scenes, but I mean - it’s quite sad but I’m scoffing at the idea of a full arena for figure skating Sectionals.
Yogeeta: Also I was watching Canadian sectionals and their arenas aren’t even that large to handle that many people.
Lae: Snd not to mention the extreme media frenzy that you see in a lot of these movies around, the main character in Ice Castle for instance, she gets second place at Regionals and it’s her first proper competition ever and then suddenly she’s got all these reporters swarming her and her face on magazines. It’s really sad because if only real figure skaters got that much praise.
Kat: Well, figure skaters outside of Japan. But also in Yuri!!! on Ice, I’m laughing at the idea that Victor sets up this competition between Yuuri and Yurio and they just compete two short programs and the rink is completely full.
Yogeeta: But I feel like that fills more into Japan’s mentality of figure skating.
Kat: Oh, it totally does, it’s just so funny to think about.
Lae: So another question I suppose - or what it comes down to is the question of who is the target audience, right? If we’re talking about all these tropes, who are these movies aimed for? And honestly, I think it’s clear that the target audience is not for people who are particularly well versed in skating themselves, which is interesting because I think, you know, the types of teenage girls who would watch these sort of movies would be probably girls who do skate themselves or who make up a huge part of the skating audience or actual skating demographic. And so I think with that in mind a lot of the plot twists, such as the Ice Princess sabotage with new boots, become sort of holes in writing and it would be spotted immediately by skaters and skating fans, so it kind of does lessen the impact a little.
Tilda: Yeah, but to a major degree these movies aren’t sport genre movies, but more drama, teen, or comedy movies, so the figure skating is a backdrop for character drama and thus a lot of problems stem from the teen genre in general. And to be honest, I think Ice Princess actually does the best job of balancing the sports movie aspect while also still appealing to the teen girls, even if they’re not well-versed in skating.
Kat: Although I do think it’s kind of - it’s kind of cute and funny that a lot of these figure skating shows and movies will bring real life skater cameos as kind of Easter egg references for the figure skating fans that have decided to watch the movie. Blades of Glory had a whole host of figure skaters, they even had Scott Hamilton as a commentator, which was almost this uncanny valley-like experience, because you probably heard Scott commentate some programs and some older competitions, but then he’s also in the film narrating or commentating this insane routine. And then Ice Princess had Michelle Kwan and Brian Boitano as commentators and Yuri!!! on Ice even managed to snag Nobunari Oda and Stéphane Lambiel, which is pretty cool.
Tilda: Yeah, and a lot of others as well, like Go Figure, our least favorite movie, had Kristi Yamaguchi.
Yogeeta: So figure skating’s depiction is very much affected by the culture in which it’s directed to. In the US there’s really only one story that’s being told over and over and over again, whereas in other countries it seems like they want to try new things and tell new stories. The new German movie The Beginner is about adult skating and features a wide range of different skaters or so I’ve heard, I haven’t actually seen it yet, and of course Japan has Yuri!!! on Ice.
Tilda: When I was watching Ice Castle the other day, I literally exclaimed “They really only know how to make one movie about figure skating!”, that’s the frustration.
Lae: It’s a good question of whether it’s indicative of the culture of the sport’s popularity in each country, something that you can kind of see - we mentioned it before - is that the type of plot lines and depictions reflect what’s going on in that country itself. So if you compare for example two Japanese figure skating animes, Ginban was made in 2005 when Ladies’ skating was popular and it focused exclusively on traditional Ladies’ skating, whereas Yuri!!! on Ice was made in 2016 when Men’s skating had become very popular, thanks to all of the Japanese men who had really paved and pioneered the way for figure skating in Japan. And so Yuri!!! on Ice focused primarily on Men’s Singles, so it sort of shows a shift in the way that fiction reflects reality, right, and it goes from being mostly focused on the girl’s sport into a serious sport for men. And so it’s sort of like - could a show like Yuri!!! on Ice be made in countries where the traditional image of figure skating as an exclusive female sport still prevails?
Tilda: Yeah, I mean, I can’t really imagine an American version of Yuri!!! on Ice, I honestly can’t, due to the American disinterest in Men’s skating. And Yuri!!! on Ice didn’t only just show Men’s Singles, but they showed a wide range of men from different countries and cultures whose skating was affected by those backgrounds. And, you know, Ginban Kaleidoscope also sort of did this, showing skaters from different countries. It wasn’t very culturally sensitive, they had the whole rude American and cold Russian stereotypes, but at least they showed different nationalities competing at the Grand Prix event, the H&K Trophy, not NHK Trophy, it’s a completely different competition called H&K Trophy. But since the American movies we’ve discussed here only have American skaters in them, they don’t seem to be interested or capable of expressing a range in cultural experiences.
Kat: We already said before, but US Nationals tends to have higher viewings anyway or high ratings within the US, so that’s probably a symptom of that - that American audiences don’t really care about international skaters anyway.
Lae: It’s like a chicken and the egg, you know, if you portrayed it more maybe people would be more interested, but if casual viewers are under the impression that the only things that exist are US Nationals and the Olympics, then of course they won’t - I don’t think most of them would go and research further.
Kat: So we wanted to talk about what is the function of fictional skating media in relation to real life figure skating and it’s particularly important, just because figure skating as a sport has a pretty high barrier-to-entry, there are less casual people who really practice the sport and can refute the inaccuracies or even watch the sport. For example, in the US a lot of people play football and they would understand more when a football movie is unrealistic just because it’s shown everywhere, and even as someone that doesn’t watch or actively follow the sport, I still know the basic rules and I could probably tell when there are inaccuracies or when they’re not getting away with certain things, but because the common knowledge for a layman viewer of figure skating is - there’s not that much - it means that most of these movies can get away with a lot more and less people are prone to criticize it.
Yogeeta: It’s also about what’s important to the filmmakers - how much they actually prioritize getting details right, getting figure skating advisors, actual figure skaters to make realistic skaters, building actual programs that make sense competition-wise. It’s a lot of effort and it’s very expensive, especially when you compare it to the budgets that all these movies have, these are all small Disney-esque movies that don’t really get that big of a budget, except for I, Tonya, and you definitely see the disparity in the level of skating portrayed in I, Tonya versus everything else.
Tilda: Let’s face it, we’re only a small part of the audience who will understand it. I mean we’re a very niche group compared to the group of people who follow football, for example.
Kat: That’s true.
Lae: None of these movies I think would actually make anyone interested in starting to follow skating, because of the fact that they don’t do anything to kind of reduce that barrier-to-entry, right, they never show part of the appeal that comes to following a competition, and since they don’t really invite the audience to experience a realistic figure skating world, it doesn’t make anyone want to open up a stream and actually learn the rules or learn the IJS and learn how competitions work.
Yogeeta: The clear exception to this is Yuri!!! on Ice, which brought a lot of general viewers in anime into becoming actual figure skating fans, I am one of them, which has a lot to do with how they showed the competitions in an easy to understand format, and actually went about explaining IJS in a way that was easy to understand, and actually invested the time in making the audience invested in the different athletes and the competition itself. This also plays to the fact that it was a 12-episode series versus a movie, which a majority of these other formats are, but the person could actually go and watch a Yuri!!! on Ice episode on the Grand Prix series and then stream the real Grand Prix competition right after, which was very amazing and people have a real understanding of how scoring works, how jumps work, and what are required elements, that there’s actually a short program and a free skate and those are separate.
Kat: I think that it was such a smart move and a really nice touch that they lined up the release of the series along with the actual GP series, because it really did make the barrier to start watching real figure skating so much lower, just because you could watch an episode of Yuri!!! on Ice and then you know maybe you’ll Google the Grand Prix series and you’re like ‘oh, there’s a Grand Prix event next week, maybe I’ll watch it’, and you can actually start learning and becoming familiar with the actual competitions themselves while watching Yuri!!! on Ice, because you can’t do that with someone that only watched Ice Princess, they’d be completely lost with all of the scoring and the IJS.
Lae: Though to be completely fair to the filmmakers, there are very significant problems of adaptation because figure skating is not necessarily a sport that lends itself well to traditional sporting genres in movie making. So first off, you would have the very difficult to understand rules, you know, it’s not like you’re a team scoring or putting a ball in a basket, it’s really hard to generate tension in competition settings, because you would really have to understand the scoring system and in older movies as well, the scoring system was the 6.0 system, so you’re not even watching the right one anymore if you look at these old movies. And so - because it’s so hard to understand, most movies and shows just gloss over the scoring and a lot of the time that contributes to this perception that it’s all at the mercy of the judges, that it’s just whatever the judge feels you deserve rather than ‘oh, it’s actually a system of calculation and objective criteria’.
Tilda: Right, again except for maybe Yuri!!! on Ice and this is most likely due to the fact that the creators are fans of the sport and they considered these things to be important for the enjoyment of the show. But a two hour movie marketed at a teenage girls? They’re not going to have either the time or the desire to explain the rules.
Kat: Yeah, a lot of the moves are pretty similar in a lot of these movies and it’s probably hard to make a lot of these skating programs look distinctive or it’s a lot of work or expensive to create distinct programs for skaters - apart from the axel, all of the jumps look pretty visually similar and again, a layman is not going to be able to tell a flip from a toe. You actually need to get choreography from experienced choreographers, but it’s not really exciting to show any of that and if you can only devote 30 seconds of screen time for a skater in a normal length movie, then that’s something that you can probably leave out and a layman viewer would just probably not really mind at all.
Yogeeta: As figure skating fans, we get invested into programs by watching them from competition to competition and seeing them evolve, but a movie doesn’t have time to actually do that and so we only really see 20 seconds of actual choreography and then we just see them jump.
Tilda: And I mean, it’s an individual sport, so it’s sort of like missing elements that you can build, for example team camaraderie and relationships, but then I think there’s so much that can be done if you just scrape the surface. You can follow the Olympic team or you could look at a skating club. There’s a German soap opera actually centering around a skating club and it’s like ‘wow, you know you can do a lot with that’. There’s no excuse for not having elements of this unless you’re not really interested in depicting the sport at all or going beyond the stereotypes.
Lae: Yeah, I think it ties into this idea that there’s a limited range of stories to tell about figure skating, it’s like ‘is that really true?’, and I think it’s what made, for example, Kiss and Cry different, because it tried to challenge this default plot of an up and coming skater miraculously making it to the Olympics. There is definitely other elements of the sport and stories to be told there, I just wonder if it’s because of the lack of interest and effort and all of that stuff on the part of filmmakers.
Tilda: Yeah, I mean, one thing that appeals to me so much about figure skating is the wide range of narratives, you know, the rich stories of all of the skaters. There are so many interesting personalities and backgrounds, being a skating fan is really rich. You could take any skater at the 2018 Olympics and couldn’t you imagine a unique thrilling movie about pretty much any of them?
Lae: All of their stories.
Tilda: Yeah, if more filmmakers understood skating I’m sure we could see a wide range of different stories, like, don’t tell me that are Aljona Savchenko and Yuzuru Hanyu don’t deserve their own movies.
Lae: Literally their entire lives.
Tilda: I mean, we’d prefer fictional stories, of course, but there’s so much to be inspired from in real life.
Kat: I would love, personally, a movie about the rise of Chinese pairs, just because I think that their history is just so amazing and inspirational so get on that, please.
Yogeeta: I think there’s something to be said about historically looking at what has happened in figure skating to tell stories. I, Tonya was the first attempt at fictionalizing/adapting a historical figure skating event and I would put it as one of my top movies that we’ve watched. It’s very well done and it’s very good, because it doesn’t have your standard Ice Princess-esque plot and I enjoyed that a lot.
Tilda: And then there’s that Torvill/Dean drama upcoming in the UK, you know, they were legends in British sport, despite the fall of figure skating in the UK. That’s going to be exciting to see.
Kat: Honestly, like where is Michelle Kwan’s movie though? Homegirl carried US Ladies’ for a solid decade and she does not have her own movie.
Tilda: I mean, a lot of these movies are riding on the success of her as well, like Ice Princess, so give her an actual movie, please.
Lae: Also just to go back to things that are a barrier for filmmakers, you know, all figure skating stunts/jumps are hard to perform in real life and that definitely adds to the production cost of making such a movie. So for I, Tonya, for example, they had to CGI the triple axel, because they originally wanted to bring in a stunt double that could land a triple axel and were told that the only women who could do it were currently training for the Olympics. So, sadly, we didn’t see Mirai be Tonya’s stunt body double, but it just goes to show that there are really significant costs involved in filming these movies and so it is somewhat understandable when, for example, they either have to go with easier technical content or in I, Tonya for example, they could afford CGI. It is a very big barrier-to-entry to try and make a realistic elite-level figure skating movie without actually having those elite skaters there.
Tilda: And another thing we just wanted to briefly touch on is how real world figure skaters view these interpretations. It’s impossible to truly know how they feel about it, but some skaters have talked about movies in interviews and such.
Kat: Yeah, like the Shibs [Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani], they were on a Ringer podcast and they kind of did a commentary version of Blades of Glory or just that final “iconic program” at the end of Blades of Glory, and they both said that it’s their generation’s figure skating movie and it’s kind of become like a cult favorite for our generation. It’s entertaining, but obviously in no way is realistic, but the kind of tone that he takes with that is kind of like “Yeah, we accept that it’s unrealistic, but we still love it anyway, because it doesn’t try to pretend that it’s real in any way”. And he even said that they watched it on the way to their first Olympics!
Tilda: I love that.
Kat: But they also did comment about how the incestuous Pairs skaters probably didn’t do great things for the image of Alex and his sister skating together, which is unfortunate.
Tilda: Kristi Yamaguchi called herself and her husband the “real life Cutting Edge couple” and I just have to say you’re too nice for that, Kristi.
Kat: To be fair to Kristi, this was kind of a superficial off hand comparison from a Buzzfeed video in which she teaches her hockey player husband how to figure skate or some basic figure skating moves, so that’s obviously not a serious opinion on the movie, but it’s still kind of funny and cute.
Yogeeta: And Adam Rippon, he recently gave some insight into his opinion on a few of these -
Kat: Stole our idea!
Lae: Literally stole our episode.
Yogeeta: Completely stole our episode idea. It’s on Youtube, on GQ’s channel, so definitely check that out. I think he reacted to I, Tonya, Blades of Glory, and The Cutting Edge, so he definitely has shared a lot of our opinions and he definitely can’t stop laughing at the skating in Blades of Glory.
Lae: And obviously, again with Yuri!!! on Ice, there was the depth of effort and care that went into constructing the anime, it can really be seen in the fact that they got real life choreographer Kenji Miyamoto involved. So he actually choreographed all of the programs shown in the anime and there’s a lot of accuracy and a lot of detail, because you saw behind the scenes they actually had him on the ice and they were videotaping all the angles of when he was moving and skating.
Tilda: Yeah, and Yuri!!! on Ice was really popular in the figure skating community as well. Like, Evgenia Medvedeva, Stéphane Lambiel, Deniss Vasiljevs, Johnny Weir were actively following the weekly releases, which is really fun. And [Miu] Suzaki and [Ryuichi] Kihara were actually skating to the soundtrack last season.
Kat: At the Olympics!
Tilda: At the Olympics, yeah!
Lae: Brought it to the Olympics. Even the photo of Team USA with the Yuri!!! on Ice display at World Team Trophy 2017 was a thing, so there really definitely seems like there was a real connection between the real life figure skating world and Yuri!!! on Ice and the creators. Obviously, that’s partly due to Japan, there being those connections more readily in Japan, but it’s really nice to see.
Tilda: And one of our final questions: How enjoyable are the movies? Is the lack of realism a deal-breaker? Discuss.
Kat: I mean, I think that this is a pretty subjective question. A lot of us had seen some of these movies before we became fully invested in the nuances of the sport, so we have a lot of like nostalgic memories towards them, despite some of the suspension of disbelief that you kind of need to fully enjoy them now. Like Blades of Glory came out when I was I think in middle school, but I saw it a while ago and so it doesn’t - obviously at the time when I wasn’t invested in figure skating, it was just like a really really hilarious movie, with really funny characters, but now watching it as a fan I’m like ‘uhh, well”. I can see why it’s still enjoyable, but there are some things that are just super cringe about it.
Yogeeta: Yeah, I agree.
Tilda: And, I mean, I enjoy Yuri!!! on Ice specifically because it feels realistic to figure skating - but then I get really annoyed at the aspects that they did get wrong, because realism is a key point of why I enjoy the series, then that way I hold it to a higher standard.
Yogeeta: I definitely spent a lot of time yelling about scoring in Yuri!!! on Ice during my rewatch of it.
Lae: I loved, um - I think there was someone who, when I was first watching it on Tumblr, was debunking the fact that Yurio would have had to get like 60 PCS [in the short program] to get the score he had near the end. It felt like they got to almost perfection and then they just kind of weirdly dropped the ball on the last few episodes.
Kat: Release the protocols!
Lae: Yeah, like literally.
Yogeeta: I really want these protocols.
Tilda: I want the protocols from all of the movies. I wanna see how the Ice Castle girl got 81 in PCS.
Lae: Listen, at least Yuri!!! on Ice, to its credit, gave us the expectation that there actually would be protocols. The other ones, I think they just drew a number out of thin air.
Tilda: I mean, definitely, when we were watching Ice Princess, many people got angry at how quickly she started landing jumps, but then some people seeing it for the first time also enjoyed it, because it has enough quirkiness to be enjoyable if you can laugh off the timeline. I made the comparison that it’s like in an opera, where they fall madly in love within 5 minutes and everyone just accepts it because we know it’s to speed up the plot.
Kat: I think that, as I’ve made my opinions about Go Figure pretty clear, not much of it makes sense really whatsoever. Like the plot doesn’t really make sense, the character development, even the skating, the characters aren’t even that likeable - but I honestly think the most annoying and irritating aspect of it was the fact that they didn’t seem to even want to portray figure skating in a positive way at all. Like it wasn’t portrayed as a “real sport”, it was the butt of every joke. People belittle it at basically every opportunity and they didn’t really do anything to disparage those notions at all, without any kind of rebuttal, like -
Tilda: The people who made this movie hate figure skating and that’s why it feels like a slap in the face to watch this as a skating fan!
Lae: Their ex was a figure skater and they were like ‘let me just make this movie out of spite’. And I think with The Cutting Edge it’s the same sort of lack of realism that plagues most feature films about figure skating, obviously due to time constraints, but I think because the romantic tension was the primary source of conflict, it was kind of like skating was a backdrop to that overall movie and so it didn’t really make or break the overall impression of the film.
Kat: Yeah, the thing is that the skating looked fine, and I kind of almost appreciated that they didn’t really talk about the specific elements at all or kind of get into any deeper technicalities. It’s kind of like when you’re watching a movie that involves a lot of fancy tech, or hacking, or whatever, and they kind of spout off this technobabble that sounds really complicated, but in the end kind of makes it sound almost less intelligent. Like the less that you talk about the technicalities, the more you can kind of let the viewers infer, and it kind of made the skating a bit more acceptable than say some of the other movies. So I think it’s just easier for me as a skating fan to accept it and enjoy it for what it is - but the characters were just so unlikeable, though. I just really wanted to slap them, like, you had the bratty skating girl and then the kind of hyper masculine douchey hockey dude. They just kind of took those two stereotypes and ran with it, which is just really irritating.
Yogeeta: So guys, out of everything that you’ve watched for this episode - what movies/series were your favorites?
Tilda: Well, I actually saw Blades of Glory for the first time in my life and I had gotten a lot of warning about it beforehand, but I was actually really delighted at the comedy. I mean, it’s extremely problematic, but I knew that coming in, so I was having a really good time. I’m a long time Ice Princess fan, because the characters are cute and it’s the perfect sweet brainless movie for days when you need to relax, and, yeah, I did like it before I became a figure skating fan. But as a figure skating fan, like I said before, Yuri!!! on Ice is hands down the best, because it appeals to me as a fan. It has a good plot, it has a good depiction of the sport and it really captures my favorite aspects of real life figure skating.
Kat: I agree, to me nothing competes with Yuri!!! on Ice in terms of an accurate depiction of figure skating, while also subverting pretty common male figure skating stereotypes, despite the flaws in scoring. I think I rewatched most of Yuri!!! on Ice with Yogeeta and we were literally screaming about the competition scores, like, as if they were actual competitions. That says a lot, that if we could watch this like we would a real figure skating competition, I think it says a lot about the research and the effort the creators put in to make the series believable, and of course we said this before, but Yuri!!! on Ice does have the advantage of being a full 12 episodes rather than just a feature-length film.
Tilda: Also that’s all we do when we watch real competitions as well, is scream about the scores.
Yogeeta: Basically, that is so accurate. So if you’d have asked me when I was a child what my favourite figure skating movie was, I’d say hands down Ice Princess. I remember watching it and being like ‘oh, I really want to try figure skating!’, but obviously, that never happened. But obviously now Yuri!!! on Ice is just hands down the best of them all and there’s really no room for actual comparison. Like Kat said, it does have the advantage that it’s an actual television series over being a movie, so I’m really interested in seeing how the Yuri!!! on Ice movie that’s coming out next year will hold on its own, without having to look at the series as well. During my rewatch I did spend my time screaming about scores. Yuuri was robbed and that is the last thing I have to say about Yuri!!! on Ice.
Lae: So for me, I went into most of these completely blind. I would actually say I quite enjoyed I, Tonya, but taken as kind of a black comedy with the acknowledgement tacitly that it was meant to be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not meant to be believed straightforwardly, you’re not meant to completely accept everything Tonya says. But I think as a feature length film that’s kind of the standard, we hope, that maybe another figure skating movie will aim for in the future, in terms of the way the story was structured and the care that went into depicting live action figure skating.
Yogs: Yeah, I agree with that one hundred percent.
Tilda: And I think that concludes our bonus episode! Wow, there’s so much to say about these movies. I wish we could have talked for another hour - I think we have enough material for that!
– end segment – 1:13:15
Tilda: Thank you for today, we hope to see you again for our next episode which will be about the medical side of figure skating - injuries and injury prevention.
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