Home » My Mind To Yours » Our Screened Dreams

Our Screened Dreams

TV and movie awards shows provide many opportunities for artists and celebrities to promote style and ideas along with their work.Alison Janney sold me on “I, Tonya” when Janney mentioned social class while accepting the Golden Globe for her portrayal of Tonya Harding’s mother.

I had been rooting for the comedy, “Lady Bird.”

I loved “Lady Bird.” “Lady Bird,” portrayed by Saoirse Ronan, represented my team, in that Lady Bird was a Catholic school girl who didn’t quite fit in. Lady Bird’s fantasies and dreams included a bigger house and a cosmopolitan higher education in Manhattan. In our times, TV and movies provide most school girls and boys with their first American dreams.

This year’s Golden Globes, swept along in the wake of the “#me too” movement, provided viewers with continuing commentary about how narrow media portrayals of girls and women limit girls’ and women’s shared consciousness. In her speech, Oprah Winfrey addressed race and gender, describing the possibilities that appeared to her when she watched Sidney Poitier win the Academy Award. Oprah acknowledged the many working women whose names “we’ll never know,” who suffered assault and abuse silently because they had “bills to pay and dreams to pursue.”

On her website, Oprah Winfrey’s official biography states, “Oprah began her broadcasting career at WVOL radio in Nashville while still in high school. At the age of 19, she became the youngest person and the first African-American woman to anchor the news at Nashville’s WTVF-TV.” The Oprah.com biography is Oprah’s “resume” life story.

In more personal interviews, Oprah, born in 1954, reveals a traumatic childhood during which she was raped at 9, later sexually abused again, and by age 14, had become pregnant, giving birth to a child who died. In 1990, for $19,000, one of Oprah’s relatives revealed Oprah’s story to The National Enquirer. Oprah felt devastated over this betrayal and the sale of what Oprah described as her “hidden shame.”

Oprah has done much to advocate for the education and dignity of girls and women who found themselves sexualized, targeted, and psychologically dismembered amid the repercussions of early sexual trauma.   

Following her Golden Globes speech, nascent calls for Oprah to run for president in 2020 were followed by anti-Oprah social media attacks. One tweet claimed that Winfrey said, “that in order for the problem of racism to be solved, old white people have to die.” Snopes fact-checking site stated the claim is false and provides video clips relating to a BBC interview and the film “The Butler” to provide context for that determination.

Oprah, whose net worth is in the billions, is one of the wealthiest businesswomen in the world. While self-made, Oprah has often cited her belief in a higher power as the reason she has been able to go on.

Should Oprah run for president?

Early on, many people doubted that businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump would be elected to the highest office in our nation, but, as October 2016 rolled around, it became apparent that Trump would win. Many voters came to know and applaud Donald Trump because they’d watched Donald Trump performing as Donald Trump on Donald Trump’s TV show “The Apprentice.” For better or worse, scripted visual presentations shape public perception. Historically, the average folks tended to “win” vicariously through sports teams and entertainment stars, sometimes imagining that they could, like their heroes, be famous, rich and loved. The application of basic mathematics generally tempers such dreams.

Tonya Harding knew the math, but fought the math.

The first female figure skater to perform a triple axel with a double toe loop, Tonya Harding dropped out of high school in her sophomore year to pursue her professional skating career. Tonya sewed her own costumes and strove to stand out in an arena of sports entertainment where her family background and socioeconomic class basically assured her of heartbreak, a noun generally reserved for more demure females. “I, Tonya,” is a film as much about fighting to persevere amid generalized abuse, and the daily grind of low paid work, as it is about Harding, who, of course, proverbially shot herself in the foot through her involvement in the smashing blow delivered to fellow skater and competitor Nancy Kerrigan’s knee.

I hope that judgements about Tonya won’t keep moviegoers from “I, Tonya,” which is a superior piece of film work. Buying a ticket to see a wry and multidimensional characterization of an imperfect female star does not constitute approving of her actions or, in the extreme, endorsing her for public office.

Women are multifaceted individuals.

The female and male images we see on the screen are designed to be seen.

Debra Merryweather