Fix the Brand of Men’s Figure Skating: Send Out the Clowns, and get me Johnny Weir

by cv harquail on February 19, 2010

The ‘Brand of Men’s Figure Skating’ is broken.

The brand lacks coherence, it isn’t compelling, and sometimes it isn’t even attractive. And it’s all because of what those guys wear.

In an ideal world, the Brand of Men’s Figure Skating reflects a hearty frisson between between the brand’s two defining attributes: Athleticism & Artistry.anatoly maltsev.jpg

Althleticism & Artistry = Masculinity

To reflect the ideal Brand of Men’s Figure Skating, skaters need to blend Athleticism and Artistry into a desirable “masculinity”.

Supposedly, the ‘problem’ with the Brand of Men’s Figure Skating is that is isn’t consistently masculine enough. Masculinity is either one thing or another. The contest of masculinities plays out between the two competing icons of American Men’s Figures skating, Evan and Johnny.  It’s either the the rugged and spray-tanned Lysacek or the feathered and flighty Johnny Weir.

But the problem the Brand is not a question of leather or lace, people!

It’s a problem of the narrative themes and the kinds of characters that the skaters choose to express in their skating.

Every skating program tells a story, and every story has a main character.

Male figure skaters create their program’s character in their costumes. The costumes — the clothing– go a long way in creating the Brand of Men’s Figure Skating.

To a mind that’s not stuck in a closet, there are many powerful expressions of masculinity out there on Olympic ice.

We’re got the ‘muscular powerhouse’, the ‘rugged athlete’, the ‘expressive primo uomo‘, and the ‘steroidal rush of the exuberant youth’. All are masculine archetypes. All are combos of Athleticism & Artistry.


All of these archetypes or characters allow male skaters to reflect, in in his own expressive way, the core attributes of the Brand of Men’s Figure Skating.

But what about the other characters? What about:

The Marionette?
The Clown?
The Scarecrow?
The Mime?

Lambiel.jpgDoes anyone really think that there is masculine way to be Athletic & Artistic as a puppet?

What about those other silly costumes? What about:

The Pirate? Fine.

Prince Valiant? Sure.

The Matador? Hot, hot, hot.

Michael Jackson? Okay, we can work with that.


Odette/Odile/Ondine/Bjiork? Get me my bedazzler, and bring me a box of tissues.

But these characters? —

Pagliacci?   No.
Pinocchio?    No.
Howdy Doody? A thousand times NO.

There is nothing appealingly masculine, or athletic & artistic, about a buffoon. Or a toy that jumps only when someone pulls his strings.

If the International Skating Union wants to improve the Brand of Men’s Figure Skating they don’t need to rag on Johnny Weir and his pink corset lacing. They need to get rid of the archetypes that can’t ever be masculine, no matter what Athletic or Artistic tropes they invoke.

Quad, schmod.johnny swan.jpg

Don’t dither over whether a few feathers will draw our attention away from your competence, or better, your brilliance. And don’t start with a character that’s spineless, clueless or forever silly — you’ll never get to a masculinity that’s inspiring or compelling that way. Instead,

Give us decent characters, and decent costumes.  Show us skating that represents the range of masculinity of the Brand of Men’s Figure Skating. fernandez pirate.jpg borodulin.jpg

Send OUT the clowns, I say.

See also: Johnny Weir Skates Routine of His Life, Gets Screwed by Judges [Gawker TV]

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