Hello podcast friends. Today, I have a confession. One everyone did not see coming at all from my twitter feed or any other post here. I am a nerd.
That's right. The suprise. Me. A person who runs a blog about podcasts. A nerd. So I wear my badge with pride and honor as I tell you the following: I have a mild obsession with the anime Yuri!! ON ICE.
A figure skating anime. Somehow, in my wanderings of all the nerdy things I am involved in: I found myself adoring this ice skating anime. This is one that not only guts me with its plot, but also its artistry.* So, when Blind Landing started whispering about figure skating, my ears certainly perked up. A tweet about Kristi Yamaguchi may have been the reason for my most recent re-watch of the show. When the next season popped up: Out on the Ice I was ready to dig in.
Much like its first season, Out on the Ice follows a line of controversy in the elite of elite athletics. This time we slide on over figure skating world. With this season, our controversy isn't isolated, it is cultural, and global.
As you probably realize, and I know too well. The stereotype of any man in the glittering costumes, twirling and dancing around, is that they're gay. Theatre, dance, skating. If you present as a man and participate in these highly skilled fields, obviously you're going to be tossed into the "gay" basket.
In reality, yes. There are gay figure skaters. There always have been. Just like there have always been queer people everywhere. While for the fields of theatre and dance, you might have a safe haven: the same is not said for figure skating. For a long time being hyper-heteronormative in figure skating was the expectation. Any whisper of not conforming from men, or women, brought scandal and opened them up to not just danger and ridicule off the ice- but perhaps maybe unfair scoring on the ice.
Across these three, thirty minute episodes we're brought through the history of being queer in figure skating. Ari Saperstein and Chris Schleicher take us through the start, the shift from skating being masculine to effeminate**, the culture of secrets and omissions, and where the sport is slowly clawing its way towards-ideologically ahead of some places and vastly behind others. We are deftly shown the specific history around being queer in a sport that so readily denied its members their truths. We have past interviews with some of figure skating's biggest names, and current interviews with the likes of Adam Rippon- the first out skater to represent the US at the Olympics. The gut wrenching truths are told candidly, and the chaos of a world that isn't accepting is felt.
Some trigger warnings to mention: One is the discussion of choosing between your sexuality, gender identity, and your career. I would also like to mention there are deep conversations around the AIDS epidemic and figure skating, as a warning to those who may need to step away from the topic.
While the whole of these three episodes only takes about one and a half hours to listen to, I really suggest people go through and watch the routines on YouTube. It really helps to round out your experience. I'm sure most people are not avid enough figure skating followers to know the ins and outs, but that's one of the things I love about Blind Landing as a whole. You don't need to know the difference between a toe loop and a lutz- or even what the major figure skating competitions are. You just need to have a general interest and a slice of time to appreciate what happened, and what's happening. Especially as the Olympic figure skating compeitions are catching the news.
Blind Landing is an eye opener for the people not knee deep in the sporting world. It's interesting, captivating, and so easy to listen to. It's one of the podcasts I suggest for people who "don't know what to listen to" or "really don't want to listen to true crime anymore". The first season is more full of mystery, while Out on The Ice is more full of hope. Which I think we all need a little bit more of these days.
* If you're not into anime, it's fine. You're missing out if you don't try a few, and Yuri!! ON ICE is definitely on my suggestion list.
**how anyone can look at the muscles on these men and immediately think "effeminate" and not "highly trained athlete" is beyond me.