No more little girls in pretty boxes: You be the judge on how HBO doc handles this Larry Nassar remix
By Tom Hoffarth
One thing that kind of jumped out at us about the new HBO documentary “At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal,” which debuts Friday at 8 p.m., is that it doesn’t reference the 1995 bestseller by Joan Ryan, “Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnastics and Figure Skaters,” which focused on psychological trauma and eating disorders. It even has its own Wikipedia page.
The book was reissued last summer and included a new forward by 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher. The 36-year-old UCLA grad from San Dimas High went unnamed in a 2106 Indianapolis Star story that corroborated allegations by gymnast Rachael Denhollander, who went on the record to document Nassar abuse. Dantzcher also talked about her abuse during a February 2017 “60 Minutes” episode.
Dantzscher writes in the update:
“People often ask now Larry Nassar could get away for this for so long. ‘Little Girls in Pretty Boxes’ answers this question back in 1995. It’s all here on these pages … Joan Ryan asked two decades ago.”
In doing a story that ran earlier this week in the Los Angeles Times, we asked producers David Ulich and Dr. Steven Ungerleider about the impact of that book on this film.
“I know Joan very well and when the book came out we talked about all the issues she brought up,” said Ungerleider. “It’s a beautiful piece of work. It puts into historical context how we’re explaining a lot of the same things all this time later. It’s still all about awareness of abuses.”
Added Ulich: “As we try to point out, abuse in the sport didn’t start with Nassar. It has been happening for many years, over generations. There are just new tipping points.”
Enjoy — if that’s the right word — the doc. Here are a few more reviews for context:
== From Time magazine
== From the Wall Street Journal
== From Women’s Health Magazine
== From The Atlantic (not the Athletic, and please, don’t confuse the two)
== From CNN’s Brian Lowery: “To feel angry is to be human watching (the doc) … Yet the final portion of the film provides an empowering ray of hope by putting the focus not on Nassar, but the strength exhibited by survivors of his abuse.”
== From the Houston Chronicle’s David Baron
== Also from the L.A. Times: “Can U.S. gymnastics recover from the Larry Nassar scandal?” by David Wharton
Here is the official film trailer: