The Problematic Nature of “Pam and Tommy”
A story retold without the consent of the victim herself.
Written by Sheila Kiss
The new Hulu series “Pam and Tommy” portrays the roller coaster love story that occurred between the real-life stars Pamela Anderson, most known for her role in Baywatch, and Tommy Lee, the drummer of well-known rock band, Mötley Crüe. The show also dives into the struggles this couple faced, most notably, the leaking of their infamous sex tape by Rand Gautier, who stole Lee’s safe after the musician did not pay him for electrician work he did on the couple’s house. Occurring during the very beginning of the Internet in the mid-90s, the leak created a “perfect storm” for a sex tape being spread around the world. This was the first leaked celebrity sex tape, and arguably one of the first big cases of revenge porn.
This was the first leaked celebrity sex tape, and arguably one of the first big cases of revenge porn.
Many, if not most, of the scenes portrayed in the series were inspired by Lee’s autobiography and the 2014 Rolling Stone article “Pam and Tommy: The Untold Story of the World’s Most Infamous Sex Tape,” written by Amanda Chicago Lewis. Using these sources, the show was as accurate to the real events as it could have been, according to director Robert Siegal, and although Lee has been involved in the series and has voiced his approval of it, Anderson clearly has not felt comfortable with the show. According to an insider source from Elle Magazine, she will “never watch the show,” not even the trailer, and it is obvious as to why she feels this way.
... although Lee has been involved in the series and has voiced his approval of it, Anderson clearly has not felt comfortable with the show.
While there are many impressive attributes of the show, including Lily James and Sebastian Stan’s transformations into “Pam and Tommy,” and the nostalgic portrayal of 90s fame and fashion, a sense of discomfort and sorrow also surrounds the show, especially when it comes to James’ portrayal of Anderson. As the tape is first released, we see the panic and stress that Anderson begins to go through, as Lee seems to be in the mindset of “any publicity is good publicity.” She seems to be aware of the standard that she will be held to because of the tape compared to her husband. Lee being not only a world famous rockstar, but most importantly also being a man, allowed him to avoid most of the criticism, and arguably he was even praised for it more than anything. The series aims to shed light on this phenomenon and focuses mostly on the trauma that Anderson experienced. From when Anderson catches the crew of Baywatch watching the tape on set, to her being questioned by the press and talk show host Jay Leno, to her being interrogated about her career choices by lawyers in her case against Penthouse Magazine, this series certainly emphasizes the relentless trauma that she had to go through. Although the series is meant to bring awareness to the situation, it seems hypocritical, since it is bringing the whole situation up once again and, most importantly, the victim herself did not approve.
The series is meant to bring awareness to the situation, it seems hypocritical, since it is bringing the whole situation up once again and, most importantly, the victim herself did not approve.
What makes matters even worse is that Gautier aimed to get back at Lee alone by releasing the tape, while Anderson became the true victim. Anderson was highly sexualized in the media even before the tape came out, especially because of her performance as a “blonde bombshell” on Baywatch and most notably because of her appearances in Playboy Magazine. Both of these facts were used against Anderson in the media and in her lawsuit against Penthouse Magazine, depicted in the series, who won their case and published photos from the tape. It seemed that the criticism that Anderson received was “fair game” by the media because of her career choices and her overall appearance. This creates a whole new phenomenon beside the fact that she is a woman, she is also a conventionally beautiful woman who was already willingly “showing off” her body. This is a well-known standard that restricts many women in the entertainment industry and women overall. While this standard is commonplace in society, it is yet another way that women are treated differently and unfairly over expressing their sexuality in society as compared to men. It also speaks volumes as to why Anderson was treated so unfairly.
... while this series was meant to have good intentions behind it, it seems to be overshadowed by the fact that once again, this very traumatic experience is being exploited for profit.
Another sickening detail of this story, according to an inside source that spoke with Entertainment Weekly, is that Anderon’s body was deemed public property by judges of the case. So, although it was considered stolen property, her body was not considered to be private property. Keeping all of this in mind, it almost seems like a no-brainer as to why Anderson contested the series so adamantly, and it is very telling how the situation affected Lee, considering his approval of the series. Arguably, Anderson experienced one of the most extreme and violating forms of “slut shaming,” considering that the whole world was watching. And unfortunately, many women continue to experience situations like this on a regular basis. What was once an intimate artifact of Anderson and Lee’s love story became a nightmare, and while this series was meant to have good intentions behind it, it seems to be overshadowed by the fact that once again, this very traumatic experience is being exploited for profit. On a more positive note, Anderson will finally get to tell her story in a Netflix documentary. Although there is no release date for the documentary yet, she shared a post to her Instagram recently with a handwritten note about the documentary that read:
My life/ A thousand imperfections/ A million misperceptions/ Wicked, wild and lost/ Nothing to live up to /I can only surprise you /Not a victim, but a survivor /And alive to tell the real story.
The documentary will be an exciting look into her life that will hopefully allow her to share her true version of the story, which, in reality, is the only version that matters.