By: Amanda Guarragi
In the early 90s, the accessibility to women and the treatment of women from the tabloids had gotten worse. As someone who grew up in the 90s, high-profile women like Pamela Anderson were considered idols to young girls like me. We worshiped them and wanted to be exactly like them. Women who were free to dress a certain way, act a certain way, and have their own identity presented to the world. Pamela Anderson was a woman who knew who she was and adapted to situations around her. She exuded this fearlessness, this power when she was Pamela Anderson for the cameras. Whether it was through her photos, her performance on Baywatch, or even in interviews, Anderson had such a strong spirit and knew how to handle herself in an industry that eventually turned against her. In Hulu’s Pam & Tommy, we see Pamela Anderson for who she truly is and if this series does anything, it will give you a new appreciation for the woman behind the star persona.
Pam & Tommy begins with Pamela Anderson (Lily James) on Jay Leno having a conversation about the sex tape. It was very noticeable that Anderson was uncomfortable with the topic and within those moments, we get a sense of how this story will be presented through different lenses. Before getting into Pam and Tommy’s relationship, director Craig Gillespie has us sit with Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen) to build up the motivation for stealing the sex tape. Gauthier was Tommy Lee’s (Sebastian Stan) carpenter, while he was renovating his home. Gauthier had many uncomfortable, and quite frankly, scary moments with Tommy Lee. After a few scuffles about payment, Lee made an enemy out of Gauthier. The importance of these specific encounters is to see how Tommy Lee had two very different sides to him.
As the series goes on, we get an in-depth look at Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson’s explosive relationship. The one thing to note is that Anderson loved, love. She was a true romantic at heart and would connect with someone on a different level. It’s more of a feeling than checking off boxes for Anderson and that is how she ended up with Lee. Was it love at first sight? No. Instead, it was a vibe; an instant connection, like a current running between the two of them. The chemistry between James and Stan was off the charts and they were both perfectly cast to bring this story to screen in the most accurate way possible. Their love was palpable and even as a viewer you could feel the genuine connection they had at the very beginning of their relationship. But, as we see with Gauthier, Lee did have a dark side.
Two very important matters run simultaneously in this series. The first was the dawn of online sex work through the popularity of the sex tape itself. Gauthier had an idea to place the information about the sex tape on a website to drive sales. He charged $60.00 for one copy of the tape and made a profit. But like all good things, they only last a short period. The 90s was the transitional period for technology and this shift came with a price. The media turned into a cesspool because of what this sex tape did for clicks on websites and generating buzz about a top celebrity couple. Paparazzi photos were at an all time high for Anderson and Lee, which were probably sold for hundreds of dollars. Privacy did not exist in the 90s and it is all because of Gauthier uploading one intimate, romantic, sex tape between husband and wife.
The second is Pamela Anderson’s loss of agency and being slut-shamed for a private video of her and her husband. The sex tape, combined with the distasteful jokes from late-night talk show hosts, and tabloids printing the photos from the tape, completely ruined her acting career that she so desperately wanted to evolve. There are multiple times in Pam & Tommy where it was incredibly emotional to watch Anderson go through so many terrible moments in her life. Anderson wanted the industry to look past that she was this beautiful, blonde bombshell and recognize her for how talented she was. This industry praised her as a sex symbol but never took her seriously as an actor. The 90s were very cruel to Pamela Anderson and after watching this, we see how kind, sweet, and driven she was, even if they didn’t deserve it.
Craig Gillespie completely captures the essence of the 90s in Pam & Tommy. The story is so much more than Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s relationship; it really dives into how the media operates and how it became more of an invasion of privacy. Anderson had to deal with a toxic, misogynistic industry just because of the way they labelled her as a sex symbol. The labels that were given to women in the industry place them in a box and don’t allow them to grow outside of it. The focus shifted from Gauthier and his side of the story, to Pamela Anderson’s side of the story, and Tommy Lee was shown for who he truly was. This was such a brutal look at how women lose who they truly are because of how the media constructs a persona for them.
The first episode of Pam & Tommy will drop on Hulu on February 2nd.