There’s a line of dialogue in Hulu’s limited series Pam & Tommy where Pamela Anderson (Lily James) tells her husband, Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan) about the differences in the reactions to that infamous sex tape. Pam tells him that he will get high-fives and pats on the back from men for the tape, while men will look at her differently.
And that’s what happens later when she’s in a lawsuit against Penthouse and publisher Bob Guccione as Pam is more or less drilled during a deposition. It’s like a modern day Spanish Inquisition or Nuremberg Trial. All Pam did was make a home movie with her husband. People have been taking pics and home videos of their loved ones during intimacy that might be inappropriate to others. They end up in clothes drawers or hidden under mattresses.
People forget this tape was under major lock and key in a safe that was stolen by Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen in a surprisingly sympathetic and pathetic role) who was doing construction work on Tommy’s house after Tommy fired him, refused payment and even failed to turn over tools Rand left behind. If this really happened, I wouldn’t be surprised. Lee’s antics since the early days of Motley Crue are the epitome of the Bad Boys of Rock-N-Roll Club. Yet, Tommy has been forgiven time and time again.
Pam, on the other hand, has been treated as if she is the Whore of Babylon. During a scene that shows the sexism in Hollywood, she has her swimsuit bottom moved around so that it shows enough of her “cheeks” to make the fanboys happy but not piss off the censors. She does this as half a dozen men look at monitors instructing a female assistant what to do. Imagine working a job where your livelihood depends on how good your ass looks?
And Pam was discovered in 1989 as a young woman, still a kid, when she was spotted on a Jumbotron at a football game in Vancouver. And then Playboy came calling. And then Hollywood. Yes, she couldn’t said no, but Playboy was considered more mainstream and highbrow. And she appeared on the ABC Disney-produced show Home Improvement. But she was always supposed to be eye-candy. Producers cut her more dramatic scenes on Baywatch.
But did she really audition for L.A. Confidential and Austin Powers? Let’s face it, Barb Wire wasn’t really the best, but the marketing behind the movie made it out to be a full-blown action porno. Probably a lot of horny boys went to go see it only to discover it was more like Casablanca in a dystopia future. The best of my recollection of the movie, Pam showed more skin in Playboy.
With people now, a quarter of a century after the events of this series, little has seemed to changed. Pam reportedly refused to assist with the production. Ironically, James brings some great pathos to Pam. I was surprised since James is known for playing more “serious roles” in War & Peace and Downton Abbey. She played Cinderella for Disney, for God’s sake.
But if you’re going to make us sympathize with a woman who clearly did nothing wrong and got treated like garbage regardless, James is a great choice. The series makes Tommy and Rand the bad guys, even though Rand gets what he deserves. If The Dirt tried to make Tommy sympathetic, this breaks down that attempt. It’s a shame Tommy doesn’t get treated the same way.
And Pam and Tommy’s relationship wouldn’t last long either. The series hints of his violent streak but thankfully doesn’t include it just in passing during the end titles. Pam has been married six times, twice to the same person and the titles indicate that her and Tommy tried to rekindle their marriage but it didn’t last. Who’s to blame? Pam or the men in her life?
The men in this series don’t come across as sympathetic. Along with Rand and Tommy, there’s also Uncle Miltie (Nick Offerman) as the textbook sleazy middle-aged porno producer who believes in good sex and bad drugs. Andrew “Dice” Clay has a nice cameo as a Mafia boss who gives Rand the money to begin his online sale of the video and then is not too happy when the loan isn’t paid off.
Then there’s Fred Hechinger as Seth Warshavsky, the sleazy worm founder of Internet Entertainment Group, who has all the personality of a date rapist. He uses the Internet algorithms and copyright laws to successfully buy the rights to the tape in the end.
But I wouldn’t really call this a series that hates men. But toxic masculinity is still a problem. You don’t have to like Pam but ask yourself this. Is this any different than someone taking a pic off social media and using it as a deepfake on other porno pics that they can sell or use?
We criticize Pam, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian for making intimate tapes, but not the men in them. We can do better.
What do you think? Please comment.