Pamela: A Love Story reminds me of The Girl Next Door, a 1999 documentary focusing on the life of porn actress Stacy Valentine. Pamela Anderson was just like Stacy Valentine and probably many, many other women who grew up in towns and communities where people go to church on Sunday and turn July 4 in a community-wide celebration. Their journeys from humble beginnings has many rocky roads to stardom. And instead of thinking about all they went through, we instead criticize them for choosing a lifestyle or profession we may not agree with.
Anderson, now in her mid-50s, grew up in Ladysmith, a community on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Her father was very abusive. She was molested for years by a babysitter. Then, when she was 12, she was raped by someone who was 25. She never told anyone of this because she felt it was her fault. A lot of sexual assault victims were treated the same then and still are. I heard a few stories in high school and it was always the woman’s fault. This explains why when her career exploded in the 1990s, she became the topic of discussion on her breast size.
Watching the Netflix documentary, the scenes are definitely cringe-worthy especially when you see snippets of Matt Lauer, former Today Show host, talking of it. If you don’t know yet, Lauer was fired by NBC in 2017 amid allegations she had sexually harrassed women and other sexual misconduct deeds. But it was a different time when Anderson started out in the early 1990s. All people saw was another ditzy blonde Playboy model with plastic surgery. She wasn’t important. She wasn’t a human being to these people, so they could ask her all they wanted. If they didn’t believe Anita Hill, why the hell would they care if Anderson got offended.
Just because a woman isn’t a rocket scientist doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve a level of respect. And there are just some questions you don’t ask people. Even in 1992 when her career took off with acting roles on Home Improvement, where she claimed Tim Allen once flashed his genitalia to her, and Baywatch, you wouldn’t walk up to some woman on the street and as if she had breast augmentation. Well, most people wouldn’t.
Anderson was discovered at a Canadian football game wearing a shirt with a local beer logo and was caught on the jumbotron video and was spotted by someone who got her to travel to L.A. to appear in Playboy. But she doesn’t look at is as a low point. She sees it as a way to take back “my power back.” And that’s probably why so many people, men and especially women, felt she should be the subject of ridicule and scorn. We sexualize women in this society and then criticize them for allowing theirselves to be sexualized. It’s not our fault. It’s their fault.
I’m sure many sexual assault victims have heard the same thing. In many ways, Anderson was a victim time and time again, by the talk show hosts like Larry King and Jay Leno talking about her body. Then, there was the infamous sex tape which would be one of the first known cases of revenge porn. Anderson says there were several tapes that were stolen and not all included sex between her and Tommy Lee, who she was married to at the time, but other stuff. They videotaped everything, she says.
Anderson says the sex tape ruined her career and she never saw any money from it. The Hulu limited series Pam & Tommy, which she didn’t see nor was she a fan, tried to show how Anderson was victimized, but I think it did the same thing it tried to preach against. As a rocker and drummer for Motley Crue, people saw it as something Lee just did as a musician. But Anderson should be ashamed. People have been taking nude pictures and videos of their partners and spouses for decades. It’s just that with the Playboy magazines and Baywatch people saw Anderson as a slut. One scene in the series that really showed how embarrassing it must’ve been for her was when men surround a monitor telling someone to adjust her bikini bottom to where there’s enough “ass cheek” it won’t anger the censor but will entice the viewers.
And of course, Anderson’s marriage to Lee didn’t last long. He trashed her dressing room and became jealous of her when she had to get close to her male co-stars on-screen that the production team would make fake script pages because he would demand to see them. Lee was Anderson’s first husband and then she was briefly married to Kid Rock and twice to Rick Saloman, a professional poker player. Her marriage to Kid Rock ended because he reportedly got mad at her for appearing in the first Borat movie.
You could look at her upbringing as why she’s had so many unsuccesful and short marriages. But what would people expect her to do, stay in marriages where there was abuse? What’s worse someone who walks away from an abusive marriage after a year or two or soemone who stays in it for decades? She mentions that she left Saloman the first time because he was a drug user.
The documentary works best when we see Anderson without the glitz and the glam. She appears several times on screen, no make-up but still beautiful. And when we see some of the photos of her as a young woman before Playboy, she looks like a different person. That’s the comparison to the Stacey Valentine documentary who underwent plastic surgeon to fit what was supposed to be some heterosexual male fantasy.
There’s also several scenes with her and her sons, now grown men, as they discuss the Hulu series and they’re not fans either. The saddest part, she says, is that other celebrities released sex tapes and it looked like it was a publicity stunt. But there is some ray of sunshine as we see Anderson living happily back on Vancouver Island and preparing for her role as Roxie Hart in the Broadway production of Chicago.
Some people may not watch the documentary because they already have a pre-conceived viewpoint of Anderson. But if they’re expecting to see some of the Playboy photos or any of the sex video, they’ll be disappointed. The documentary made by filmmaker Ryan White doesn’t exploit her. He reportedly had a hard time trying to get her to reshoot things because she hardly did. This makes the documentary more candid. We see a different side of Anderson and hopefully people will finally treat her with some respect and dignity.
What do you think? Please comment.