People may have seen a lot of her over the years, but there’s more than meets the eye to Pamela Anderson. The new Netflix documentary, Pamela, a Love Story, shows a woman who’s been abused, mistreated, and ridiculed—but is still standing.
The dumb blonde sex symbol is a stereotype that has endured for years, and the media seems to have cast someone in that stereotype, whether explicitly or not, in every generation. There was Marilyn Monroe in the 50s, Goldie Hawn in the 70s, and when the 90s rolled around, it was Pamela Anderson. After starting out in Playboy and eventually being cast as the iconic CJ Parker on Baywatch, her reputation for being the blonde bimbo just grew through the years, even well into the 2000s.
Much like Marilyn before her, however, the label stamped on her was one she didn’t necessarily want or enjoy, nor was it true. Eerily, the abuse she faced from her supposedly adoring audience was almost similar to what Marilyn had to endure, except Pamela is still here, and she’s finally telling her side of the story in the new Netflix documentary, Pamela, a Love Story.
Pamela, a Love Story: how the world labelled and wrote off Pamela Anderson—and how she got out of that box.
Pamela, a Love Story, is your typical documentary in the sense that it gives you an intimate first-hand look at the person. She gives the filmmakers access to her numerous journals and home videos because she has pretty much recorded on both film and paper every detail in her life. She doesn’t read it aloud herself saying that it might be too much for her but gave the filmmakers permission.
Throughout the whole course of the film, she doesn’t shy away from any difficult topics, even talking about how she was raped by a 25-year-old at 12 years old and how she was abused by her babysitter nonchalantly that it disturbed me a little. This was a woman who clearly had gone through a lot, processed a lot, and is still processing a lot, even though many just see her as a slo-mo running bikini-clad sex symbol.
However, the film is unique from other documentaries in that Pamela isn’t necessarily setting the record straight, calling anyone out, or taking control of her own story. When you’ve listened to the things she’s gone through, you might be indignant as to why she doesn’t do those things. But towards the end, she makes it clear that she isn’t a victim and that she doesn’t blame anyone. “I put myself into crazy situations,” she said, which is true. Another thing that’s true: she survived all of them.
While it’s clear that Pamela willingly put herself through many things, like her famous marriage with Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee after having only known him for four days, there are so many other things that happened to her that she had no control over. Case in point: the infamous sex tape, which consisted of stolen home videos. Due to her pregnancy and the fear of what the stress might do to the baby, Pamela and Tommy Lee decided to dismiss the case, a rather responsible thing from possibly the most irresponsible couple at the time. The result? Years of ridicule and stress that endures until today, with the events recently being dramatised in a miniseries that was done without any of their consent much like the sex tape.
Sadly, the most consistent thing in Pamela’s life is abuse. Whether it’s her babysitter, the 25-year-old man who raped her, Tommy Lee, the miniseries, or the way she was treated by the media by making her the butt of the joke in the aftermath of the sex tape, she’s been abused throughout her life in one way or another. The film shows numerous clips of late night show hosts and journalists making jokes that, if said today, would make them lose their job. Watching Matt Lauer say “Can we talk about your breasts?” was certainly disgusting.
But despite all that, this isn’t a sad depressing look at Pamela Anderson’s life. As she said, she’s not a victim. If there’s one thing that’s clear from this film, it’s that there’s always been so much more to the blonde bombshell that everyone has made her out to be. The one thing that blew me away is just how strong this woman is. All those marriages and relationships, all that abuse, and the awkward navigation she had to do as she brought her boys up in a world where their parents’ sex tape was a common joke—and yet she’s still here. If that isn’t strength, I don’t know what is.
Finally, the film might also cause audiences to reflect. It’s easy to get hypnotized by the glitz and glam of Hollywood and fame and think that celebrities aren’t people. In fact, that was one of the arguments used against Pamela when she sued the people who released her sex tape: she posed for Playboy so she had no right to privacy, they said. The blatant objectification she suffered is, sadly, still going on today. One can only hope that this documentary might somehow help alleviate that. One thing’s for sure though: you’ll never look at Pamela Anderson the same way again after watching this.
Watch Pamela, a Love Story on Netflix.