How Pam And Tommy Exploits Pamela Anderson All Over Again

Pamela Anderson's absence of involvement in the new miniseries Pam And Tommy should surely be raising questions, argues Rachel.

Lily James and Sebastian Stan in Pam and Tommy

Pamela Anderson’s absence of involvement in the new miniseries Pam And Tommy should surely be raising questions, argues Rachel.

Lily James in Pam And Tommy

Lily James in Pam And Tommy

This week has seen the release of Hulu’s outrageous miniseries Pam And Tommy on Disney+.

The hugely anticipated eight-part series retells the turbulent love story of Baywatch pin-up Pamela Anderson and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee. It goes without saying that a big part of this affair and indeed the focus of the show is the infamous “Hardcore” Pamela Anderson sex tape.

Starring Lily James and Sebastian Stan as the iconic 90s couple, the show promises a no holds barred, brutal look at what really happened in the couples’ lives and how they felt. But you can’t help wonder how this can be the case when neither Anderson or Lee were involved in the project.

Once responsible for the original breaking of the internet, the sex tape was stolen from the newlywed couple’s house by a recently fired electrician who wanted revenge on Lee: yes Anderson was just collateral damage. Though, of course, she’s who everyone really bought the tape for.

In actual fact, it was a 54-minute home movie made by a newlywed couple with what happened to have eight minutes of sex or nudity in. As Anderson described it later, “just a video of when we were first married and running around the world and a little bit of nudity. And they spliced it all together and made it look like we’d created some kind of pornography.”

Nobody felt bad about watching it, because this was Pamela Anderson: running around the beach in a tiny swimsuit on Baywatch, she’d already gotten her boobs out for Playboy no less than 14 times. She also spoke openly and dirtily about her sex life on late-night shows. Who could blame everyone for wanting to get their grubby mitts on her porno?

Seth Rogen and Nick Offerman in Pam And Tommy

Seth Rogen and Nick Offerman in Pam And Tommy

Here’s the thing though: when she posed for all those photos, she was doing so consensually and freely. She was also paid handsomely. When she talked about her sex life, that was her choice. A woman discussing sex shouldn’t devalue her any more than a man who discusses sex. She’s an adult and she can talk about what she wants when she wants. Baywatch was a show she starred in and was huge part of launching her career, and while producers did dubiously make her costume smaller and smaller (something covered in the show) she still owned her own image.

The “sex tape” was literally stolen. I don’t know how to spell that out more clearly – it was a burglary. Having your house burgled is bad enough, but then having your image distributed without your consent across the world for the financial gain and sexual gratification of others has got to be soul-destroying.

Another issue with saying, “Well, she got her boobs out for Playboy so we can watch her sex tape,” is that it takes away her agency. It implies that when a woman consents to one thing she has no right to not consent to another or withdraw her consent at any time. That’s how rape culture and victim-blaming grows.

It’s a uniquely female trauma that has us always second-guessing what to wear on nights out or worried about what photos we share with who and what will happen to them should the relationship go sour. The sex tape may have contained Tommy Lee too, but it will always be known as the Pammy sex tape.

Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, shortly after their wedding

Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, shortly after their wedding

The tape made more than more than $77 million (£57m), none of which went to Anderson, despite her unsuccessfully suing. That’s why it’s uncomfortable to think about how much Hulu and everyone involved will make off the retelling, while once again all she has to show for it is years of trauma.

Despite it being her story, Anderson has still flatly refused in every way to be involved or engage with anyone connected to the show.  Lee, though not directly involved with the production, has said that he approves of Stan playing him.

Pam And Tommy takes the most traumatic time of Pamela Anderson’s life, when her privacy was violated, and intimate moments were shared across the world without her consent and repackages it as if trying to show it through a factual lens. But really it’s just taking her image once again without her consent for other people’s pleasure and financial gain.

The show claims to be one focused on privacy invasion, slut-shaming and consent, but the biggest hypocrisy of all is that it has even been made. By going ahead with creating the show despite Anderson refusing to give it her blessing, are creators any better than those who profited from the original tape?

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