Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hulu’s Pam & Tommy was one of my favorite pieces of media that I watched in 2022. A key feature was not addressed, and until I caught Netflix’s Pamela Anderson documentary, I did not quite realize just how vital it would be. Pamela was not consulted about the series, nor would she have participated. The pain of her private videos stolen and released for gain are compared to a rape with how invasive they were, let alone how destructive the whole sex tape ordeal was to her image. That the show was made entirely without her is akin to throwing salt in a wound. Pamela: A Love Story is an incredibly raw, emotionally vulnerable peek behind the curtain of Anderson’s personal life, without a single talking penis in sight.

Born from humble beginnings to her waitress mother and poker player/chimney sweep/bad boy father, Pamela felt different from everyone around her at a very young age. Some of the most shocking aspects of her story come from early on—at just twelve, she was sexually molested by her babysitter. Her story of being discovered to become a Labatts Blue Zone poster girl, then getting the call from Playboy is almost magically recounted. Pamela was a shy young woman who did not love her body whatsoever. She simply wanted to shed the prison of her insecurities, and Playboy came along at just the right time.

Pamela: A Love Story charts Anderson’s entire career—from lovable Playboy centerfold, to Baywatch superstar, to film actress hopeful. Her journey is filled with strife and complications, major successes and milestones and crushing defeats. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Pamela’s story is her love life. She has been married a total of five times, ever a true romantic. The problem is, Pamela can never seem to find someone that measures up to Tommy Lee, the veritable love of her life, and father to her two children. Once the documentary gets around to depicting this aspect of her life, it devotes a lengthy section to their whirlwind romance and eventual breakup. One can sense a true sincerity and adoration that is still present from the way Pamela reacts to videos and recollections of her time with Tommy. It is kind of heartbreaking to hear that while she could never see herself back together with Tommy, Pamela also cannot really see herself being with anyone else, either—no one measures up to the father of her children.

Vintage footage and especially home videos power the majority of A Love Story’s most intimate, special moments. Though Anderson does not read the many diaries and personal accounts she wrote down herself for fear of a breakdown, a voiceover recollects many of her personal views during this documentary. Modern day Pamela interjects with thoughts and often painful insights that are hopefully as cathartic to Pamela as they are for the audience to watch. 

Pamela: A Love Story brings up vital points about the sustainability of romance, and the fleeting nature of relationships. More importantly, Pamela Anderson fiercely stands behind the way women are disrespected in interviews and in media. The frequently abhorrent torment she faced regarding her body and appearance, over-sexualization, and just plain disrespect granted during public appearances is disgusting to behold. In the wake of that sex tape, the situation grew even worse. Pamela talks of feeling herself become a caricature, and as if that was all she could do to stay relevant at that point. She had to shrug off revolting comments, embrace her femininity, and constantly field questions about her breasts and sexuality. No woman should ever have to endure this level of microscopic dissection. Judging by how invasive and exploitative Pamela’s day-to-day experience was, I now fully understand why she did not want to revisit an iota of this pain for any involvement in Pam & Tommy.

Seeing Pamela Anderson’s perspective on nearly every aspect of her career makes Pamela: A Love Story special, particularly for even casual fans of hers. Despite innumerable hardships and incredibly public, hurtful incidents such as miscarriages and domestic disputes, Anderson never gave up. A beautiful segment near the end manages to highlight her 2022 Broadway debut in Chicago, and left me with a smile. Perhaps her story can serve as inspirational for future generations of young women that will refuse to bow down to exploitation, and completely inappropriate lines of questioning. If Pamela Anderson has taught us anything, there is indeed a very vulnerable and beautiful soul underneath that simply wants her privacy—and ultimate peace for her family.

See a different side of her story when Pamela: A Love Story debuts exclusively to Netflix on Tuesday, January 31st.

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