“The righteous, they get rewarded. The wicked, they get punished.”
What Rand, the bad guy of the story, says in one of the first episodes of the show perfectly sums up the entire plot of the Pam & Tommy series phenomenon. The project started in 2018, but it was only in 2020 that Hulu finally announced the cast. The news led to both anticipation and criticism; mostly because Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee decided to stay silent and not engage in the project. Starring Lily James (Pamela Anderson), Marvel’s Sebastian Stan (Tommy Lee), Seth Rogen, Taylor Schilling and Nick Offerman, the show premiered on Disney+ in February 2, 2022.
A sex tape and other misfortunes
Pam & Tommy is a fictional retelling of the true story of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s turbulent love, started with a hasty marriage in 1995. And even though the title focuses on the famous Hollywood stars, the real main character of the story is the couple’s honeymoon sex tape.
The carpenter Rand (played by Seth Rogen), passionate about religions and spirituality, is the lead character of the story. After working for Tommy Lee, who refuses to pay him after an altercation, Rand finds a way to balance karma: stealing a safe from Tommy’s garage. Amongst money, guns and jewels lies a private sex tape.
Not only does the couple have to deal with paparazzi, a robbery and efforts to have a baby. They also have to face the reaction of the public as their private sex life is sold on the internet, for the whole world to see.
Pam and Tommy’s love story unfolds through scandals and misfortunes they have no power to stop.
Under the sex scandal
The idea for the eight-episodes biographical drama comes from a famous 2014 article by Rolling Stone’s Amanda Chicago Lewis, “Pam and Tommy: The Untold Story of the World’s Most Infamous Sex Tape”.
Despite the first negative approach to the show, with people thinking it would bring Pamela Anderson under the public eye opening old wounds, the story was eventually well received by both the press and the mainstream public. Its strong 90s aesthetic helped in terms of success.
When it comes to reliability, the production crew for Pam & Tommy worked really hard to make every detail stand out. The show’s aesthetic focused on makeup, hair, and iconic looks for characters to be as close to the real people as possible. As far as for the viewer’s perspective, watching the show doesn’t feel like looking at actors playing characters. The audience experiences facts as they are happening. But Pam & Tommy soon became the perfect opportunity to spark a conversation about very important topics. Consent, revenge porn and how media perceive women whenever they expose their own body.
Different types of victim
In fact, in this story, every character is a victim in a way. Rand, for example, is a thief and a scammer; despite it all, his own partner in crime Miltie will scam him and leave him dealing with debts. And even Tommy has to face double standards while fighting people who mindlessly violate his life and privacy.
But among them, Pamela Anderson stands as the top of the pyramid. Everything happens while she is at the peak of her career, working on the set of the famous 90s show Baywatch. Her job is the main reason why nobody seems to believe her grief. She shows off her skin so she must like people’s attention; even when she does not give her formal consent to it. Not only lawyers and journalists kept taking her down after the scandal occurred, but many from the newborn online porn industry tried to buy her image and her public silence.
Karma is a b*tch!
In the last few years, the narrative focus has consistently shifted toward stories of women told by their point of view. Of those who often go unheard, when it comes to choosing over their bodies or their lives. Whether it is movies, music or art, the conversation is now more vibrant than ever.
However, Pam & Tommy shows the very first case of online revenge porn. It is a true, public and well-known story. It also shows the first renowned case of society blaming the victim to get attention away from the criminal. The one who is guilty will most likely never be caught. And while the series tries to imagine karma striking back at Rand for what he has done, reality is far from a happy ending.
Reclaiming Pam’s voice under the male gaze
Pam & Tommy tried to gave power and a new voice to Pamela Anderson’s trauma. But many from the media thought the project missed the point. The main question is left unanswered. With the question being “Is it possible to inspire a conversation about the relevance of consent when said consent is not received”. In fact, the making of the show never involved neither Pamela Anderson or Tommy Lee.
What the show offers is a male-gaze lens upon the affair; from the creator and producers of Pam & Tommy, up until the choice of telling the story through Randy’s eyes. The victim has no space to reclaim her own voice.
After the show’s release, Pamela Anderson revealed a new project. She will tell her own version of the story in a new Netflix documentary. Many people celebrated the news. Mostly those who criticized Pam & Tommy for selling the sex tape once again, and in a disrespectful and wanna-be funny way.
The same support came from those who got the chance to know the story thanks to the Hulu show. Because the conversation is open, we need more and more valuable voices at the table.