Forget what you think you know about Pamela Anderson.
In an intimate, revealing new Netflix documentary, "Pamela, A Love Story" (streaming as of Jan 31st), the blonde bombshell who dominated headlines and Playboy covers for much of the 90s and 00's, finally gets to share her version of her life in the spotlight.
It's an empowering and tender portrait of a girl from humble beginnings, looking back at her tremendous journey into womanhood and then motherhood, through successes, failures and controversies, as she - now in her mid-50s - attempts to reclaim the narrative of her own life.
You're not alone if the Pamela Anderson in your mind is a frozen snapshot - or a slow-motion jog down the beach - from over 30 years ago. Like many women of the era, the traumatizing personal events of her life became fodder for the tabloids, and punchlines for the late night shows. Pamela Anderson was by all accounts the most beautiful woman in the world, as seen by a world who was never able to quite see anything except what Pamela was showing us on the outside.
She is a person who can be seen as incredibly lucky, who has had a career that many could only dream of. She's also a person whose most personal and private moments were literally stolen from her, who is defined now mostly as that Pamela from the "Pamela & Tommy Lee" sex tape...one of the biggest celebrity sex scandals of all-time, and the event that led to the very first "viral" anything on the budding internet.
Her then-husband, Motley Crue rocker Tommy Lee, came out of the scandal fairly unscathed, at least as far as public perception went...heck, he's a rock star after all. But Pamela was labeled a whore, a skank, or [insert any other derogatory label you can find here]. Her career was ruined. And much of the narrative that followed - that somehow the couple leaked the tape (they didn't), that somehow they've profited from it (they haven't, "not one cent"), or that somehow they were able to navigate and move past it, nearly 30+ years later (Pamela for one, is still deeply traumatized by it and as this doc shows, is hard-pressed to talk in too great of detail about the entire time period).
While "Pamela, A Love Story" of course tackles this whole scandal, it doesn't focus on it. The focus is all on Pamela Anderson, the woman that she is now...a mother of two grown boys (both with Tommy), who just finished a successful run on Broadway. That's right, Pamela Anderson was on Broadway, and played to incredibly positive reviews.
She appears on camera in this film without any makeup, with her hair tossed back and appearing more comfortable in her skin than we've ever seen her before. If anything, Pamela Anderson ditches the "ditzy blonde" label she had carried throughout her young career, and is a hopeless romantic, if anything else (that might explain the five times she has been married, each leading to personal growth).
She's never watched "the tape" and she also had nothing to do with the recent "Pam & Tommy" series that recently played on Hulu (when one of her sons mentions that he watched the first few episodes out of curiosity, she is overcome with pain and visibly shaken at even the thought of reliving the entire nightmare).
Pamela looks back at her life not in defiance or with any deep regret, but more with a sense of wonderment, that the awkward, brown-haired little girl from Canada had managed to live this whirlwind life. And the movie is also, by the way, not a memorial...as much as it looks back, it looks forward, and if we've learned anything at all from Pamela Anderson's journey, it's that she is full of surprises and capable of pretty much anything.
It's impossible too, for the viewer not to get caught up in the whirlwind that is Pamela Anderson. After all this time, she gets to set the record straight. And "Pamela, A Love Story" also is a reminder to the audience not to be so quick to judge a book by its cover...a lesson that is dripping with irony if you consider that it comes from a woman who was known for existing on the cover.
Run Time: 1 hour 52 minutes.
Directed by Ryan White ("Good Night Oppy," "Ask Dr Ruth," "Serena").
"Pamela, A Love Story" is available to stream on Netflix on Tuesday, January 31st, 2023.
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