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(Review) Pamela, a love story

There was a stretch from about 1989-1997 when Pamela Anderson seemed to be everywhere.  It started with her 1989 debut in Playboy, built some momentum with her appearance on Home Improvement, and then her career exploded as lifeguard C.J. Parker on Baywatch.  She was a regular guest on talk shows and the constant focus of the tabloids.  Her career was eventually derailed with the release of the stolen sex tape featuring her and ex-husband Tommy Lee in 1995.  After that, she seemed to largely fall off the radar, except for her string of high-profile husbands, and her support of the animal rights group, PETA.

In some ways, it felt like the media gave away every detail of her life to the public, but really, we knew almost nothing about Anderson.   She was portrayed as a cartoonish sexy blonde bombshell who always lived life on the edge, was a sucker for "bad boys," and didn't really bring much else to the story.  It was an incomplete and unfair presentation.  Now, Anderson is reclaiming her persnal narrative with the new Netflix documentary, Pamela, a love story. 

Directed by Ryan White, Pamela, a love story gives the actress the opportunity to finally tell her story in her own words.  She reveals that she was a shy young girl who was sexually abused by a babysitter for years and also raped by a 25-year-old man when she was 12 years old.  The lifelong impact that these traumas had on her is clear throughout the rest of the documentary.  It's also clear she was affected as a child by her parents' violent marriage.  These disclosures provide a clearer framework through which to view her career and personal life.

Anderson talks about how the invitation to pose for Playboy allowed her both the opportunity to escape her small town in British Columbia, as well as offered a chance to escape her shyness and take chances.   She saw it as empowering.  We're given a quick review of some of the men she has been romantically involved with over the years.  Many of them sound like awful, insecure, and controlling creeps.  Anderson walks this a line during the documentary between acknowledging some of their misdeeds, but also rationalizing her and/or their behavior during that time.

(While not discussed in this documentary,  a recent example is that Anderson's new memoir says Tim Allen exposed himself to her while she worked on Home Improvement.  Allen denies that the incident ever took place, but Anderson has also since covered for him, saying it was his job to push boundaries.)

She admits she has a tendency to romanticize the past, and it feels obvious that her childhood damaged her sense of what constitutes real love.  This may be further impacted by the fact that her parents are still together.  It seems she considers herself a failure for not being able to make it work with Tommy Lee, despite his abuse.  One has to wonder if that's influenced by her mom staying with her dad.

As far as her career goes, we see a woman who wants to be taken seriously, but she instead endured countless questions about her body, and you see her trying to laugh off these completely inappropriate inquiries.  (It's especially unsettling to watch the clips of old Matt Lauer interviews, given his recent scandals.)  The world saw her as a piece of meat whose feelings didn't matter one iota.

Of course there's also extensive discussion of the infamous sex tape.  Anderson and Tommy Lee said the tape was stolen out of a safe, and that it was never intended to go public.  She insists they never made a dime off of it.  Given that this was the early days of the Internet, the couple's concern at the time was how many copies of the tape had been sold.  Immediate worldwide distribution never occurred to them.  It was a gross invasion of privacy, but no one in the courts seemed to think she had any rights, because she had appeared in Playboy after all.  Anderson also knew at the time it would harm her career much more than hard rocker Lee's.

The documentary looks at her decades of work with PETA.  Anderson says she has always trusted animals more than people, and she sees her work for PETA as a chance to have a lasting legacy beyond everything bombshell-related.  When she speaks, you can see the little girl from British Columbia who just wants to be seen by the world.  More power to her.

Finally, there's a look at Anderson taking on a limited run in Chicago on Broadway last year.  She said she did it for herself, and that she was excited to take on an unexpected project like that.  It seems she did well and enjoyed the experience, so who knows what she'll tackle next.

Pamela, a love story, is an engaging documentary that achieves its goal.  It makes Pamela Anderson feel like a real person, and not just a model or a caricature of a "wild child."  She seems sad about her life at times, but also she's also proud of everything she's been through and survived.  She deserved this chance to reclaim her life, and hopefully she feels like she succeeded.


Pamela Anderson Pamela a love storyPamela Anderson fights back in her new documentary.  (pic via





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