beyond the sex icon

Pamela Anderson knows that, for almost three decades, it was a collective sexual fantasy and that her life was built around the myth of unrealizable desire. She was the girl in the red swimsuit from the hit Baywatch, the image of Playboy, the wife of a musician with an explosive character. She is the woman that generations of men considered the epitome of eroticism, especially after the dissemination of the pornographic video that seemed to sum up the obsession that had surrounded her since adolescence.

In fact, it is the first thing that the documentary Pamela Anderson: A Love Story from Netflix clarifies. Director Ryan White strives to humanize the actress and he does it with simplicity: letting her tell her story. Let her do it on her terms and through the astonishment of finally finding herself far from the media storm that has accompanied her for decades.

The Pamela of the new production of the platform is a woman who takes the time to reflect on her experiences. She does not consider herself a victim, nor is she a hostage to a popularity that she does not believe she deserves. “I became famous without understanding how” she explains with a naivety that she disarms. “However, once it happened, I couldn’t take a step back.”

Pamela Anderson: A Love Story

In the Netflix documentary Pamela Anderson: A Love Story, director Ryan White strives to humanize the actress and does so in an easy way. He lets her tell her story. Let her do it on her terms and through the astonishment of finally finding herself far from the media storm that has accompanied her for decades. La Pamela from the new Netflix production is a woman who takes the time to reflect on her experiences. She does not consider herself a victim, nor is she a hostage to a popularity that she does not believe she deserves.


Score: 4 out of 5.

The journey of a scandalous life

But would Pamela Anderson want to? It is the question that is posed to the subtext of her meticulous journey through her public and private life. Would she have remained in the town of Ladysmith (Canada) to avoid the surprising and uncontrollable celebrity that surrounded her career since her early years?

You’re also treading thorny ground. Would you refuse to participate in an adult photo shoot when you weren’t fully aware of what that might mean? Would she marry musician Tommy Lee, whom she barely knew? Over and over again, the plot allows the actress to reflect on each major event she went through in the midst of turbulent fame. “She would go through it all over again and try not to be so afraid,” she confesses, in a particularly emotional moment.

The documentary, far removed from the exaggerated tone of the Disney+ miniseries Pam & Tommy, shows its protagonist gently. Far from exploiting her image or her circumstances, White achieves a truthful portrait of a woman who questions herself. At the same time, that she is much more aware of her place in the world of entertainment and the need to understand her maturity. “I am ultimately just Pamela,” she explains simply.

With a brilliant script and, in particular, a perspective on Anderson and all the controversial events that surrounded him, White’s feature film is a terrific take on a public figure who was defined by the exaggerated. But the production of Netflix, has the objective of just, going to the other extreme of the tabloid headlines and the condition of the controversy. Instead of being a journey through the obvious, it is a modest narrative about a woman who reflects, in many ways, the celebrity of an era that was beginning to understand the meaning of media overexposure and viral scandal.

Well built on a cinematographic level, it raises questions that are even valid today. With the actress partly removed from the public spotlight, Pamela: A Love Story is good material to explore in her story, with her main protagonist serving as a reliable narrator.

A woman who reflected an entire decade

The most surprising thing about Pamela Anderson: A Love Story is its discreet analysis of a series of scandalous experiences. The actress is part of the recent history of entertainment and perhaps a moment of rupture in a troubled time. As one of the first celebrities she had to legally trade her public image for, she became, almost by accident, the center of a controversy that overwhelmed her.

“Why do they hate me so much?” she remembers wondering, terrified. Tommy Lee, accustomed to excesses and controversy, “made fun of a little” the fear of his wife. In reality, the situation they were both going through was more than an awkward moment in their tumultuous marriage.

The couple struggled to contain the impact of the homemade pornographic video they filmed and which was released without their consent. Back then, the internet was an unfinished space, open to all kinds of legal loopholes and privacy discussions.

A painful journey through a scandalous event

Despite their efforts, the tape immediately became one of the most viewed in adult film history, as it was irresponsibly classified. Public attention turned to the couple, but especially, it pointed to her. Pamela faced criticism, accusations of her “carelessness” and the rancor of conservative groups. “They insulted me on the street, I received hate mail, they accused me of committing depravities,” she says.

It was an unprecedented debate about privacy that Hollywood never confronted, at least from such a point of view. It wasn’t just scandalous material revealing the private lives of two stars. At the same time, they were the possibilities—all fearsome—that opened up around the intimacy of a recognized figure. The tape spread over the internet and went viral like wildfire and was available for download, without the actress or singer being able to do anything to prevent it. By the time they did, the fallout reached levels impossible to contain by legal or public relations means.

Pamela Anderson: A Love Story allows, for the first time, the actress to reflect aloud on what happened. A harrowing confession, about a type of violence that she tries hard to explain, without quite succeeding. For thirty years, she was interpreted, reconstructed and analyzed through press headlines and a painful caricature of her image. Something that she herself recognizes in front of White’s camera. “I didn’t know what was happening. Understanding it afterwards didn’t make it any less hard.”

A woman who faced a hostile environment

One of the most relevant points of the documentary is the way in which it shows the systematic and institutionalized misogyny of Hollywood. Like the actress, she was used as a target for a type of abuse that is rarely pointed out. With a sad face, she recalls the countless times she was invited to interview on radio and television, only to be teased. Also, the dehumanization she suffered as the pornographic video became a phenomenon.

“My body, it wasn’t mine,” he admits with tears in his eyes. A distressing confession for a woman who admits that she loves the nude and considers that sex “is healthy.” Most astonishing, however, is Anderson’s disgust. The anger of the first-person account that, finally, is part of her life. For a woman whose image and identity have been taken away from her, anger is a reaffirmation of her newfound independence. Something that the documentary allows him with a vigor that surprises and moves.

With her hair disheveled, her face bare of makeup and flushed with rage, the model’s image is the symbol of a singular kind of liberation. One that took three decades to arrive. But that, finally, gives the actress a new place in the world of entertainment. One that she forged for herself after a long journey of suffering and silence.

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