Pamela Anderson in Pamela, a love story © Netflix
1. Pamela Anderson suffered from her sex symbol image
“I didn’t know how to lie in interviews. When I was asked if I had plastic surgery, I answered and that’s how it all started. My boobs had a career, I was just part of the package.” This is how actress Pamela Anderson shares her story without filter in a documentary directed by Ryan White (The Keepers) and released on Netflix on January 31, 2023. Entitled Pamela, a love story, the almost two-hour-long film documented with archival footages, diary readings, and interviews, is a way for the bombshell who sported the famous red swimming in Baywatch (1989-2001) to take back control of her own narrative. Indeed, she who suffered from not being taken seriously as an actress and felt humiliated by the release of the Disney+ series Pam & Tommy (2022) focusing on her sex tape, no longer wants to be seen as a sexual object. Like Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, and Janet Jackson before her – all three were the topic of a documentary about the misogynistic (and deeply sexualized) media treatment they have received – the star sets the record straight and shares her greatest wounds.
“I always hoped that I would do something that would interest people and that they would stop focusing on my body.” But despite her activism regarding animals’ rights, her keen interest in Proust and Walt Whitman, and her film appearances (Barb Wire, Scooby-Doo, Scary Movie 3,
Borat...), she has always been asked about her breasts and surgical interventions throughout her career. Pamela Anderson explains that she had found it difficult to break free from the cartoonish caricature of the sexualized object popularized by the media. Through her commitment to animals, she will eventually show another side of her personality and use her celebrity for useful purposes.
The trailer of Pamela, a love story (2023), a Netflix documentary
2. Pamela Anderson’s difficult childhood
The former playmate has exposed her body many times throughout her career. But in Pamela, a love story, she now lays her soul and painful past bare. To emphasize this emotional “exposure”, Pamela Anderson, 55, stands in from of the camera without any make-up, wearing a simple virginal dress. And the confessions of the woman who grew up in Canada, raised into a modest family by an alcoholic and violent father, are heartbreaking. The star recalls her babysitter sexually abusing her when she was a child. “My parents thought she was a great babysitter because she brought presents all the time, but she was molesting me. It was like two or three years of abuse. She would ask me not to say anything. When those traumatic moments would happen, I would leave my body and float away in my own little world. I was digging a hole to China, thinking ‘I hate this. I want to get out of here.’ I just thought I had to get off the island [namely Vancouver Island in Canada, ed.]”.
The actress also talks about that one time when she tried to kill her abuser in a desperate move, for fear of her molesting her brother. The little girl tried to “stab her in the heart with a pen. Then, I told her I wanted her to die, and she died in a car accident the next day.” Pamela Anderson would later feel guilty about wishing her death, seeing the fulfilment of her wishes as a magical act, almost as witchcraft. Another harrowing moment in the Netflix documentary is the one in which the actress recounts having been raped by a 25-year- old man when she was 12. The heroine of Baywatch also explains that her first sexy photoshoots for Playboy in 1989 allowed her to feel more powerful, freer, and to get rid of her complexes and sense of shame after the abuses.
3. She has only had one true love – and it is neither Adil Rami nor Kelly Slater
Sylvester Stallone once offered her “a condo and a Porsche to be his number one girl”, and countless other husbands and boyfriends – actor David Charvet, footballer Adil Rami and surfer Kelly Slater – went out of their way for her. Yet, Pamela Anderson refers to rocker Tommy Lee as the one and only love of her life. She married him a few days after a trip to Cancún and had two children with him. But their relationship was marred by her husband’s violence, anger, addictions, and obsessive jealousy. In the documentary, the actress talks about how Tommy Lee lost his temper after she kissed an actor in Baywatch. The sex tape affair didn’t help either. The stolen VHS and the video of their lovemaking posted on the Internet without the two stars’ consent traumatized Pamela Anderson and the slut-shaming campaign slowed down her career. “I blocked that out of my life. I had to in order to survive, really. Now that it’s all coming up again, I feel sick from my whole stomach,” the star confides about the series Pam & Tommy released on Disney+ in 2022. In this new Netflix documentary, Pamela Anderson appears sincere, funny, romantic, and often moving, and unveils her very naive spirit hidden behind the media doll. However, the documentary leaves a bitter taste as it recounts the woes and disenchantments of a celebrity who hasn’t really been able to break free from the cycle of toxic relationships and abuse – just like Marilyn Monroe, and many other women before her.
Pamela, a love story (2023) by Ryan White, available on Netflix on January 31st.