By Michele Yeo
If we’ve learned anything since early 2020 it’s to expect the unexpected and that anything, no matter how outrageous, is possible. Even then, most of us probably did not have “Pamela Anderson Comeback” on our 2023 bingo cards. Yet, here we are and I, for one, am totally here for it.
For those not of a certain age, it’s difficult to explain the phenomenon that was Pamela Anderson in the ’90s. Her fame, and eventual infamy, was simply stratospheric. After notably being discovered on the jumbotron at a BC Lions game, Pam was recruited by Playboy magazine and her 1989 cover lead to her being cast in the series Baywatch. While the show wasn’t exactly known for its intricate plotlines and Emmy award-winning acting, it did go on to become one of the most-watched programs around the world thanks, in large part, to the allure and magnetism of Pamela. The show propelled her to global superstardom and throughout the 90s she would grace the cover of Playboy nine more times – her issues going on to be some of the magazine’s best-selling. Pam was the ultimate It Girl, an over-the-top blonde Barbie doll bombshell whose impossibly unattainable body kept plastic surgeons in business with countless women willing to go under the knife to get the Pamela look and measurements. When she notoriously married Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee on the beach clad in a white bikini after a whirlwind weekend romance, tabloids and entertainment outlets were in headline heaven.
But things soon went to hell for Pamela. Private tapes featuring her and Tommy in flagrante delicto – aka what appeared to be some pretty fun and satisfying newlywed sex – were stolen from their home safe, supercut together, and released to the masses without their knowledge or permission. Rather than being seen as what she truly was: a victim of what we’ve now come to refer to as “revenge porn” Pamela, who was never really taken all that seriously to begin with, became even more of a punchline with late night hosts like Jay Leno regularly taking jabs at her. While Tommy was praised for his uhm, impressive appendage, Pam was painted as some kind of slut for *checks notes* having sex with…her husband. The accepted narrative seemed to be that because Pamela had appeared nude in Playboy and because she flaunted her ample and surgically-enhanced assets, that having her private and intimate moments become public wasn’t truly a violation. Very little, if any, dialogue at the time was devoted to the concept of consent. While Pamela consented to posing nude she did not consent to the theft and release of her private property. No, Pam was too sexy, too cheeky, too exposed, and certainly not “pure” enough to be seen as a legitimate victim. After launching and ultimately dropping a lawsuit against one of the distributors of the sex tape, Pamela seemingly resigned herself to playing the role that was assigned to her: a dumb, oversexed blonde bimbo unworthy of our empathy or our respect. After all, if you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em, right? And if people refuse to see you in any other light, you might as well profit from being pigeonholed. She especially leaned into the public image with her cringeworthy 2005 Comedy Central Roast before ultimately ducking out from under the spotlight and seeking a quieter life with her two sons.
In recent years we’ve been looking back and re-examining how many female celebrities were treated by the media in the ’90s and 2000s and rightfully so, feeling embarrassed and ashamed at the misogyny (both external and internal) of it all. A prime example being the many documentaries and think pieces dedicated to what we now recognize as the mistreatment of Britney Spears. And now, finally, after decades of being undervalued, underheard, underrated, and, most notably, underestimated, it’s time for Pamela Anderson’s reckoning, time for her to have a new day in the court of public opinion, a public now more wise or, for lack of a better term, more “woke” about the lens through which we viewed her, and women like her, for all those years. With the simultaneous release of hernew Netflix documentary Pamela, A Love Story, and her autobiography Love Pamela, Pam is taking back the narrative and reclaiming her life story. It’s great timing after last year’s heavily marketed Hulu miniseries Pam and Tommy was released, much like her infamous sex tape, without her consultation or consent.
In both her documentary and her book, Pamela comes off as someone introspective and self-aware, someone who has survived extreme trauma, including childhood sex abuse and adolescent rape, someone who Hollywood built up, tore down and ultimately chewed up and spit out but who isn’t bitter or angry even if she deserves to be. Pamela Anderson may be owed a massive apology but you get the impression she’s doing just fine without one – forging ahead and finding herself as a woman now in her 50s. She takes ownership of past mistakes, including six short-lived marriages, telling the documentary, “I’m not the damsel in distress…I’m very capable…I’ve put myself in crazy situations and survived them.” Her sons, now grown men, seem grounded, dote on her, and are a testament to her as a mother. Eldest son Brandon even acted as a producer on the Netflix doc, eager for people to finally see his mother in what he says is her true light.
Yes, we did Pamela dirty with the disrespect, the disdain, and the dismissal of her as nothing more than a blonde with big boobs and a small brain. And for what? Pamela never tried to hurt anyone, was never a villain. So now, as Pamela commits the ultimate crime for any sex symbol – getting older, it’s wonderful to see her having this second act. In addition to her documentary, book, and last year’s well-received turn on Broadway as Roxie Hart in Chicago, Pam has also signed on to an upcoming Food Network Canada series Pamela’s Cooking With Love, and her HGTV Canada series Pamela’s Garden of Eden, which followed along as she renovated her grandmother’s property on Vancouver Island, has just been renewed. Season two will see her in LA helping son Brandon renovate his new home. It’s a comeback few saw coming but I’m here for the Pamela Andersonaissance. Take my money, Pam. After all, she didn’t make as much of it from Baywatch as you may think (according to her son, only four thousand dollars a year in residuals) and zero of it from her stolen sex tape or the Hulu series. In 2023 it’s time for Pamela Anderson to not only collect her flowers but also, her cheque.