Violated: How Hulu’s ‘Pam and Tommy’ misses the mark



Actress Lily James portrays Pamela Anderson in the Feb 2022 mini series “Pam and Tommy.”

Hulu’s controversial new docudrama, “Pam & Tommy,” has sparked lively debate since it began streaming in early February.

“The greatest love story ever sold,” brags the tagline of the eight-episode miniseries.

The series, based on the 2014 Rolling Stone article “Pam and Tommy: the Untold Story of the World’s Most Infamous Sex Tape,” follows Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan), and the havoc wreaked on their lives and relationship following the leak of their intimate honeymoon tapes in 1995.

With a masterful use of prosthetics, an all-star cast, a killer soundtrack, and a boatload of ‘90s nostalgia, “Pam & Tommy” is as flashy and glamorous as its titular duo. Yet, the highly anticipated series has a dark side.

The series aims to highlight the exploitative and invasive nature of the notorious ‘90s media scandal. But in a paradoxical twist, it was made without the real Pamela Anderson’s permission.

After many unsuccessful attempts to reach Anderson, producers moved forward with the series without her consent.

Rob Seigel, a showrunner for the series, argued in favor of proceeding with the show without Anderson.

“The show is very much on, I think if you had to name one person with whom the show’s sympathies lie, it’s Pam,” Siegel told Entertainment Weekly.

Siegel, along with other members of the show’s production team, argued that creating the show without Anderson’s involvement could give it a more objective standpoint.

“I was shocked by how many people assumed that [Anderson and Lee] were in on it, which is something I’m happy that we were able to set the record straight about,” Siegel said. “We very clearly, unambiguously present them as victims of a crime, which they were.”

This may be a fair reason to continue with the series. Younger generations born into a post-tape world may fail to grasp that this was the first ever celebrity sex-tape scandal, and a large portion of the public falsely assumed Anderson and Lee had leaked and sold the tape themselves.

But whose decision should it be to “set the record straight”? Should it lie in the hands of a team of people hoping to make a hit drama, or the hands of the woman whose life was completely turned upside-down? Should it lie in the hands of high-level Hollywood producers hoping to make a fortune, or the hands of a woman who was harassed by the public for years, whose legacy and life will forever be tainted by a video tape that was never supposed to leave the safe in her home?

Upon watching the show, it quickly became apparent to me that, despite what Rob Seigel may claim, the show’s sympathies did not lie entirely with Pamela Anderson.

In fact, I would argue that the show took quite a sympathetic stance with Rand Gauthier, the carpenter fired by Lee who stole and leaked the tape. Played by the widely-adored Seth Rogan, Gautheir was portrayed to be a working-class victim seeking vengeance on Lee.

Although the show is thoroughly entertaining, with lavish production design and action-packed episodes, it does not live up to what it claimed to be. For a show that was meant to “unambiguously” present Anderson and Lee as “victims of a crime,” it places heavy emphasis on Lee’s reckless and arrogant disposition, and treats Anderson as a two-dimensional counterpart, with significantly less plotline and personality than Rogan’s Rand Gauthier.

Following the release of the series, Anderson broke her silence, saying she felt “violated” by the show, according to Buzzfeed News.

Anderson’s inner circle confirmed her opposition to the series, saying Anderson has found “Pam & Tommy” to be “very painful for [her] and everyone that loves her,” according to Entertainment Tonight.

Lee, on the other hand, has given the show an enthusiastic stamp of approval, telling Entertainment Tonight that “I know Sebastian [Stan], he’s playing me. From what he’s told me, [it’s a] really beautiful story.”

Clips of the show represent Anderson’s reaction to the tape as hysterical, while Lee struggles to understand why her reaction is so extreme. This is accurate to how it occurred back in 1995, an anonymous source close to Lee told Entertainment Tonight.

“It’s a sentiment the rock star still shares [to] this day, according to the source,” Entertainment Tonight reported.

Lee and Anderson’s clashing reactions to the show are a powerful testament to the underlying message: Lee, along with the creators of “Pam & Tommy,” refuse Anderson the sympathy she is owed. Nearly 30 years after the scandal, the media continues to fail and misrepresent Anderson.

Anderson plans to set the record straight in her own way. In a post on her Instagram one month following the pilot episode of “Pam & Tommy,” Anderson announced her upcoming Netflix documentary in a handwritten note which reads she is “not a victim, but a survivor… alive to tell the real story.”

The verdict is: although beautifully designed and shot, “Pam & Tommy” is ultimately an extreme case of popular media exploiting a woman’s trauma, forcing her to relive her darkest moments.