Same Ol’ Situation: Pam and Tommy’s Late-Nineties Nightmare

As Hulu’s Pam and Tommy comes to a close with all eight episodes now available to stream, we leave the time machine that Lily James and Sebastian Stan flawlessly sent us through.

History repeats itself, which is why it is no surprise as how the popularity of the biopic Pam & Tommy brought about a shift in trends. Social media app TikTok is flooded with tutorials for Pamela Anderson’s iconic messy updo and smokey eye look. “Be My Lover” by La Bouche is trending because of the couple’s first meeting in a Los Angeles nightclub. The nineties are back, for better or for worse.

Despite this fun nineties renaissance being shown in social media, we have to consider the dark theme behind the limited series. The show models one of the very first examples of the evils that come with the modern internet: invasion of privacy. Rand Gauthier’s infamous karmic robbery of the Anderson-Lee home involved stealing a safe filled with personal items, including the A-Listers’ homemade sex tape. In a frenzy of revenge, Gauthier sold the tape to a pornography company and copies were bought by consumers of all kind from all over the world. This new Hulu series follows the scandal that rocked the actress and musician’s world – and in their first year of marriage. 

It is important to note that the Baywatch alum was opposed to the development of this series, as she considers the sex tape scandal to be one of the darkest points in her life. In accordance with the same misogynistic culture of that time that shunned Monica Lewinsky, Anderson suffered from constant negative media exposure and late night comedians making jokes about her appearance in the tape. With previous work in Playboy magazine and her standard Baywatch uniform of a low-cut one-piece bathing suit, Anderson had grown far too used to misogynistic objectification, and was preparing to be seen in a new light as an actress with the release of her 1996 film, Barb Wire. The release of the tape shattered her social image, while bringing praise to Tommy Lee from the men who were attracted to the Mötley Crüe drummer’s wife.

Their opposing media feedback, even in the wild days without platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, showed just how much of man’s world we really live in; one where a man is celebrated for achieving such intimacy with a woman, while the woman is berated, her reputation being destroyed for the same thing. In the fourth episode of this show, Pam tells Tommy, “They will be high-fiving you on the street. Me, I’m gonna get looked on like a slut to the rest of the world.”

This negative culture of exploitation has continued throughout the years, with many A-List celebrities finding themselves in similar exploitative situations with the rise of cellphones. In 2014, a large hacking operation revealed nude photographs of Hunger Games actress Jennifer Lawrence. In a recent interview she said, “my trauma will exist forever.” The humiliation of vulnerable content being released is not new, and will continue on for as long as the internet allows it to surface. Recently, a new stand has been taken on this content, with former Disney star Bella Thorne posting her own nude content when she became a victim of this hacking. By doing this, she took a stand by beating them to it and preventing the hackers from profiting. After Rand Gauthier stole the Anderson-Lee sex tape and sold it to Seth Warshavsky’s Internet Entertainment Group, the video grossed $77 million – the couple receiving none of it. 

Despite the negative themes behind the series, Tommy Lee was reportedly thrilled to be the inspiration for a biopic. The Girls, Girls, Girls drummer spoke with Sebastian Stan, allowing him to introduce himself. Then in an interview, he told the world that he was excited to see what Stan does to act as him in a biographical manner. On the other hand, Pamela Anderson reportedly declined any calls from the creators of the series and refused to speak with her on screen counterpart, Lily James. James said, “My sole intention was to take care of the story and to play Pamela authentically.” Despite her good intentions in playing the role, Anderson seemed to simply not want the story played out once again for the media and free world. She has plans for an upcoming Netflix film, though, and both she and the streaming service giant confirmed this in a joint statement on Instagram on March 2, saying she will be telling her own side of the story. With Anderson’s name trending from the series she vehemently opposed, could this be a chance at redemption? 

While personal and historical discomfort arose from Hulu’s Pam & Tommy, we must note how the transformations of Lily James and Sebastian Stan were like no other; down to their appearances, their voices, and their mannerisms. The performances were absolutely breathtaking, story context aside, and the resurrection of trends from this era that the show’s looks have brought on are not surprising. Aside from these iconic hair, makeup, and costuming, the show has shown viewers the serious implications of exploitation and the dangers of the internet’s hold on content – appropriate or otherwise. Unfortunately, as Anderson most likely saw coming, since the show’s production, the original sex tape have resurfaced. With reposted clips popping up online and views rolling in once again, the show has brought popularity back to the video that, in turn, brought so much pain.

If planning on tuning into the limited series that is Pam & Tommy, you should watch with admiration for the biopic’s production, consciousness of the dangers that revenge porn causes, and respect for the wishes of the famous subjects – even three decades later.