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Photo provided by @pamandtommyonhulu via Instagram.

TV Review: ‘Pam and Tommy’ misses its own point, takes Pam’s agency a second time

It’s hard to believe that in 2022, years after the emergence of the #MeToo movement, there would be a show that not only glorifies an abusive relationship but does so without the consent of the real-life survivor of said relationship. 

Enter Hulu’s Pam and Tommy, that, no matter how good the intentions, completely misses its mark.

Pam and Tommy is an eight-episode series that follows actress and model Pamela Anderson and Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee and the whirlwind marriage, pregnancy and sex tape scandal that enveloped the two. Played by Lily James and Sebastian Stan, respectively, Pam and Tommy shows the start of their relationship, how they got together, their marriage, the creation of their sex tape and how the tape was stolen and distributed. More than anything, though, it shows how Pam was impacted by the distribution of the tape. 

For those unaware, this story happened in real life with Pam and Tommy. Their safe was stolen and in it was the sex tape they made solely for themselves. The tape was then distributed by the burglar, Rand Gauthier, played in the show by Seth Rogen. Eventually, people created bootlegs of the tape and continued to throw it on websites, selling in front of video stores and even, as the show depicts, publishing stills in Penthouse magazine under the guise of “first amendment rights.”

Of course there are good technical aspects to this series. The makeup, created by David Williams and Jason Collins, is phenomenal. The tattoo work on Stan’s body for Tommy is also so well-done, and the prosthetics on James completely transform her into a spot-on Pam. It’s absolutely incredible to see their transformations. 

Similarly, the set designs, done by Ethan Tobman and David Batchelor, and costume designs, done by Kameron Lennox, completely throw the audience into the '90s California aesthetic. The production elements of this show, from recreating the set of Baywatch and the Playboy Mansion to each outrageous outfit sported by Tommy, are all to be praised. 

But out of all these praise points, the acting from the cast is by far the best. Stan’s unhinged, cocky performance as Tommy and James’ sweet, solemn and strong performance as Pam is perfectly matched. They’re incredible together and are met with equally powerful performances from Rogen and Taylor Schilling. 

However, the overall story and how the relationship is depicted are incredibly hypocritical and misleading, especially when the tagline for the show itself is "The Greatest Love Story Ever Sold.”

The first major problem is the idea that Pam and Tommy had this whirlwind time when they first met taking drugs and falling in love. The truth of the matter is, Pam asked Tommy to leave her alone, and he stalked her until she said yes. Though this is true, it’s framed in the show as incredibly sweet and loving, rather than the reality as creepy and abusive. 

There were a lot of abusive incidents that were never explicitly told to the public, but Tommy was known to be controlling of Pam. Additionally and most well-known, Pam filed for divorce from Tommy after he hit her while she was holding their two-month-old son. The fact that the show advertised and depicted the mostly great parts of the relationship between the two was extremely misleading to the audience. Even I, with all of the knowledge and research about the nature of their relationship, found myself smiling at how adorable the two were, and then having to wipe it away when I remembered the truth. 

But the true reason Pam and Tommy is a huge miss is because of the hypocritical nature of the show’s content. Essentially, the show tries to act as a catalyst for conversation regarding women's rights and how Pamela was stomped over in every part of this case: from having the tape stolen to the decisions made regarding how to handle it, and even in her deposition where she was effectively slut shamed for having her private property stolen and exploited.

There are many moments in the script where it’s clear that the writers and directors are trying to get the audience to think about how women who are open with their bodies and sexuality are often shamed by the media. The intent here is good, and it shows how women have their agency taken away and how screwed up the system can be in that regard.

However, Pam and Tommy was filmed without consultation or consent from the real Pamela Anderson. It’s a sickening parallel: Pamela had her agency taken away when she had the tape stolen, and now is having her agency taken away again by mostly male creatives showing her story, their way.

The hypocrisy of Pam’s agency being stolen again through the act of trying to showcase how she was a survivor of this tumultuous situation essentially negates any good intentions of the show. Though Pam and Tommy is beautifully shot, designed and performed, it has too many flaws within the meaning of the show to make it an actual act of feminism. To no fault of James, Stan, Rogen and the other actors, Pam and Tommy is a huge miss.


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