Sebastian Stan was on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night ahead of the premiere of Pam & Tommy, the first three episodes are now available on Hulu in the US and on Disney+ in Canada so if you can’t get enough of the 90s, with Yellowjackets and the Super Bowl halftime show featuring mostly artists that came on the scene in the 90s, all the 90s fashion making a comeback, here’s the limited series about one of the biggest celebrity scandal of the 90s, with one of the most infamous celebrity couples of all time back in the spotlight.
I can’t lie, I’ve been waiting to watch this for a while and this is probably what I’ll be doing tonight, even though, well, probably I’m not alone in feeling conflicted about it because while Tommy Lee is said to be “excited” about the show, Pamela Anderson did not participate or approve of the production. The series is based on Rolling Stone’s Untold Story about the Pam and Tommy sex tape from 2014. Creatives involved with Pam & Tommy, from the producers to Lily James who plays Pam, tried to connect with her without response. This happened in the 90s, after all. And the sex tape did irrevocable damage to her career and reputation. It's probably not a time in her life she wants to revisit.
Producers insist, however, that the series is largely empathetic to Pam’s experience, that all these years later, as we reflect on past cultural behaviours and interrogate the social norms and prejudices that shaped cultural attitudes back then, it’s a worthwhile conversation to have now, through a more progressive lens. Not unlike what the Free Britney movement and Framing Britney Spears did for Britney.
For Pam though, given the potential popularity of this series – the story is irresistible, it literally has everything: beautiful people, fame, sex, scandal, crime, high-cut swimsuits, pencil-thin eyebrows and lots of lipliner – it will mean that she’ll be the center of the culture again, whether she likes it or not. Probably not.
Is it fair to tell her story even though she doesn’t seem to want anyone to be talking about the story anymore? And even though the story will be firmly on her side? What’s complicated about this is that this is of course Pam’s story but then it became more than just her story, especially in terms of what it has to say about misogyny, and also considering what happened after, not just to her but with sex tapes in general and the ongoing and evolving conversation in our culture about women, their sexual agency, and equality – at least that’s how the filmmakers are framing it.
But what’s the value of delayed vindication? For Pam it certainly doesn’t rewrite what she had to endure 25 years ago. And while some may still find relief in eventually being understood after being misunderstood for so long, that may not what Pam considers a just reward. It could be, though? No one knows. She’s not talking.
So it’s also possible that she, who we know now has always been underestimated, is being strategically silent. She tried to tell them back then what would happen to her and she was right. If the story unfolds the way it’s promised it will, there are more than enough people who will be on her crusade. The think-pieces that will be inevitably coming about Pam and Tommy are not going to be focused on what Pam and Tommy did on their honeymoon, but about how Pam was treated in the aftermath. That may be another bitter irony that comes out of this – she’s only heard when other people speak for her.
Also attached - Lily James arriving at Kimmel last night.