Pamela, a love story review: Netflix documentary sees Pam Anderson reclaim the narrative of her own story

The former Playboy model and Baywatch actress shares a vulnerable and honest account of her life in this this revealing documentary

Pamela: A Love Story gives Pamela Anderson the opportunity to eloquently reclaim the narrative of the one incident that has haunted her and her family - that infamous sex tape.

Directed by Ryan White (Serena) and produced by her eldest son, Brandon Thomas Lee, the film offers viewers an intimate insight into her life through diaries and journals, read by the Baywatch actress herself.

The film begins with Anderson in her hometown of Ladysmith, British Colombia, which she describes as “a nutty place”. The former Playboy model is rooting through boxes upon boxes of papers, letters, cassettes, videos and DVDs, all which contain fleeting glimpses from segments of her unconventional life. Wearing a baggy dress and forgoing makeup, she leads the documentary team through her treasure trove as we travel back in time to learn where it all began.

Pamela Anderson in Pamela, a love story (Photo: Netflix)
Pamela Anderson in Pamela, a love story (Photo: Netflix)
Pamela Anderson in Pamela, a love story (Photo: Netflix)

Anderson had a tumultuous upbringing, with an alcoholic father who was dubbed “the bad boy of Ladysmith” who would have explosive fights with her mother. She recalls being sexually abused as a child by her babysitter and later recounts being raped at 12-years-old. After finishing high school, she decided to get off the Island and move to Vancouver, where she was spotted at a football game, making her a model overnight and launching her career on the front page of Playboy.

Her diaries give an intimate portrait of how self-conscious she felt at the time, describing herself as “average” compared to the other Playboy models and feeling both “blessed and embarrassed at the same time”. However she shares that once she started modelling she finally felt she was reclaiming her sexuality.

Anderson comes across as articulate and strong willed, with her family playing a huge role in her life. Her sons feature heavily in the documentary, along with stories and footage of her ex-husband Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee. The couple had a whirlwind romance, marrying just four days after meeting each other. It ended after three years, with Lee being sentenced to six months in prison for spousal abuse and child abuse after he kicked Anderson whilst she was holding their seven week old son, Dylan.

The infamous sex tape and the effect it had on her, their marriage and children is discussed at length, along with the controversial Hulu series Pam & Tommy which dramatised the events, without Anderson’s consent.

The incident happened in 1996, the couple had been getting work done at their home at the time and realised their safe had been stolen from the garage, they filed a police report and thought nothing of it. It was only when a video was mailed to them containing intimate footage from their honeymoon at Lake Mead that they realised the consequences of the theft.

Anderson reveals her and Lee were offered $5 million to sell the rights to the video, but opted not to, instead fighting it out in the courts, only to learn from her lawyers that she didn’t have a right to privacy due to her history as a Playboy model.

Pamela and her son Brandon Thomas Lee watch home video footage (Photo: Netflix)
Pamela and her son Brandon Thomas Lee watch home video footage (Photo: Netflix)
Pamela and her son Brandon Thomas Lee watch home video footage (Photo: Netflix)

Anderson’s career took a hit after the tape was released, with the actress revealing: “I knew at that point my career was over.” The documentary gives a scathing portayal of the misogynastic media coverage, featuring scenes of comedians using her as a punchline and interviews with Matt Lauer and Larry King where she is asked invasive questions about her breasts.

This documentary is Anderson telling her truth, after living decades defined by something she had no control over, she has reclaimed the narrative, in the same way she feels she reclaimed her sexuality by posing for Playboy. Her story of celebrity exploitation is nothing new, but what this documentary does is help you understand the person behind the public projection. It strips away the layers of the media caricature. Anderson is nothing like she’s been potrayed as, and finally now, at the age of 55, she’s getting to show the world the real her.

Pamela: A Love Story is available to stream on Netflix now.

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