Opinion: Does it matter that Pamela Anderson didn’t endorse ‘Pam & Tommy’?
From Janet Jackson to Britney Spears, celebrities are reclaiming their own narratives, writes Hanna Flint. But how do we consider work not approved by the person it portrays? Paging Kanye West…
Friday 11 February 2022 By Hanna Flint
We’re in cultural reckoning right now. No, not that one. #MeToo is still happening, lads. What I mean is, there is currently a reckoning going on, a review, a reappraisal, as it were, of an increasing number of female artists who were unfairly maligned during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. In the cold light of 2022, it’s certainly wince-inducing to be so viscerally reminded of the awful treatment some of the world’s biggest female stars were met with.
The #FreeBritney fan movement really put a spotlight on the indentured servitude – yes, I said it – she was forced into by her father, masquerading as a conservatorship. Now, through recent documentaries, it’s plain to see just how much unchecked sexism and misogyny in the press, in the music industry, and public contributed to her 13-year ordeal. Cara Cunningham was right; we should have left Britney alone.
Before Spears, there was Tammy Faye Messner. Someone who, probably, no one had heard of outside the US, but apparently received a disproportionate amount of the backlash over their fraudulent misdeeds spearheaded by her disgraced televangelist ex-husband, Jim Bakker. Jessica Chastain just earned an Oscar nomination for playing the makeup-heavy evangelical singer in The Eyes Of Tammy Faye which, like I, Tonya, is a redemption biopic.
And who can forget the story of actor Sean Young? She went from hero to zero after accusations of being ‘difficult’ became Hollywood gospel. With the rerelease of some of her classic movies, like Blade Runner and Dune in recent years, she’s been given a platform to share her side in big publications, and I can remember the candid chat we had last year for Empire magazine. I’ll never forget what she said the experience taught her. ‘You have to learn to shut your mouth,’ Young said. ‘That’s the price you pay as a woman.’
It broke my heart just a little bit. Maybe that was the cost then, but thank the Goddess women like Janet Jackson and Sinead O’Connor are no longer willing to pay it now. They’ve taken back control of their narratives, made their own factual films and series after their respective, critically acclaimed careers imploded over a nipple and the Pope. Justice for Janet. Sinead was right.
But what happens when well-intentioned people try to expose a historic injustice against a female celebrity without their consent? That’s the tricky circumstances the creators and stars of Pam & Tommy find themselves in. According to reports, Pamela Anderson did not give her blessing for the series about the 1990s sex tape scandal that saw her vilified as a slut and her then-husband, Tommy Lee, lauded as a well-endowed hero for bedding the babe from Baywatch.
This is not to say the writers failed in showing just how difficult it was for Anderson’s voice to be heard over a racket of mansplaining and misogyny, or that Lily James didn’t do a marvellous job in presenting Anderson as an empowering, intelligent and three-dimensional human being who was screwed over by too many men in her orbit.
The show is actually a pretty deep, detailed and demoralising reflection of sexism and revenge porn before that was even a concept. But even James looked a bit disappointed when she told me her attempts to speak with the actor-turned-activist proved futile. And, you know, fair enough. If Pamela Anderson doesn’t want to revisit a traumatic invasion of privacy that derailed her Hollywood ascent, then why should she endorse others to?
It’s an awkward situation, but it proves two things can be true: rewriting history through entertainment can teach audiences what should, hopefully, never happen again. But the real people concerned also have every right to not want their dirty laundry aired in public again, either.
What’s the collective noun for male genitalia?
Speaking of Pam & Tommy, there’s another member of the cast that has received a considerable amount of attention since the show was screened to press and launched on Disney+. That being Sebastian Stan’s animatronic manhood. The last time I saw a prosthetic penis that impressive, I was watching my parents’ copy of Boogie Nights on VHS, but nowadays it seems you can’t move for members making themselves known in 4K HD. Not that I’m complaining.
I’ve long been frustrated with the imbalance of screen nudity. Actresses, historically, have been expected to get their t*ts out for the lads or rock a few bushels of merkins more than an actor has ever deigned to get his genitalia out. Of course, there are outliers – shout out Phil Daniels and Ray Winstone in Quadrophenia – but I’ve never been confronted with so much full-frontal male nudity in narrative fiction than I have in the past six months. The Power Of The Dog, Red Rocket, Euphoria, The White Lotus, And Just Like That…, Nightmare Alley, Pam & Tommy, and even Jackass Forever is normalising that D. And you know what? You love to see it.
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