Arts, Movies

‘Pamela, a Love Story’ Offers Unique Glimpse Into Anderson’s Story, but Lacks Closure


With no makeup, natural hair, and a long, loose linen dress, Pamela Anderson tends to her home in Ladysmith, British Columbia. She picks from her garden, rides a lawnmower, and feeds her dogs as she reminisces about her past and compares her life today to her time as a Playboy model.

“I’m here, I’m living in the house that I grew up in, which is triggering and crazy, just like marrying a rockstar,” Anderson says in Pamela, a Love Story, a new documentary about Anderson.

Pamela, a Love Story was released on Netflix on Jan. 23. In the new film, director Ryan White successfully combines archival footage, excerpts from Anderson’s personal journals, and interviews of Anderson and her sons to paint a picture of the pop culture star’s rise to fame and the struggles she had on that journey. 

Early in the film, Anderson shares that her babysitter sexually abused her as a child and her parents’ relationship created a volatile home environment during her youth. She says she has since come to realize that no one has a perfect childhood. 

Anderson was discovered in 1989 on the jumbotron at a Canadian football game while wearing a Labatt beer t-shirt. She caught the attention of Labatt, and the company offered Anderson her first modeling job as its spokesperson. Throughout the campaign, Anderson became known as “The Blue Zone Girl.”  Ever since, she has been widely photographed, including for Playboy. In the film, Anderson describes her first experience shooting with Playboy in 1990 as sexually liberating and empowering from the first click of the camera.

Her dramatic love story with Tommy Lee, rockstar and founding member of the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe, plays a main role in Anderson’s reflection on her younger years. The couple got married after spending just four days together in Cancún, Mexico. Anderson talks about how the happiness they felt upon the birth of their first child in 1996 was soon crushed by their sex tape being stolen from a safe in their home. Anderson describes the release of the tape against her consent to be utterly crushing to her sexual liberation, which she had worked so hard to build. She says her career and image never recovered.

Anderson’s sons play the role of her protectors in her life and the film—in fact they are the only stable male figures in her life. The boys’ appearance directly juxtaposes the energy of their “crazy” parents. As they reflect on the experience of growing up in the spotlight, they wear  Nike apparel and are void of the tattoos and piercings of their rocker dad. 

Anderson’s sons were by her side throughout all of her relationships and have developed an understanding of the nature of their mother.  

“[Anderson] loves getting married, you know?” Dylan Lee, Anderson’s youngest son, said. “Maybe it’s her favorite thing in the world, falling in love. And then, like, I guess loves the idea of falling out of love too, I guess.” 

The documentary seems to only touch the surface of exploring the abuse and sadness Pamela faced in her life—she almost casually mentions her childhood trauma. Her several relationship problems, subsequent divorces, and remarriages are referred to nonchalantly, even though these experiences are anything but normal for the average American.

The documentary serves its intended purpose of giving Anderson a voice, but it leaves viewers without an explanation or meaningful analysis of Anderson’s transition into the spotlight. 

While the film is captivating in that it synthesizes Anderson’s personal videos and journal writings, and gives context to Anderson’s Playboy shoots and Baywatch filming, it is solely a summary of Anderson’s life, told from her perspective.

Throughout the film—and her life—Anderson’s restless and impulsive nature never seems to go away, and she doesn’t come to any realization about how to move on from the mistakes and ups and downs she’s endured. It would have been more satisfying to viewers to see Anderson reach some feeling of closure. 

The film ends with Anderson preparing for and performing in a Broadway show as a way to fulfill her boredom and seek stimulation. Perhaps Anderson finally finding peace in her quaint farmhouse in Ladysmith would be a more storybook conclusion to her fame, but that is clearly not in the cards for Anderson’s nature. 

Through her ups and downs, Anderson proves that she is an optimist and hopeless romantic, who constantly craves love and will never fail to try again.

“I’m looking for a feeling I can’t find,” Anderson says as she describes her restless search for another love like the one she had with Tommy Lee.

February 8, 2023