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Pamela Anderson — yes, Pamela Anderson — is in the zeitgeist again.
She is the subject of Pam & Tommy, a Hulu series about her whirlwind marriage to Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee and the stolen sex tape that made that marriage famous. She’s working on a tell-all memoir, and recently announced a Netflix documentary, co-produced by one of her sons. And at 54, she made her debut on Broadway last month in CHICAGO, playing the role of Roxy Hart. I’m no theater critic, and she's no trained Broadway singer, but I went a couple of weeks ago and she wasn’t bad?!
I’ve been thinking about Anderson lately because I just finished “Pam & Tommy,” and then went down a TikTok rabbit hole, where I discovered #PamCore — that is, fashion inspired by the looks of Pam Anderson from the 90s and early 2000s. Yes, you remember it: the over-plucked eyebrows, the lipliner, the wispy bangs, the crop tops, and, of course, the boobs. (As my fellow 90s-reared editor noted recently... those crop tops never quite fit us the way they fit her, but how much time did we waste trying?)
Because I find it interesting that the seeming late-in-life second renaissance of Anderson, down to a worshipping of her fashion impact, is occurring at the same time as a popular television show about her in which she refused to take part — and, in fact, said she wishes didn’t exist. (She hasn't seen it, and has said she won't.) It's an interesting clash, or perhaps these things are in fact related.
In a column this week in The Times, I wrote about Pam & Tommy and the feminist "redemption plot" — and when that plot becomes exploitative.
What do I mean by feminist redemption plot? I mean the seemingly endless stream of films and documentaries and TV series and articles about women who have been wronged by the culture in the semi-recent past: Tonya Harding, Lorena Bobbitt, Britney Spears, Janet Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, Monica Lewinsky, Marilyn Monroe, Alanis Morissette... and now Anderson. It's popular to rethink the stories of our recent past these days, and often times much-needed.
But this genre is its own smug beast, purporting to right the sexist narrative of these women from the past by "reframing" their stories for the modern-day while, we, the viewer, gets to sit back and watch the sordid details play out yet again, but this time in the name of empowerment.
Now to be clear, I get the appeal of these stories. I've written about Monica Lewinsky (twice), first in 2015, and then again last year, when she became the subject of the FX series “Impeachment.” I've profiled Paula Broadwell, the onetime mistress (a word we don't use for men) of Gen. David Petraeus (remember that?) and Katie Hill, who resigned from Congress in a #metoo-adjacent scandal and Amanda Knox, the woman from my hometown who was cleared of the sensational murder of her roommate but has struggled to find her footing since. Who doesn't want to know what the subjects of huge culture-shifting scandals are up to, 10 or 15 years on?
At what point do the "redemption" stories of these women become just another form of exploitation? Who should get to tell these stories, and profit from them? When does re-watching these women's downfalls — in the name of progress — become just as damaging as gawking over them the first time?
Are we really any better off today for having heard so many of them?
Fan culture at the Johnny Depp trial, which I suppose I should call the Amber Heard trial, since she's the one being sued for defamation by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp. (She's counter-suing him.) The trial is on hiatus this week, but for those who haven't been absolutely glued to the livestream of it, I absolutely cannot get over the straight up batshit conspiracy theory memes — the vast, vast majority of them pro-Depp — that are all over TikTok.
It was Mother's Day, and my pal Jessica Grose wrote about rewatching "9 to 5" on a recent flight, and what it will take to get parents what they really need.
"It’s powerful to say no." Kim Cattrall, better known as "Samantha" on Sex and the City, has a juicy interview in Variety about why she wanted nothing to do with "And Just Like That...," the cringey Sex and the City sequel.
Britney. Oh, Britney. What are we to make of your Instagram? I believe women should be able to post whatever they want, nudes included, and I am very glad that the conservatorship abuse in Spears' case was exposed, but — and I feel this way about Kanye West, too — at what point are we just gawking at a person who needs help?
I don't smoke, and I don't have money to burn, but should I buy this standing ashtray? It's so chic!
Just kidding, he's more like a very snuggly freeloader. Meet my resident good boi, Charlie.
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