A great episode of Pam & Tommy shows the spiraling impact of the sex tape.
This recap of the Hulu series Pam & Tommy Season 1 Episode 5, “Uncle Jim and Aunt Susie in Duluth,” contains spoilers.
When Barbra Streisand tried to suppress a photo of her Malibu mansion the unintended effect was that the photo in question, by being the subject of a cease-and-desist effort, became more popular than it would have otherwise. Considering its nature and the wild transmissibility, it’s, of course, likely that Pamela Anderson’s sex tape would have made national news had she and Tommy Lee not decided to file a lawsuit, but it definitely hastened it.
Pam & Tommy Season 1 Episode 5 recap
Of course, nobody listens to Pamela when she says it might be less of a big deal. She understands powerful men, and how when threatened, they will double down. And she very well knows it’s her career on the line, but only her publicist seems to care about that.
Unrelated to the sex tape, Tommy isn’t doing so hot either. He watches as new musicians such as Alanis Morrisette and Sleater-Kinney take up the airwaves and Mötley Crüe are considered has-beens. Even their own record label demotes them to studio B. When a couple of fans (the kind of guy who, the episode shows, watches the sex tape) meet him in a bar, he can’t stop interpreting their words as proof of his failure. He doesn’t know what to do but lash out.
As it always is, when Tommy gets into a fight, Pamela is going to pay for it. Her publicist has managed to get her an interview to promote Barb Wire, where she talks about her resilience. And the Pamela we’ve seen is a champ, pushing through a miscarriage and a violation of her privacy. The publicist thinks she can weather whatever Tommy gets up to, but worries about the tape, which Pamela tells her about.
That her husband doesn’t seem to care just makes her more upset, and she accuses him of wanting this to happen as a bid for attention, or worse, an attempt to ruin her career. Tommy drums out his rage, but Pamela keeps it inside her, always putting on a smile to the public. Tommy is a raw nerve; he’s a bad-boy rocker and that kind of behavior is expected, but it’s something Pamela could never dream of getting away with.
They finally decide to get legal help when the tape finds its way into the hands of Penthouse magazine (Playboy’s rival) founder Bob Guccione, who intends to publish some pictures. Her pictures. The lawyers tell them they should sue, dismissing Pamela’s concerns. And of course, Guccione loves this, publishing anyway and framing it as a first amendment issue.
This grabs the attention of Elisha, a young LA Times reporter who’s been trying to convince her editor that the tape’s leak is news. Of course, she doesn’t think of how her story could impact Pamela’s career, she’s just happy to be right and seen as such.
The article, of course, magnifies publicity to the point where now everyone knows — even the episode’s titular hypothetical middle Americans. Pam’s publicist knows how bad this is, and a group of late-night writers (all men, of course) sees this as joke material.
Of course, being proven correct is no satisfaction when your career is on the line. And Lee won’t stop making this about himself, apparently unable to console her. She’s horrified when the tape comes up in a Jay Leno monologue and her breasts become punchlines.
At the end, she receives a call to testify in a deposition. Just her. And as Tommy reminds her “we’re in this together” she realizes how empty those words are
- No Rand this episode! Hope he is ok.
- We get another scene of Fred Hechinger’s character, who runs a primitive cam-model workshop and sees the article. Something tells me this kid just might be the future. I believe he is playing internet porn pioneer Seth Warshavksy (who you can read about here).
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