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Image / Living / Culture

Lily James said that she ‘could relate’ to the misogynistic treatment of Pamela Anderson


By Sarah Finnan
10th Jan 2022

Lily Collins / Instagram

Lily James said that she ‘could relate’ to the misogynistic treatment of Pamela Anderson

Set to star in a new limited series titled ‘Pam & Tommy’, Lily James has spoken out about how misogyny continues to plague women in the spotlight.

Hollywood may look like a glamorous place, but things are hardly ever as shiny and perfect as they seem on the surface. Delusions of grandeur are commonplace, and as is so often the case, it’s women who find themselves at the bottom of the totem pole. Prejudice and discrimination are rife and sexism has come to be so intrinsically linked with the entertainment industry that it’s almost impossible to find an actress who hasn’t had at least one bad experience throughout their career. 

The phrase, disappointed but not surprised comes to mind. We’ve become so accustomed to reading about male misbehaviour, that it’s almost lost its shock value… which is why Lily James’ recent comments on misogyny are nothing we haven’t heard before. 

Speaking to Porter Magazine for their recent cover story on her, the actress admitted that her upcoming role as Pamela Anderson has been one of her most challenging to date. Arguably because it was so difficult to unpack the world’s treatment of the famous Baywatch star. 

Last year was a huge cultural awakening for the world and many female celebrities have had their stories re-examined under a modern lens. It may have started with Britney, but there are a string of women waiting their turn behind her. Attitudes have changed and there is a greater understanding of what is and isn’t appropriate, but the 90s were a tumultuous time for women in the spotlight. Particularly for the likes of Pam Anderson. “When you look back at some of her interviews from the 1990s, the misogyny is so striking. I mean, it’s changed so much, but… I think it’s more hidden now, perhaps?” 

Some people may be of the belief that that was then and this is now, but it would be naive to say that such things never happen anymore. As James pointed out, the chauvinism is more camouflaged now. It’s harder to detect, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. “There was a lot in [Pamela’s past interviews] that I found I could relate to,” James added, essentially confirming that her own experience of fame hasn’t been that dissimilar to Anderson’s. 

“I love that about acting; you fit into a character, and you realise you’re not as different as you might have thought. You lean in to things in yourself, and discard parts of you that aren’t useful.” Joining a slew of other critical histories, ones that Porter describes as being about “cultural moments retold as reckonings”, James feels Pam & Tommy was “kind of essential”. “The shaming was so extreme. Unfortunately, that’s still the case… Women are held to much higher standards and attacked in ways that feel so vicious. Pamela had such wit and grace in the way that she held herself. I admire that strength,” she continued admiringly. 

Due to air on Hulu early next month, the eight-part series has already been met by some backlash – both from the public and from friends of Pamela Anderson herself. Fellow actress Courtney Love was amongst to have voiced concerns about the series, hitting out at Lily directly for her involvement in the project. Chronicling both the relationship between Pam and Tommy and the infamous sex tape which was stolen and subsequently leaked to the press, Love said that she finds the whole thing “so f*cking outrageous”. “The tape destroyed my friend Pamela’s life,” she wrote on Facebook. “My heart goes out to Pammy. Further causing her complex trauma. Shame on Lily James, whoever the f*ck she is.”

James wishes things had played out differently. “I care a lot about [this project],” she stressed, admitting that she “was really hopeful” Pamela herself would be involved in production. “My sole intention was to take care of the story and to play Pamela authentically. When you recreate any character, you’re taking on another person’s life without necessarily having all the information, so I really have to put huge trust in the director. But I want to provoke a conversation, and I want to be part of these attempts at change. I realise a lot of it’s incredibly sensitive and difficult. And so, as an actor, to a certain extent, what you do is make yourself very open to talk to all of that.”

Pam and Tommy’s leaked sex tape was a first in the celeb world, but such violations of privacy continue to be a problem. The internet has given rise to revenge porn, for lack of a better word, and it’s no longer just famous people who are vulnerable. “It provoked an internet and celebrity culture that, now, I believe is just way out of hand,” James said. “There is no such thing as privacy now.” Instead of our videos being stolen from safes, “we’re handing them out, constantly sharing our lives – with an audience that doesn’t really care about you. And giving away information to corporations using it for profit. I know a time before that happened, but there are young girls who have no idea. This was a trigger moment that unintentionally sparked a new time… I hope a lot has changed. But sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s changed quite enough.”

The internal transformation was perhaps the most demanding part of the process for Lily personally, but her external transformation in Pamela Anderson was just as impressive. “I just had no idea if I could do it,” she said, but then four hours in hair and makeup and it’s clear that she was more than capable. Fans have marvelled at the likeness between the two since the first behind-the-scenes photos were shared online in May last year and even James herself was suitably pleased with the result. Outrage that Lily James – a.k.a. Downton Abbey‘s Lady Rose – had been cast as “sex bomb” Pamela Anderson gave way to sheer disbelief and the world waits with bated breath to see just how the modern retelling will play out.

Pam & Tommy will air on Disney+ on February 2.