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Fact-Checking Pam & Tommy: Did Pamela Anderson Really Go Through Such a Horrifying Deposition?

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Hulu’s limited series Pam & Tommy tells the real-life story of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s sex tape being stolen by electrician Rand Gauthier and circulated via the internet in the late ’90s — but not every scene the series includes actually happens. In this week’s episode, the most disturbing aspect is undoubtedly the deposition Lily James’ Pam is put through after last week saw her and Sebastian Stan’s Tommy suing Penthouse to ban them from publishing their sex tape. In a series of increasingly invasive, judgmental, and downright disturbing questions, the Penthouse legal team is shown taking Pam to her breaking point as they attempt to get her to admit that her history of posing in Playboy means she has no right to expect privacy when it comes to a private sex tape stolen from her home. So, was Pamela Anderson actually deposed like this after her and Mötley Crüe drummer Lee’s lawsuit, or was this another fiction the Hulu series wove in to up the (already quite high) ante? Unfortunately, we have reason to believe the real-life Anderson lived through depositions very similar to the one depicted in this week’s episode.

Episode 6 of Pam & Tommy, “Pamela in Wonderland,” directed by Hannah Fidell, goes between Pam’s humiliating deposition and her Hollywood history — how she was first discovered at a football game in Vancouver (true), how this led to a long relationship with Hugh Hefner and Playboy (also true), and finally, how her life led her all the way to the moment Tommy went to put their tape in his safe. The flashbacks, despite their own flashes of darkness, certainly feel like a respite from Pam’s reality of being deposed, and the episode suggests that Pam herself is being pulled into these memories, a half-conscious, half-compulsive pull to dissociate from the invasive questioning.

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Lily James and Paul Ben-Victor in ‘Pam & Tommy’ HULU.

“Then perhaps you can provide a reason as to why you and Mr. Lee would make a pornographic tape,” James’ Pam is asked by a Penthouse lawyer, “if it wasn’t like all your other pornographic activities: for the purpose of financial gain?”

In 2015, Anderson addressed the tape and the lawsuit that followed to Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live, explaining why she and Lee ultimately settled the lawsuit and accepted its distribution on the internet.

“It was stolen property. We made a deal to stop all the shenanigans,” she said. “I was seven months pregnant with Dylan and thinking it was affecting the pregnancy with the stress and said, ‘I’m not going to court anymore. I’m not being deposed anymore by these horny, weird lawyer men. I don’t want to talk about my vagina anymore or my public sex — anything.'”

With that quote in mind, it does sound like Hulu nailed it with these deposition scenes — painful as they were to watch. The question, then, as ever, is whether or not the quality of the show warrants the potential re-traumatizing of Anderson, whom I can’t imagine being happy about the deposition scenes that aired this week, no matter how similar to her reality they were. In fact, the more similar, the more upset I imagine she might be.

New episodes of Pam & Tommy are released on Hulu every Wednesday at 3 a.m. ET. 

How to watch Pam & Tommy for free

You can watch Pam & Tommy on Hulu for free by subscribing to either the ad-supported plan or the no-ads plan. With both plans, you can watch Hulu original and exclusive content any time you want for the first 30 days of your plan. After that, the price points will kick in. Hulu’s ad-support subscription means that you’ll watch your favorite shows and movies with some advertising interruptions from time to time. After your 30-day free trial, the $6.99/month (or $69.99/year) begins.

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But let’s say you’re not particularly keen on having ads interrupt your viewing time. Hulu’s no-ad plan is just a smidge more expensive. After your 30-day free trial, the no-ad subscription plan will kick in at $12.99/month. There is no annual option for this plan. Either way, you’ll get to watch Pam & Tommy for free for the first 30 days of subscription. And you can cancel at any time.

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