Playboy has at last eschewed nude photos and moved on to tamer (though not less problematic) content, and Pamela Anderson, after appearing on the cover of the magazine’s final nude issue, has moved on as well. The 48-year-old actress/activist/sex symbol stars in Connected, a short film set in what is almost certainly a near-future Los Angeles, and it’s everything Playboy is not: sensitive, nuanced, and reverent. Also, pretty weird.
In the Luke Gilford-directed short, Anderson could easily be all of us, only suffering from access to slightly more technology. She plays a spin instructor for the company AuraCycle, leading virtual bike rides for anyone who cares to “follow” her class. Outside of work, she gazes at the ocean while listening to self-help podcasts (narrated by Jane Fonda). In spite of yoga, kale smoothies, and anti-aging cream, she seems plagued by an indistinct feeling of loneliness and disappointment. To remedy her sense of spiritual lack, she goes on a New Age-y meditation retreat that involves neural implants and—well, you’ll just have to see for yourself.
At its core the film is about the deep human longing for connection and the impossibility of being truly known. But more interesting than the themes of the film is the way it portrays its protagonist: Anderson is presented not as an object of male desire, but as a human being, which—26 years and 14 magazine covers since her Playboy debut—is spectacularly refreshing. Watch it for yourself.