When the movie 9 to 5 was released in 1980, women’s liberation was still a fresh concept for most of America. Rewatching the comedy, about three women fighting back against a sexist boss, you’ll notice that the clothing and office technology has changed, but much of the film’s message about the dynamics between men and women in the workplace remains sadly relevant nearly 40 years later. Oliver Staley, Quartz at Work
According to various news reports, it could happen: a reboot of the popular 1980 comedy 9 to 5 that starred Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton. And rumor has it that all three may relish the idea of returning as their characters, older and wiser.
The official description of 9 to 5 on Rotten Tomatoes: “Three female office workers become friends and get revenge against their boss, a sexist egotistical lying hypocritical bigot, and in so doing create a more efficient and pleasant work environment.” Dabney Coleman plays the villainous boss.
When the “25th Anniversary Special Edition DVD” was released a few years ago it was aptly, in fact, called the “Sexist, Egotistical, Lying, Hypocritical Bigot Edition.”
Although critical reviews weren’t over the top when 9 to 5 was originally released in theaters, audience response was very positive. It was actually the highest grossing comedy that year and the second-highest of any genre.
Refresh your memory with this trailer:
In People Magazine, Drew Mackie states that one of the many reasons the feminist message of 9 to 5 still holds up today is that sexist workplace issues and the “pink-collar ghetto” continue to exist, of course. “It continues to be tough to be a lower-level employee, women face challenges men don’t, and in particular it’s just a lot of work to be a mom with a full-time job. In fact, if someone were to remake the movie today, they wouldn’t have to change many of the challenges faced by the characters in the original.”
One of those challenges is sexual harassment, a term that wasn’t even used in the film because it wasn’t yet a significant part of the cultural lexicon. Tara Murtha, Rolling Stone:
Mr. Hart spends his days harassing Doralee [Parton] by telling her she’s much more to him than ‘just a dumb secretary.’ He lies about sleeping with her, and purposefully knocks pencils on the floor so she’ll lean over and pick them up. He insults Judy [Fonda], and bullies Violet [Tomlin] by demanding she fix his coffee. After learning she lost out on a promotion to a man she trained, Violet confronts Mr. Hart. ‘Spare me the women’s lib crap,’ he replies.
“The concept of ‘sexual harassment’ as a legal issue,” notes Rebecca Traister, New Republic, “wasn’t drilled into the American consciousness until eleven years after the release of 9 to 5, when Anita Hill testified at Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.”
Get this, though: When interviewed in 2009 in relation to the opening of the Broadway musical adaptation, 9 to 5‘s writer, Patricia Resnick, was repeatedly confronted by male journalists who believed this issue was no longer relevant (Alana Newhouse, Tablet).
But now it’s 2018, and #MeToo.
The ending of 9 to 5 offers possible solutions to the female workers’ issues that include “job sharing, flexible hours, and on-site child care,” notes Staley of Quartz, who recently interviewed Resnick. She’s not impressed with progress (not) made in real life.
Most of that is still not really around. If you look at the number of major companies that have daycare, it’s a handful. Flexible hours, job sharing, that’s still not really standard. They were kind of cutting-edge ideas, but it’s amazing to me that they are not all in common practice still.