Forty years ago, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton teamed up with Dabney Coleman in the smash hit 9 to 5. The endearing comedy centered around women in the workplace, who fight male chauvinism and paternalism with reverse logic. The film took its place as an iconic comedy, appreciated by both sexes.
Vitally, 9 to 5 transcended the rhetoric of feminism. It dug into the reality of working women who faced physical, psychological and emotional abuse. Director Colin Higgins who co-wrote the film with Patricia Resnick inspired change cleverly, with grace and humor. Challenged by the film, women organized like never before. And they empowered themselves to transform work environments. Clearly, they manifested that they had “had enough.”
A Celebration of the original ‘9 to 5’
A celebration of the original 1980 feature 9 to 5, Still Working 9 to 5 premiered at SXSW 2022. Directed and produced by Camille Hardman and Gary Lane, the documentary explores many issues. First, the documentarians reveal why the original film holds appeal 40 years later. Additionally, they highlight how the film’s success birthed 9 to 5 spin-offs. The message carried forward in a TV series (1980s) and musicals (2009 and 2019).
Dolly Parton wrote the titular song as an anthem for working women. The well-known lyrics remind all of us that fairness, equality and dignity are human values. Still Working 9 to 5 introduces a new duet. Dolly Parton and Kelly Clarkson sing the original theme song with a twist. Indeed, the stirring lyrics and upbeat music fire up hope that the progress that has been made continues. Both men and women must move assiduously to strive for equal pay and parity for women in leadership positions. The glass ceiling has shattered in some professions. Yet, in the corporate world and in the entertainment industry and journalism, men still hold sway.
In interview clips Parton, Fonda, Tomlin and Coleman discuss the social and cultural changes since the original film. Also, they relate the film’s impact on their own lives. For example, in 1980 Dolly Parton’s stardom had faded, her celebrity flagging in comparison to Jane Fonda’s and Lily Tomlin’s stardom. The film and her song helped Parton’s career take off in a new direction.
A Reunion of the Original Cast of ‘9 to 5’
The women also discuss what they thought of the premise, initiated by Jane Fonda with Higgins and Resnick. Surprisingly, Lily Tomlin initially turned down the role. They persuaded her that humor and wit, her unique contribution, could mitigate the film’s underlying message of feminism. At the time many in the country viewed the women’s movement with derision and disgust.
Also interviewed, Allison Janney (on Broadway) and Rita Moreno (TV series) discuss their views then and now. Lastly, joining the celebrities, activists and individuals closely associated with the women’s movement then and now appear. We note the interviewees’ impressions and perspectives as treasures through the lens of time in this thematically edited documentary.
Importantly, Still Working 9 to 5 examines what has not changed for women in the workplace 40 years later. Filmmakers give special attention to the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), passed finally but still in need of ratification. Only then can the government enforce women’s parity in the workplace.
Still Working 9 to 5 emerges as a turning point film. With the backward movement of the Supreme Court, women need to experience the film’s fun, humor and inspiration. The film encourages women to “go the distance.” The celebrities and the activists affirm this imperative.
SXSW attendees can check the Still Working 9 to 5 website. Otherwise, look for the film to stream online in the documentary section of VOD channels.