Posted by: lindseytate22 | February 11, 2016

Workin’ 9 to 5

“Working nine to five, what a way to make a living.”

That is the opening line to the popular theme song of the movie ‘9 to 5’ staring the one and only Dolly Parton, along with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. For those of you who haven’t seen the 1980’s film, it tells the story of three women, all secretaries at a major company who successfully “overthrow” their sexist and degrading boss, Mr. Franklin Hart.

Doralee who is played by Dolly Parton is personal secretary to Mr. Hart. Based on her perceived behavior, she is believed to be having an affair with Mr. Hart although his actions are the ones that make Doralee seem guilty. Not to mention that Doralee is happily married. She simply needs the job to contribute income to her husband. Violet is a recently widowed wife with several children. She is a veteran, 12-year employee to the company and has known Mr. Hart longer than anyone, even before he became her superior. She has seen his behavior change over the years as he has moved up. Violet basically puts up with Mr. Hart because she is seeking a promotion, a promotion in which he has discretion over. Violet ends up not getting the promotion, which is rightfully deserves. That somewhat sends her over the edge. Lastly, Jane Fonda plays Judy, the new employee who is forced to get a job after going through a rough divorce. Together, once they realize the injustice and inequality of working for Mr. Hart, quietly scheme to undermine his authority and take over the company.

The film is very comical and well made, definitely worth checking out. Although it’s a little extreme toward the end (you’ll have to watch to find out), I believe it demonstrates a common theme seen throughout our class…that women are stereotypically seen as less aggressive and assertive and because of the traditional feminine roles they’re in, their behavior is directed and guided in a certain way. I believe it’s also worth noting that this is a good illustration of how women were treated and still may be treated in the workplace. Mr. Hart’s behavior as a manager and a man are certainly not appropriate regardless of gender being take into account. Similarly, as a leader, his behavior is completely unacceptable. However, with that said this movie does two things. One, it highlights how women are treated and two, while doing so it creates those stereotypes that we have discussed.

I’m curious to know your thoughts on how this, a popular movie with very popular women actresses, might have been portrayed in the 1980s and more so how you think a movie like this would be perceived today.

I’m attaching a link to the theatrical trailer of the movie and also the theme song, 9 to 5, which is song by Dolly Parton. Listen closely to the lyrics. I think they really speak to concerns that we’ve seen through videos and clips that women express today. (trailer)

Also, I mentioned that Violet doesn’t get the promotion that she had been working so hard for. Here is some of the dialogue from her conversation with Mr. Hart when he shared the news with her.

(Violet) “I lose a promotion because of some idiot prejudice.”

(Mr. Hart) Reasons Violet didn’t get the promotion

  • men do better dealing with figures
  • he has a family to support (yet, so does Violet)

(Violet) “I am your employee and as such I expect to be treated equally…with a little dignity and a little respect.”




  1. Besides now having that song stuck in my head for the night haha this is so interesting. Just imagine how people would react if that movie was made today instead of the 80’s. Would people still have viewed it as a comedy, or would they see it’s true meaning? Really changes the perceptive of the movie now, I wonder if the author had intentions of sparking this debate in people’s eyes or if it was just a funny movie to them.

  2. Like other classmates, I am glad that you chose a media form example to represent and show how gendered inequality has been shaped in the modern world. I think this movie is meant to be portrayed in a comical manner. After researching further I found out that Dolly Parton both personally modeled her signature look after a “town tramp” she had seen growing up and stared in PLAYBOY magazine during the late 70’s. Thus, if the director was trying to make a point about the way women in the work place are being treated is bad, then he probably wouldn’t have cast a actor that has been iconized as sexual to play the part. He more likely would have chosen an actor that embodied be bold and strong and not needing to be overtly feminine or sexual. If this movie was made now days with the same content, it would be met with strife, contention, and feminist quarrels. Women in today’s society are taking up arms and fighting for equality through riding society of patriarchal sentiments.

    On the movie…
    A couple things upset me about this movie. Firstly, the fact that a woman would stay in her position in a company, even though she was being harassed, because she felt she had no way out. No one should be put in that position.
    The violet situation frustrated me too. Namely, this was because of the fact that Mr. Hart was promoted to a superior rank over Violet because of his gender. I feel that longevity in a position, as well as competence in one’s field warrants a promotion no matter the sex of the person. It also bothered me that Violet stood by idly as she saw Mr. Hart’s behavior change from bad to worse over the years. Not only is this a symptom of bad followership, but in Mr. Hart’s case, a representation of toxic leadership.

    On the song…
    I think the song accurately describes what had been happening in the work place during and before the time it was made. Dolly has always been seen as an icon so I am not surprised she and her song were used to produce this movie.

    Anyways! Thanks for the links!

  3. I had honestly never heard of this movie prior to this post. The links are very much appreciated! However, since I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the movie, I obviously don’t have a full understanding of what happens. So please take my comments with a grain of salt and I apologize in advance if I misunderstand something.

    Based on the song and the trailer, I would definitely say this movie was more of a comedy during its time. However, I do feel real issues were being addressed. Perhaps the only way to ensure the movie got air time was to bring up these issues in a comical manner. I can’t help but feel there would have been a lot more pushback and a lot less number of people who would have watched it if it didn’t have the funny, comical tone to it. With that being said, I thought the song brought out a lot of issues like women being used for their ideas and then men putting them forward as his own.

  4. Because of taking this class, now when I watch movies or shows from this time era I’m hyper-conscious about how women are treated or act in the work place or around men.
    On the topic of work-place harassment, I interviewed my Aunt Kathy, who has been a nurse in Texas for 25 years. She explains that when she first started off, she was constantly harassed by her superiors and the nurses were expected to smile and just take it. I am sure that an appalling number of women in more subordinate positions in a workplace (such as secretaries) dealt with work-place harassment. When you hear about sexual harassment now, it’s in the news (which is surprisingly a good thing!) It’s seen as absolutely unacceptable. As it should.

  5. So I am not sure if anyone noticed in the trailer how it starts out by saying, “To anyone who has been overworked, underpaid, and pushed to the edge,” but it only shows an elevator full of women. I understand the point of the movie and this opening of the trailer is done on purpose, but I would have to say that men can be overworked, underpaid, and pushed to the edge just as much as women are. I think it would be fun if this was remade into a more modern version of “9 to 5,” mostly because I think a lot of people watch this movie and think that we have moved past these issues, but as we have seen in class, it is far from over. Would it have more of an effect on the general population, since we are more sensitive to social issues or would it be received similarly to this one in the 1980s. Thanks Lindsey for the movie suggestion!

  6. I have only seen the movie in passing but have the song many times, enough so that as soon as I read “9 to 5” the lyrics instantly began playing in my head. I know in the film there are the three women who all come from different walks of life, yet are all expected to do the same job simply because of their gender. I believe if this movie was made today there would be a very different feel to the film. In the movie the women are made to appear as comic relief. In the modern movie the women would be taken more seriously and would probably have a rally of people to back them up. It would be very interesting to see how Dolly would react to social media outlets however.

  7. I think for the time that the movie came out, it gave a lot of women the courage to go out into the workforce and get what they deserve, equality. Of course, that may not have actually been accomplished on a large scale but there could be a few instances where that movie sparked a few to fight for what they want. Today, this movie may not be seen in the same light. It may be scrutinized for how the women come across working together to “overthrow” their boss. I feel that in today’s society we try more to be cognizant of each side’s motives and understand that times (may) have changed from the more sexist era. In my personal opinion, it definitely shows women that they are just as capable as men to work the long hours and provide for their family.

    • Thanks so much for sharing all of this! This made me wonder if there would be an equivalent movie for today’s businesswomen who do not work the typical ‘9-5’. Would it show a mom working from home by telecommuting? Or perhaps take the story further where an overworked women would start her own business. Very interesting thing to discuss, great work!

  8. I think that movies that promote women to be a certain way definitely do continue the stereotype that is set by society. And a movie like this would be perceived in the same way it was back then: completely normal. Women are expected to behave in a certain way, even as leaders. Society continues this stereotype by making movies where women are stereotypical. More and more media is coming out that shows women in not stereotypical ways but overall, it is the same as it has been for a long time.

  9. I think it is so typical that the main female character is a secretary… It reminds me of one of our classmates post a few weeks ago that had the graphic of number of women who played certain roles within films, secretary being the most common next to nurses. I have never seen or heard of this movie, but the way you describe Violet and her role within this movie is so common of men’s hierarchy over women in leadership. “She is a veteran, 12-year employee to the company and has known Mr. Hart longer than anyone, even before he became her superior…Violet basically puts up with Mr. Hart because she is seeking a promotion, a promotion in which he has discretion over. Violet ends up not getting the promotion, which is rightfully deserves.” There are so many women who stick with their jobs because they hope that their superiors will somehow see their hard work and dedication after years. But there are times where superiors have no intentions of giving women a raise or a promotion, in efforts to keep them below the glass ceiling and assert their dominance and control over them. It is so unfair to me when hard work and dedication goes unseen, especially in the context of women in leadership. We should glorify all hard work and all leaders, no matter their gender or place!

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