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Wayback Wednesday: 9 to 5 (1980)

“Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’. Barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’…”

Barefoot in the Park (1967).

The Magic School Bus (1994 – 1997).

A discography of hits that include “Jolene,” “Here You Come Again,” and “I Will Always Love You.”

For as long as I can remember, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton have been instrumental in shaping my love of movies, television, and music. Each one shines brightly enough on their own, but together, they’re a supernova of charm, talent, and all-around wonderfulness. An iconic comedy that is just as relevant today as it was almost 40 years ago, 9 to 5 (1980) showcases the best of its three leading ladies and just how lovable and relatable they and their characters are. If you’re currently working or used to work at an office job, I strongly recommend you watch 9 to 5. Legitimate jokes aside, the familiarity of the women’s office ordeals will have you dying of laughter.

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Credit: / 20th Century Fox

9 to 5 follows the office lives of three women working for their “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigot” of a boss, Franklin Hart. Senior office supervisor Violet, secretary Doralee, and new hire, Judy, are played to perfection by Tomlin, Parton, and Fonda respectively. Each woman is belittled, bullied, and on the receiving end of Hart’s daily dose of blatant sexism and harassment. Fed up with being treated disrespectfully, the three woman bond and jokingly fantasize about how each would get rid of Hart for good. When they find a way to turn the tables on their jerk of a boss, hilarity ensues as they discover how much more enjoyable work can be when they’re the ones calling the shots.

Let’s just get the obvious out of the way: This movie is great, and the cast is the definition of fabulous. Fonda, Tomlin, AND Parton? It’s almost too much. By the way, I, along with the rest of the world am patiently waiting for the day Dolly guest stars on Grace and Frankie (2015 – present). 9 to 5 is perfect in that it captures the trials and tribulations of being a working woman in the 1980s (or any generation, let’s be honest), while never going too dark or taking itself too seriously. Naturally, the movie addresses all of the horrible and unjust nonsense that millions of women deal with on a regular basis, but they do so while dressing up those real-life issues in jokes and gags. The movie then succeeds in educating you on how poorly women are treated in the workplace, while also having you laugh out loud at their hilarious antics. I could watch these three ladies be interrogated by the police, run around in confusion, and get stoned together all day long. In fact, 9 to 5 is full of classic comedy bits and it’s a shame that it often gets overlooked when people remember 80s comedies. This is a movie that not only delivers comedic gold, but tells an uplifting story about the power of the working woman. Also, the theme song is everything.

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Credit: / 20th Century Fox

Speaking of 80s comedies, the wonderful wackiness of the ladies’ revenge fantasies are so odd that they only could have worked in a decade where shoulder pads and heavy blush were considered high fashion. Fonda with a hunting rifle, Tomlin as Snow White, and Parton using a lasso? Dream sequences are so beautifully bizarre.

“Beautifully bizarre” may just be the best way to describe the trio of stars that headline 9 to 5. Intelligent, confident, supportive, and incredibly hardworking, I challenge you not to fall in love with each and every one of these characters. Oh my God, there’s a scene in the beginning where Doralee is upset that no one seems to want to be friends with her and my heart BROKE because how could no one want to be friends with Doralee?! Bubbly, earnest, sweet…I love that the director was just like, “okay Dolly? Literally just play yourself. Your character is YOU. Okay, ACTION!” While Fonda nails Judy’s admirable combination of naiveté and willingness to learn, Tomlin knocks it out of the park with her no-nonsense characterization of Violet. Which is totally understandable as she’s the employee who’s suffered the most unfairness at the hands of Hart. The passion and ferocity that she’s able to inject into the simplest of lines is so entertaining to watch and OH MY GOD, her whole “I’m no girl” speech is the definition of BTE: Big Tomlin Energy.

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Credit: / 20th Century Fox

Playing second fiddle to this triad of goddesses is Dabney Coleman as Mr. Hart. Here’s a fun fact for my fellow 90s kids: Dabney Coleman was the voice of Principal Prickly on Recess (1997 – 2001)! I wonder what other uptight, authoritative, arrogant roles he’s played? As Hart, Coleman doesn’t play a villain that you can sympathize with or love to hate. You just hate him. For good reason too. Going off the aforementioned acts of sexism and harassment, Hart doesn’t promote the more-qualified Violet just because she’s a woman, repeatedly tries to kiss and ogle Doralee, takes credit for Violet’s well-received ideas, and even fires another female employee simply because she asked about his salary. Here are a few examples of how Hart likes to talk to his employees:

  • “You girls have never had the chance to play football which is too bad…”
  • “You should see some of the pathetic crones that come through here…”
  • “The company needs a man in this position. The clients would rather deal with a man.”

The sexism and misogynistic language is subtly woven in and it’s handled excellently as it paints a realistic portrayal of the awfulness that occurs in offices around the world. If the women didn’t make sure that Hart gets his just deserts in the end, his inherent terribleness would be intolerable. Luckily for us, he picked the wrong group of women to fuck with. You don’t fuck with Dolly Parton. You just don’t. Did Hart not learn anything from “Jolene?”

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Credit: / 20th Century Fox

9 to 5 keeps up a steady pace of lighthearted fun and empowering messages, making sure that every scene is integral to the movie’s overall narrative. Criminally underrated, 9 to 5 has a humour that any viewer can take pleasure in. Not only because of the three lead’s amazing timing and delivery, but also because of how easily the punchlines and observational humour would work in today’s climate. Seriously, working women of the world, if you haven’t already, please see this movie. The ending especially is one of the most gratifying that I think I’ve ever seen and it’s all because these women knew that they deserved better, and that’s exactly what they got. 9 to 5 is iconic, powerful, a shitload of fun, extremely relevant, and has Dolly Parton making reference to shooting a jerk’s dick off. What more could you need?

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Credit: / 20th Century Fox

Have you seen 9 to 5?

Are you as big a fan of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton as I am ?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!




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