Dolly Parton is wise. Her single “9 to 5,” written for the 1980 film of the same name, criticized the modern working environment for women, highlighting capitalism’s inherent inequalities: “Barely gettin’ by / It’s all takin’ / And no givin’,” she sang, “They just use your mind / And they never give you credit / It’s enough to drive you / Crazy if you let it.”
The film, too, is a comical revenge fantasy following three working women who keep their lecherous boss in captivity and “transform their office into a place that actually serves the needs and desires of its exclusively female workers, not the male bosses who continually deny them the pay and respect they deserve,” as Hazel Cills wrote for this website. “Together the women forge their boss’s signatures again and again on changes to their workplace, all of which ultimately make the company more profitable and the women workers happier.”
None of that analysis appears in Parton’s 2021 reimagination of “9 to 5,” titled “5 to 9,” and so I can only hope it is meant to be read with irony.
On Tuesday, the website building company Squarespace revealed their 2021 Super Bowl ad, soundtracked by Parton. A graphic reading “9 to 5" shifts to “5 to 9,” and Parton can be heard singing “Working 5 to 9 / You’ve got passion and a vision / ‘Cause it’s hustlin’ time / A whole new way to make a livin’ / Gonna change your life / Do something that gives it meaning,” leading up to an abridged chorus: “5 to 9 / You keep working, working, working / Working 5 to 9 / ‘Til your dreams come true.” The message is clear: “5 to 9" is a celebration of the empty promise of late capitalism—after you finish your day job, continue to work—don’t sleep, just keeping “working, working, working, working” until, presumably, your life changes. More realistically, you keep working until you burn out, and then you continue to work more, for stagnant wages and few opportunities. It’s bleak shit.
And it is certainly Dolly’s bleakest contribution to popular culture since opening Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, advertised as an “extraordinary dinner show … pitting North against South in a friendly and fun rivalry,” and described by Slate in 2017 as “a lily-white kitsch extravaganza that play-acts the Civil War but never once mentions slavery. Instead, it romanticizes the old South, with generous portions of both corn on the cob and Southern belles festooned in Christmas lights.” (It has since rebranded, but as Jezebel’s Kelly Faircloth points out, but still contains “an entire musical number where dancers in antebellum garb whirl around a gazebo, eventually becoming a swirl of lights in a darkened arena.”)
Hey, the best of us make mistakes, right? But we keep working, working, working, working...