When the highest-grossing comedy, “9 to 5,” starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman and Lily Tomlin, exploded on the cinema screens in 1980, the laughs hid a serious message about women in the office. “Still Working 9 to 5” explores why workplace inequality 40 years later was never a laughing matter.
“Still Working 9 to 5” examines the 40-year evolution of gender inequality and discrimination in the workplace since the 1980 release of the classic seminal comedy, “9 to 5,” starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Dabney Coleman.
The documentary opens with the deconstruction of the original “9 to 5” film and why it shone a light on gender inequality and discrimination in the workplace in the late 1970s. We discover how the concept for the film rose out of the women’s movement and Jane Fonda’s close friendship with fellow activist Karen Nussbaum and how, in 1973, Karen, along with her friend Ellen Cassedy, established the 9 to 5 National Association of Working Women, after experiencing many workplace indignities. We explore the seminal history of the organization, hosting informal get-togethers for female office workers who, during lunch breaks, shared their experiences of sexual harassment by male co-workers and bosses; low wages, degrading job tasks and being overlooked for deserved promotions. Such workplace indignities (rarely experienced by men) needed to be addressed, and the women who frequented these meetings finally had an opportunity to brainstorm together on ways to create change without jeopardizing their careers.
The Song “Still Working 9 to 5” showcases the clever use of comedy realized in “9 to 5,” to highlight these workplaces indignities, while making the movie palatable to a wide audience, including the kind of men at the time who dismissed the film as harmless entertainment. We follow how women on the other hand, finally seeing themselves reflected on screen, supported one another to fight sexism, stood up for themselves, and drew on new-found confidence and courage to st and up to ‘the boss,’ to fight for long-lasting change in their workplaces. We look at how Dolly Parton’s much-loved feminist anthem, “9 to 5,” trumpeted the film’s arrival and crystallized the working women’s message.
The documentary explores how the success of the original film spawned several “9 to 5” incarnations over the decades. The TV version of the 1980s lasted 85 episodes and starred the Emmy-nominated Rita Moreno, Rachel Dennison (Dolly’s sister), Valerie Curtin, and Sally Struthers. We discover that, although the 9 to 5 Association was originally involved in the development of the series, they became disillusioned with its deviation from the core message of female empowerment and felt it had become just another silly sitcom. In 2009, “9 to 5, The Musical” opened on Broadway with an all-star cast including Allison Janney, closing after only five months. We follow these ups and downs of the “9 to 5” franchise, mirroring in many ways the ups and downs of women’s fight for equal rights. We interview many of the cast and crew, as they use their sense of humor to tell of their behind-the-scenes observations and experiences. And, as the story continues in 2019, we film the opening (in London) of the latest production of the musical, as its dialogue and scenes are altered to reflect contemporary feminism, MeToo and Times Up, and discover the reactions of a new generation.
“Still Working 9 to 5” examines the correlation between what the original film began as – a cultural inflection point, and the subsequent evolution of the women’s movement. We explore the history of the Equal Rights Amendment, harassment in the workplace, pay gap, sexism, and discrimination, and interweave “9 to 5” and it’s various incarnations to debate its evolution over the last 40 years by speaking to writers, feminists and everyday people with their own workplace experiences. As “9 to 5” continues to resonate as a touchstone of classic feminist entertainment and inspiration, “Still Working 9 to 5” brings to life with colorful and comedic observations, why the film is as relevant today as the year it lit up the box office four decades ago.