Right away the theme song for the film sets the tone:
Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’
Barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’
They just use your mind and they never give you credit
It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it
9 to 5, for service and devotion
You would think that I would deserve a fat promotion
Want to move ahead but the boss won’t seem to let me
I swear sometimes that man is out to get me!
For those of you that live under a rock, the film Nine to Five is about three women who, at first fantasize about, and then successfully over throw their boss who is, in their words, a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot”. The film stars Lily Tomlin as Violet, Jane Fonda as Judy, and Dolly Parton as Doralee. All in all, this film is a hilarious delight for both sexes. However, I think this film strikes a chord that is very close to home for a lot of women, even though the film was released in 1980.
Whenever somebody asks “well, why would a woman put up with harassment at her job? Why wouldn’t she tell anyone?” I like to refer them to this film. Doralee’s character, in particular, is a perfect example of why it’s so hard for women when it comes to any kind of harassment from their superiors. She flat out states that she puts up with her bosses’ advancements solely because she needs the job. If she doesn’t, she’ll be fired, and she knows that. But, as all women do, she reaches her breaking point when she finds out that her boss, Franklin Hart Jr. has been telling everybody that they are, in fact sleeping
together. She then proceeds to hogtie him when he tries to blackmail her, because what woman wouldn’t, really?
Violet finally gets fed up with Hart and reaches her breaking point when Hart steals her idea right in front of her to help him advance further and then doesn’t give her the promotion that she deserves. How she didn’t reach her breaking point when he was originally promoted is beyond me, considering she is the one who trained him.
Judy’s breaking point comes fairly early on in her career at Consolidated Companies, as she is infuriated that a co-worker is let go because they were talking and speculating about salaries in the rest room. She cannot stand the unfair treatment.
After the three women think that they’ve accidentally poisoned Hart with rat poison, he tries to blackmail Doralee in particular with that information, telling her to come to his house presumably so he can have his way with her (gross). All three women see that they have no choice but to kidnap Hart and dig up dirt on him so that they have something to blackmail him with, as well.
While Hart is kidnapped, the three women send out memo after memo about positive policy changes, making the working environment much more enjoyable and increasing productivity levels.
My favorite character developing, empowering moment, however, comes from the character of Judy. She’s a recent divorcee and has entered the work force for the first time. She’s trying to make it on her own. And, of course, right when she is doing that successfully, that’s when her ex husband comes to her with the intention of asking him to come back to her. However, he makes some snap judgements about Judy that are riddled with double standards, and she is not afraid to point them out. The moment she tells her ex husband “Hit the road, buster. This is where you get off!” is just so liberating. You can feel her relief and her happiness. I love it.
This film’s villain comeuppance isn’t what you would think of as “awful”, either, which is good. The villain, Franklin Hart Jr. gets exactly what he wants, which is to be promoted and to be recognized by the Chairman of the Board. But the women still win out in the end, as Hart is being sent away to Brazil to open up a new branch. Meaning that that “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” is out of their hair.
Although this story is presented in a comedic way, it’s very real for a lot of women. The film is dated from a technology standpoint, but it is unfortunately not dated in the story and struggles that it tells. Someday, I hope that women will watch this film and question if that’s how work environments used to be. That’s the dream, really.
I do want to state one rather large frustration I have in regard to studios constantly stating that women driven films do not make money. This was a top grossing film in 1980, grossing $103 million, and has stood the test of time, landing on most “best comedy” lists. If I hear one more time about women driven films not making money, I’m going to scream.