The workplace comedy 9 To 5 was an HBO staple when I was a kid, and I remember its more screwball scenes vividly—Lily Tomlin’s Violet Newstead, decked out like Snow White and surrounded by animated fauna, cheerfully sweetening her boss’s coffee with poison; Dolly Parton’s Doralee Rhodes, decked out like a cowgirl, whipping her lasso; Franklin Hart Jr., played by Dabney Coleman, swinging from the ceiling after an attempt to escape from the prison in which he’d been placed by three of his employees. The 45 of Parton’s peppy theme song, with the percussive typewriters and lyrics about (male) bosses serving as underminers who had the added bonus of being unpleasant, was one of the first singles I owned, and a bit of a rallying cry when things at my most recent gig got particularly unbearable thanks to politicking from self-interested, just-competent-enough colleagues.
But when I watched it on a recent Saturday night, I was taken aback by how downright radical it seemed even now. This shouldn’t be too much of a shock; women are good enough to exist in binders but not good enough to be hired out of them, much less make decisions about their own bodies, exist in a sphere where they aren’t objects first and people second, and so on. (The Twitter account @EverydaySexism is devoted to cataloging incidences of women being treated as second-class citizens, from the media-disseminated, like a lede in a free daily that just assumes all women get crazy around That Time Of The Month, to the disturbing number of public-pinching incidents that still are a thing in polite society.)
A thumbnail sketch of the movie: Judy Bernly (played by Jane Fonda), freshly divorced and in San Francisco, has started a new job at one of those big firms where a superiority-complex-afflicted man has the corner office and a small battalion of women serves as his support staff. [...]