It's Been Almost 40 Years Since '9 to 5' Was Released — Here's What the Film Got Right (And Wrong)

Lily Tomlin


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May 30, 2024 at 4:59PM UTC

It’s been 39 years since “9 to 5” was released, and its continued relevance is disquieting.

The cult comedy, starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton, is lauded for having cracked open conversations around the sexism women face in the workplace for a wide audience. But while many of its themes sadly continue to resonate, in at least one significant way, the film fails to stack up today.

“Looking back on the film, there’s one major element that was not tackled, and that was diversity in the workplace,” Camille Hardman, co-director and producer of the new documentary “Still Working 9 to 5,” said. “The film lacked diversity; it was a very white cast which reflected Hollywood at the time. These days, the workforce is very diverse, and the gender pay gap affects different socio-economic and racial groups very differently.” 

That’s one of the lens “Still Working 9 to 5” is using to assess the film’s impact and legacy. Featuring new interviews with Parton and Tomlin, as well as interviews with the Broadway adaptation’s cast and founding members of the 9 to 5 Organization, the documentary examines how workplace gender equality has evolved — or failed to evolve — since the 1980 premiere. How much forward progress has actually been made? And where have we, in fact, gone backward? 

“When we looked at the film again, we realized many of the issues discussed — such as sexual harassment, the gender wage gap, a lack of promotions for women, and a need for maternity leave and job sharing — are still things that are so prevalent in our workplaces today for women,” Hardman said. “The MeToo movement shone a light on just how many women are still experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. And the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for 2020, which was just released, shows that the U.S. has dropped two places to #53 for pay equality in the world — when the U.S. should be at the top. Places like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Jamaica have closed the gap more than the U.S. has.”

In order to make its message more palatable to a broad audience, the original “9 to 5” had to rely on comedy. Today, “Still Working 9 to 5” drives home the point that the state of workplace gender equality is anything but a laughing matter. 

“We are making this documentary because it’s been 40 years and women are still fighting for the issues brought up in ‘9 to 5,’” Gary Lane, co-director and producer of the film, said. “It may have been the biggest comedy of 1980, but it’s just not funny anymore.”

“Still Working 9 to 5” will be realized to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the film in December 2020.


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