Dolly Parton's fresh reworking of "9 to 5" is an uber-capitalist, girlboss hellscape

The star's rewrite of her 1980's classic for a SuperBowl ad is nothing but a sell-out to toxic "side hustle" culture. 

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With deep regret, I must inform you that Dolly Parton has joined the ranks of the girlbosses. Forty-one years after releasing “9 to 5”, the irresistably catchy workers’ rights anthem that has since united commuters, road trippers, tentative early-comers to wedding dancefloors and hardcore Marxists, Parton has reworked it into an advertising jingle for a website-building company called Squarespace, as part of their 2021 SuperBowl ad. How could such a fundamentally left-wing song be used as corporate marketing fodder, I hear you cry? With a simple swapsies, of course!

Watch Dolly Parton's '5 to 9' Superbowl ad here:

“5 to 9”, the updated version of the song, no longer bemoans that work is “all takin’ and no givin’”, where an oppressive boss will “use your mind” and “never give you credit”. Instead, it is a go-getting ode to the side hustle — celebrating those who use their precious after-work hours to start that business they’ve always dreamed of owning. You can promote it with Squarespace, you see, whose services are being flogged to you in a type of uber-capitalist, “pay us so you can do more work” way. The thing is, though, you do still have that 9-5 as well, because presumably you don’t have a trust fund, so the dream business has got to wait to be worked on in the other 16 hours of the day (and it really does mean 5pm to 9am). “Cos it’s, hustlin’ time! Whole new way to make a livin’”, sings Parton encouragingly.

[See also: How the girlboss ruined the romcom]

Look, I know what you’re thinking. Wasn’t Parton pouring herself “a cup of ambition” and dreaming of “a better life” back in 1980? Shouldn’t we be happy that in this modern world of the YouTube and Inter-web, we and Parton can finally emancipate ourselves from our company-owned desks and instead spend the precious hours of our lives at much smaller, slightly worse-quality desks that we've bought from Argos?

Well, no, actually. Firstly because life — and the original song — is not about turning everything you love into a way of making money. The song “9 to 5” balks at the idea that we should have to spend so much of our daily life working, just to have the basics we need to live it. It asks us to imagine a better life than that  one that revolves around less, not more, work. Contrary to popular belief, our jobs do not have to be the fabric of our identity, they can just be jobs. Nor do our passions have to generate an income: we are allowed to just enjoy them.

[See also: Interior Design Masters is a bizarre world of wainscoting and “softscaping”]

The average British person will spend 85,000 hours at work over the course of their lifetime, so your job does need to avoid being dehumanising, depressing or exhausting. But the answer to an unsatisfying day job is not a 24-hour work day. In the "5 to 9" Squarespace ad, an implausibly fresh-faced woman goes from being slumped at her, actually, quite nice and spacious looking desk to gyrating through the office — her life passion is “dance fitness”, you see — as soon as the clock strikes 5pm. But we can only assume this is the very first day that she has worked both 9am to 5pm and 5pm to 9am, because this lifestyle is not sustainable. Far from being energised and boosted by going straight from your 9 to 5 to working on your side-hustle website, it is more likely you would suffer stress headaches, text neck and malnutrition from only ever eating sandwiches from Pret.

The advert takes place in a bizarre fantasyland: workers’ cubicles transform into mini studios for their dream jobs (in order: hedge-trimmer, abstract artist, carpenter, hairdresser — then, if I’ve glimpsed those just out of shot correctly, pastry chef and a job that involves a large quantity of sand and starfish. Scuba diver?). But in the real world, it's the workers already working multiple jobs, long hours, and night shifts — which typically do not involve glowy skin and matching yoga outfits — who feel the sentiments of the original “9 to 5” the most. Nothing says “gig economy” like “It’s a rich man’s game/No matter what they call it/And you spend your life/Puttin’ money in his wallet”.

[See also: Call My Agent! captures the absurdity of the film industry]

Emily Bootle is the New Statesman’s editorial assistant.

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