9 to 5: The Movie Discussion

9-to-5-corporetteWelcome to our first movie discussion here on the blog — as noted a few weeks ago, I thought it might be fun for us to review a few movies about working women through the years that you may or may not have seen.  Today we’ll be discussing the 1980 movie 9 to 5.   Our next discussion will be of Working Girl, on November 1 — it’s available for streaming on Netflix, from your local library, and on Amazon. (Here’s a link to the trailer, and to the Rotten Tomatoes page, where it has an 84% fresh rating.) 

So let’s discuss the movie 9 to 5!

(Warning if you haven’t seen it — spoilers ahead!)

Here’s what I remembered about this movie before watching it recently: I remembered that three women bonded together and tied up their mean boss and ran the company in his absence. I remembered Violet’s Snow White scene, with the birds and the poison in the coffee.  I kind of forgot about the “fun romp” with the dead body and the crazy role in the plot played by Doralee’s hand gun (which she brings to work!! loaded!!).

On rewatch: What a great, fun movie — and I love that when they reissued the widescreen DVD a few years ago they called it the “Sexist, Egotistical, Lying Hypocritical Bigot Edition.”  It was very interesting to me to see how Doralee’s character interacted with her boss, Mr. Hart — the routine way she defended herself against his advances, threats, and blackmailing was remarkable. Same old, same old.  (The recent New Republic article on 9 to 5 had this to say about the boss’s advances: “The concept of ‘sexual harassment’ as a legal issue—and not simply the way things were—wasn’t drilled into the American consciousness until eleven years after the release of 9 to 5, when Anita Hill testified at Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings. “) I really liked how all three of the women had a can-do attitude (even with the dead body!), even the meek divorcee, Judy. (I’m so happy she didn’t ditch her friends to go back to her cheating husband — that could very easily have been a plot point.) The flexible working conditions they introduced at the end were fantastic, and in the movie, at least, it was great to see the welcome reception the ideas had. (I feel like they may have glossed over some, er, liability/license issues with the on-site daycare, but hey, it’s fiction.) At the end of the movie, I was sad there was no Holloway & Harris moment for Violet, or that the three women didn’t start a business consulting other workplaces on flexible conditions — in some ways, the fact that their “happy endings” were so underwhelming is as much a mark of the times as anything.

Stray observations:

  • THE HAIR! MY GOD, THE HAIR. Otherwise it’s kind of fun to see the other fashion that has come back around and is now in now — bodyconscious turtlenecks, voluminous coats, etc. Also: I feel like Dolly Parton’s bras deserve a special shoutout because I have tried similar, uh, shape-enhancing bras like that even now in 2016, and ladies, let me tell you, the pointy cone look flatters no one.
  • Wow, kimonos WERE in style at another point in recent history! And I think Violet looks great in hers! I feel like she attributes different levels of authority to the kimono/blazer/sweater top layers that didn’t quite make sense to me.
  • I feel like the bar they go to where they all bond (Charlie’s) probably still exists and looks exactly the same in NYC but minus the cigarette smoke.
  • She brought a gun! To work! Then threatened her boss with it! Then pulled it out playfully while she and her new friends were getting stoned! Is this what 1980 was like?
  • If you were babysitting your tied-up, kidnapped boss at night, you’d choose to wear a silky nightgown? Really? In other Jane Fonda outfit news, I thought that her first day outfit at the job was interesting, and was kind of touched to read in IMDB’s trivia that she interviewed a lot of women who had started jobs post-divorce and a lot of women mentioned wearing their Sunday finest for their first day on the job.)

All right, ladies, over to you — what were your thoughts on 9 to 5? What quotes and scenes had the most impact to you, so many years after it came out? 

(Psst: we’ve talked about a bit about flexible work arrangements over at CorporetteMoms if you’re interested.)


The Lessons Working Women Can Learn from '9 to 5' - Decades Later


  1. In 1980, when 9 to 5 was in theaters, I was an administrative assistant for a large car dealership. I had a BA, my primary responsibility was to resolve hundreds of outstanding customer complaints. 150 employees, I was one of 10 females; women were regarded as either broads or clerks. All the sales persons were men; I remember one time when a woman applied for a sales job, as they ushered her out cordially, my boss turned away saying “I’m never having a woman in my sales meeting.”
    So, my boss saw the movie 9-5 one weekend. He called me into his office that Monday, talked about the plot of the movie. He said something like ‘those women did all the work, made the boss look good, and he did not treat them well.” He then raised my salary by 25% . . .

    • LostInTranslation :

      “He said something like ‘those women did all the work, made the boss look good, and he did not treat them well.’”

      Apparently I need to show our Managing Director the movie because this is still going on in our office today.

    • That is amazing. Funny what can lead to an ah-ha moment.

    • Senior Attorney :

      Wow, what a great story!

      I worked as a secretary all through college in the late 70s and as an admin for a few years before law school in the early 80s. I can’t begin to describe how sex-segregated it was back then. I worked for an agency called Kelly Services as a temp, and I was expected to introduce myself at each new assignment by saying “Hi, I’m your Kelly Girl!” (I refused to do it and would mumble “Hi, I’m from Kelly.”) And it was quite common for the job description to be “one-girl office.” Which generally required “front office appearance.”

      Gah. And don’t get me started about the 40-something guys hitting on 20-something me…

      • Legally Brunette :


        I worked at Kelly Services too as a temp but back in 2000. Thankfully the introductory greeting was no longer required then.

      • Wowza.

      • Meredith Grey :

        So curious about this… As someone who lived and worked “back in *those* days,” do you find your experiences better/worse/neutral now that sexism tends to be more subtle/less in-your-face/overt?

        • Senior Attorney :

          It was a different world. Completely different. Help wanted ads were listed by sex. Women were called “girls.” Women were paid less for doing the same work. No. respect. at. all.

          When I interviewed for a summer job after my first year of law school, I was pregnant. One firm took me to lunch at a men-only club (very common back then, early 80s) and asked me about my child care plans and whether I wasn’t, really and just between us, going to drop out of law school and stay home with the baby. And if I wasn’t, what was I going to do for child care? Super, super common and we just had to put up with it.

          • Meredith Grey :

            wow. can’t even!!

          • So… the clubs were “men only” but men could elect to bring a woman there as a one-off?? Like her guardian? I feel very lucky that this is incomprehensible to me!

          • Senior Attorney :

            Yes, women could attend as guests. Some of the more exclusive clubs had special entrances for women. I am not making this up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Membership_discrimination_in_California_social_clubs

          • True that on the clubs. When I was first practicing law for DOJ and taking details anywhere they were offered in order to get the more interesting cases, I got to go to lunch with the first woman admitted to membership in the Minneapolis Club. She was amazing!

            Where I live now, there still are a couple men only clubs. Women can come along as guests of a male member for dining but there are no women’s locker rooms, etc. so that women can use the courts, etc. The hubs has been invited to join one of them but, um, NO. Just no.

      • Also former “Kelly girl” here, 1980s edition. Got lots of good gigs because I knew how to use the then-hot word processing system known as the “Wang”. Not a joke.

        Also, cosign with SA that things were more different as opposed to better or worse. Women have come a long way, but sometimes that just underlines how far we still have to go.

    • Legally Brunette :

      I love this!

    • What a great story!

      • It is a great story. And as we know, littel has changed over the year’s. After all, D. Trump is nearly 70 or so and has rotated up to 3 wives. How long will Melania last now that she has bore him a child and I think is over 40? She is very cute, but as we know, we can’t be 30 year’s old forever. FOOEY!

  2. One of my co-workers *accidentally* brought her loaded pink handgun into our child-focused non-profit’s office in 2014 so this is a thing that happens. (Her exact words were “Whoops! Forgot to leave this in my car!”)

    • Things really were different in the 1980s. I shot rifle and brought my gun with me on the school bus each day, stored it (and my ammo) in my locker, rode the activity bus to the range, and then rode the late bus home.

      The boys knew to keep their hands to themselves.

  3. Law Clerk :

    I wasn’t born yet in 1980 :)
    However, I loved the movie.

    As a youngish partner (33 and I look about 20, I get carded), when I am in on meetings, the men assume I am the paralegal and defer the questions to the junior associate (male). SO that sitgma still exists.

    I will usually introduce myself as a Jane Doe, Senior Partner and this is my associate John Doe.

    Even then, they still look at me as the clerk. I hate it.

    It is slowly changing. When I get younger business men. they are much better and treat me like the partner I am.

  4. Mountain Girl :

    I graduated from college in 1980 and started my first job at an accounting firm the next week. Granted, I had much to learn about professionalism. It used to make me so mad when clients would look past me and talk directly to the partners. I had a great mentor in one of the senior partners and once I asked him “why didn’t the client just tell ME that?” Partner’s response – “if you didn’t look like a high school cheerleader he might take you more seriously.” I didn’t think I looked like a cheerleader but I suppose to a 50 year old man a 22 year old with a flippy Farrah Fawcett ‘do and wearing my silky, colorful dresses when all the men were wearing suits did make me stand out. So I found “Dress for Success” and took it to heart.

    There weren’t many women mentors back then. You didn’t see them on TV or have them in the upper echelons to emulate. It seems like we were all sort of feeling our way around and trying to figure it out on our own. Now that I am in senior mgmt and closer to the end of my working days than the beginning it is easier to see how much things have changed. But, yes, women did wear their Sunday finest to work. One of the biggest factors that the author of Dress for Success wanted women to do was differentiate their work wardrobe from their casual and formal wardrobes like men have.

    • Anonymous :

      I find that some young women are insistent in not dressing professionally. I figure if my male counterparts are in suit and tie, then yoga pants or sleeveless casual dresses aren’t appropriate.

    • Ah, Dress for Success. My first interview suit was the regulation worsted wool double breasted navy peak lapel with the bottom of the knee skirt with sewn down front pleats. I wore it with a white oxford with a foulard rosette and either navy pumps or penny loafers with hose, plus a low bun and glasses.

      Happily, there are no pictures that record that outfit.

  5. Anonymous :

    I worked in a skilled blue collar field starting in the late 60s and continuing on for several years until I returned to school. There was a particular piece of equipment that I really wanted to learn how to operate.

    I asked my boss if I could be trained on it. By that time I had worked for the same company for a few years. Apparently they did have some faith in me because they promoted me to lead over the group of people I worked with. My boss answer to my request, “No, because you’re going to get pregnant.” His rationale for why he thought I would get pregnant? I was young and female.

    I argued with him a little. “I have already proved to be a good employee. You will take a young male right off the street, with no track record with the company, and start training him his first week on the job. He gets to be trained and I don’t just because of the difference in gender.” What did the boss say? “Yes, that’s right. Now get back to work.”

    At a subsequent job in the same field I learned the equipment I was so interested in. I became very skilled at it too. At the later job, a nice man with no other expectation from me other than I be a good student, was happy to teach me.

    My experience as a female skilled blue collar worker was not as I feared. There was very little sexism aimed toward me. And when it appeared it came from management, not from the guys “on the floor”. As soon as my co-workers saw that I worked as hard as they did and was serious about my job, they were amicable and fair. It was the bosses who were always a royal pain.

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