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Dolly Parton Steps on Her Message

'5 to 9' commercial celebrated going to another job when the whistle blows on your first one
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2021 5:03 PM CST

(Newser) – Dolly Parton rarely makes a misstep. The singer and philanthropist has become even more admired in the past few months, donating to a successful coronavirus vaccine development and pulling a child to safety as a vehicle neared. But Parton's first Super Bowl commercial is deeply disappointing, Kim Kelly writes for NBC. Parton's film debut in 1980, and the theme song she wrote for it and sang—"9 to 5"—drew attention to the issues facing many employees, especially women. The empowering song and film inspired the 9to5 movement, which still advocates for improved pay and working conditions, as well as putting a stop to sexual harassment on the job. The battles on those issues are still going on. But you wouldn't know it from Parton's "5 to 9" take on the original that ran Sunday, an ad for a website builder.

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"Rather than paying homage to the spirit of the original song, which made no bones about the exploitative nature of the daily grind, the commercial for Squarespace features a tinny ode to the side hustle," Kelly writes. "Its office workers are portrayed as being overjoyed to continue working after hours, their side hustles are painted as freeing, fun and fulfilling, and the song itself encourages them to 'be your own boss, climb your own ladder.'" The commercial is propaganda for the gig economy, "a wretched alternative to a stable paycheck and proper benefits, and efforts to paint it as a matter of 'independence' or 'being one’s own boss' downplay how hard it is for so many gig workers to make ends meet," Kelly says. She points out that it's especially tone-deaf during a pandemic. Having to work multiple jobs now surely doesn't make everyone feel like dancing. (You can read the full piece and watch the commercial here.) (Parton turned down a Presidential Medal of Freedom.)

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