As a human who breathes and stuff, I naturally have only goodwill towards Dolly Parton, which is why it pains me to talk about her like this. But our business at Discourse Blog is truth, and the truth is that Parton’s newest move is indescribably depressing.
Let’s turn things over for a second to writer Hilary Hughes, who first alerted me to what Parton has been up to lately in this tweet:
In case you can’t read the little type in the image there, Parton has teamed up with Squarespace, the website people, to “reimagine” her classic song “9 to 5” as a whole new song called “5 to 9.” Whereas the song originally cataloged the inherent horrors of work, particularly for women, the new version is about….how great it is to keep working on your side gig after your regular job is over. Oh, and about how Squarespace is awesome.
The song is included in a new Super Bowl ad from Squarespace with a ludicrously high pedigree (it was directed by Damien Chazelle—he of Whiplash, which was overrated, and La La Land, which I liked on first viewing and liked much less on second viewing, and First Man, which it only took me one viewing to feel utter indifference towards, and then we had to sit through the most interminable interview with the screenwriter, but I’m getting sidetracked—and choreographed by ballet and Broadway Them Justin Peck). Here is the ad:
Let us just note the lyrics:
Working 5 to 9, you’ve got passion and a vision
‘Cause it’s hustling time, whole new way to make a living,
Gonna change your life, do something that gives it meaning
With a website that is worthy of your dreaming
5 to 9, you keep working working working
5 to 9, until your dreams come true
5 to 9, you keep dreaming dreaming dreaming
5 to 9, 5 to 9, you can do it!
Somehow, that’s less inspiring and galvanizing the original.
Now, it might seem ironic that I am castigating an attempt to create an anthem about following your dreams and being your own boss and all that. Isn’t that what Discourse Blog is all about? Well, yes, but the key difference is that we’re not, like, into the notion of having to hustle and hustle until our dreams come true. We do not want to be working 9 to 5 and then 5 to 9. We want to just do this! (If you want to help us, tell your friends to subscribe and all that.)
The new ad is so grim precisely because it asks us to venerate the idea of unceasing labor—to accept the notion that the only path to meaning is endless toil, and that the side hustle and the gig economy are things of beauty and uplift, rather than an indictment of the way our system functions. Working 9 to 5 and then immediately switching to working 5 to 9 is now something to dance about, not something to hate. In this world, there is nothing untoward about Dolly Parton singing the line “you keep working working working” with her usual gusto. It’s fun! Capitalism is endlessly trying to turn its indignities into inspirations, and—to crib from Dolly one last time—here it comes again. No!
Le sigh. Dolly, I still love you, but this one’s not so great.