One of many Super Bowl commercials making headlines the day after the big game features country music legend Dolly Parton turning her iconic song "9 to 5" on its head by celebrating the grit and determination of entrepreneurship as folks out there are "working working working / working 5 to 9" until their "dreams come true."
Here's the commercial, which was for website builder Squarespace:
5 to 9 by Dolly Parton – Extended | Big Game Commercial 2021 | Squarespace youtu.be
Fun stuff, eh?
Well, not for everyone. A number of news outlets published pieces severely criticizing Dolly. In fact, a writer who penned an NBC News op-ed Sunday blasted the singer's "tone-deaf misstep" and "rare miscalculation."
"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," Kim Kelly wrote. "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.'"
More from Kelly's op-ed:
Now, Parton's silvery voice is being used to promote the false virtues of working overtime, when so many gig economy workers are barely scraping by and the tech companies who employ — but misclassify — them are raking in boffo profits. The gig economy is 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. The lack of a safety net has become even more apparent thanks to the increased demands and dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic Parton herself has helped combat; delivery drivers, grocery shoppers and other gig workers have become a lifeline to so many, and yet they remain stripped of the protections and dignity they deserve.
She added that "as we all love Parton, she's still a capitalist and still a very, very rich woman; she has a vested interest in boosting her public profile, and Squarespace surely paid dearly for the privilege of borrowing some of her sparkle. Parton doesn't need the money herself, but between funding her philanthropic efforts, supporting her family and local community and expanding her empire, I can see her welcoming an influx of filthy lucre. The reality is that it made good business sense, and she's always been a shrewd businesswoman."
It's worth noting that Kelly, according to her op-ed bio, also is an "organizer" who specializes in "labor, politics and working-class resistance" — which makes her reaction to Parton's "5 to 9" tune not terribly surprising.
But that ain't all
Kelly wasn't the only one to sling arrows at the beloved songwriter, either:
- Slate's pop culture writer and editor Hilary Hughes chided Parton for the same reasons, saying the ad "diminished one of the most potent, and beloved, messages behind her own work while dressing it up as a tribute."
- Newsweek published an analysis calling the commercial "disturbing" and full of "propaganda" that reflects "an insane ideology."
- And Jessica Bennett — a New York Times editor at large who covers women and culture — didn't like the commercial's theme, either, saying it ignores the present reality of "American women" who now "deal with ongoing job losses, economic challenges and just plain fatigue."
What was the reaction?
As you might expect, many folks weren't happy with Kelly's op-ed — and they hit back on Twitter by telling her it actually does take hard work and determination to get where you want to go in life. And that such a path is more gratifying to travel upon than one featuring more and more stuff handed to you:
- "Why would singing the praises of work be 'disappointing' to anyone but a commie?" one Twitter user asked.
- "Remember: the left *hates* the idea of the individual building something and making the world a better place," another user noted. "They'd rather you worship at the feet of the state — the government should provide and decide who succeeds and what you need for life."
- "I think you misinterpreted the commercial," another commenter said. "The 'hustle' isn't to work more jobs. It's to build something on the side that you love and eventually leave the drudgery of cubicle life ... that's how most small businesses are started."
- "What's wrong with working? Millions of us go to work every day and dream of someday working for ourselves to have more freedom and independence," another user noted. "The point is, we work hard no matter what for ourselves and our families. This work ethic is worthy of praise."