Dolly Parton is an American icon who is hard to hate, but the corporate media still managed to fault their Super Bowl ad on Sunday. Working with Squarespace, Parton revived a song from their 1980 musical “9 to 5” and named it “5 to 9” to celebrate the dreams and “sideline things” that many Americans pursue outside of business hours.
“When you work between five and nine, you have passion and a vision,” Parton sings in the colorful and beautifully choreographed ad. “It’s hustlin’s time, a whole new way of making a living. I’ll change your life, do something that will give it meaning. “
From a dreary office, the camera pans to young men and women dancing over a landscaping company, a carpentry shop, a beauty salon (where Parton makes a cameo on a magazine cover) and a cake shop. “You have dreams and you know they are important,” Parton continues. “Be your own boss and climb your own ladder.”
It’s an ad for Squarespace’s website platform, but it’s also a worthy tribute to creativity, passion, and work ethic. However, the reaction of most corporate media largely hit the song as “wrong”.
The Washington Post accused Parton of “advocating overwork at a time when people barely have the energy to take care of themselves.” Calling the song “off-key”, Slate noted that “the rise of the gig economy … often replaces full-time opportunities with freelance or part-time opportunities and presents it as a” passion “fueled hustletocracy.”
NBC News published an article titled “Dolly Parton’s 2021 Super Bowl Commercial Plays A Game For The Rich,” calling the commercial “a perfect gig economy propaganda storm that has been” downplayed. “[s] How hard it is for so many gig workers to make ends meet. “Jessica Bennett, editor of the New York Times, lamented,” As American women struggle with persistent job losses, economic challenges and just plain fatigue, they could use a more accurate anthem. “
Newsweek called the ad “a ballad extolling an economy where too many people have to work endlessly to survive” in an attempt to raise more money on the side to make ends meet. “Newsweek’s David Sirota continued,” That used to be the American dream. “
While Sirota is certainly right that ideally hard work should be enough to “make ends meet,” Dolly Parton seems to understand the American dream better than he does. Parton was born in a one-room cabin in Tennessee and is no stranger to poverty. Her parents paid the doctor who delivered her with a bag of cornmeal. Recalling the entrepreneurs Parton cheered on in the video, her father was a partner who eventually managed to own his own tobacco farm.
Parton’s own career is testament to the American dream as she sang about corn cob dolls as a young girl and played a hand-me-down guitar from her uncle to now be an icon who needs no introduction. However, the American Dream is not all about commercial success, it’s also about the freedom to work hard on something you believe in. The entrepreneurship captured in the Super Bowl commercial celebrates the brave Americans who do just that.
Many of the criticisms made in the ad warn that making a living as an Airbnb host or Uber driver is unsustainable, and Parton shouldn’t encourage people to quit their reliable jobs for these gigs. Of course, no one disagrees that it is tragic that the coronavirus lockdown has cost jobs and put many Americans in financial trouble. However, this criticism misses the message of the commercial.
Dolly Parton doesn’t necessarily advocate people making a little more money as delivery drivers on top of their 9 out of 5 jobs (though I’m sure she’d appreciate the work ethic of the people who do). The careers that are exemplified in advertising look like full-fledged small businesses that were not started as a permanent “sideline”, but as potential full-time passions. In fact, the Super Bowl commercial strongly recommends, “Do your 5 to 9 full time,” and Parton sings, “Be your own boss and climb your own ladder. That moment is getting closer every day. “
In announcing its partnership with Parton, Squarespace described the song as “a modern all-day hunt for dreamers trying to turn a passion or after-work project into a career at Squarespace.” The ad isn’t just celebrating people who work their 9-5 jobs and have a side appearance. It also encourages those who are dissatisfied with working for large national companies and who choose to start their own business in their local communities.
“My advice to entrepreneurs at this challenging time is not to give up,” Parton said in an interview with Squarespace. “Don’t stop working and never stop dreaming.”
There’s nothing un-American or wrong about working for a company, but there is something uniquely American about the innovation, creativity, and hard work that Dolly Parton represents and celebrates. Far from being out of place in the middle of a pandemic, a message of innovation and hard work has enabled Americans to overcome adversity with resilience and hope.
Elle Reynolds is a federalist intern and senior at Patrick Henry College. She studies government and journalism. You can follow her work on Twitter @_etreynolds.