1980s Videos Explained: She Works Hard For The Money Edition

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Time for another installment of our sort of regular feature, 1980s Videos Explained.

Today’s video is Donna Summer’s She Works Hard For The Money:

The central character in his video is a middle-aged single working Mom named Meryl. 

We find discover Meryl dreaming about Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Shows, when her alarm clock rudely awakens her at 5:30 a.m.  We can tell right away that she is poor, since she has one of those old-timey alarm clocks with the bells on top — the kind you see only in cartoons.  She also sleeps on a futon bed.

Meryl goes to her first job in the early hours of the day, before New York City has officially woken up.  Not very many people are up at 6:00 a.m. in New York, so the early-risers like Meryl have gotten to know each other.  She waves to the street cleaner, and buys a newspaper from the newspaper guy, both of whom have clearly had their morning coffee.

Meryl’s first job is scrubbing the floor of a large office building.  Even though the floor is already clean (presumably by the nighttime janitors), It’s important to do this job again in the wee morning hours before the regular office workers arrive.  Her employers do not give her any of those big floor cleaning machines — she must get on her knees.  Meryl wipes the floor twice and begins to feel faint.

It’s 9:00 a.m. (so sings Donna) and Meryl is off to her second job as a waitress.  She checks her moustache in a scratchy bathroom mirror before opening the door for the patrons.  Now she has to serve these people!  Unbelieveable!  She is, apparently, the only waitress — yet, people still flock to this restaurant for the good service, presumably because she is so amenable to their fanny-pats.  (Although it is not shown in the video, she also poses for the cover of the Supertramp album).

It’s now 8:00 a.m. and Meryl has gone back in time to her third — er, second — job of the day.  She’s a seamstress in a sweatshop.  The sweatshop is overcrowded, dirty, and probably violates dozens of OSHA regulations.  Donna Summer is there as the "overseer’; she’s manning the station where you punch in and punch out with your time cards.

Cut to later in the day.  Meryl has gone grocery shopping — apparently, buying only cereal.  Like an idiot, she decides to avoid sidewalks (which are for wimps) and walks home on the railroad tracks.  This proves difficult in her heels.  Waaay in the background, we can see Donna Summer, following her.

Meryl arrives home to see her kids throwing a ball in the front yard — a yard not much bigger then Meryl’s futon bed.  It’s now 12:15 p.m., and apparently the kids don’t have school today.  Perhaps they were kicked out.  We don’t know. 

Meryl is now in the kitchen and opens the blinds to reveal — Donna Summer!!  OH NO!  Meryl’s got a hard life — the last thing she needs now is to be stalked by a disco diva!!

But she soldiers on.  She serves lunch to her truant kids — pancakes, of course.  The kids are simply out of control.  They fight over the ketchup (which, as we all know, is the perfect condiment for pancakes).  Little Timmy spills his milk, but fortunately, it falls in slow motion so there’s not much damage.

Meryl is exhausted — three jobs, bratty kids, and a stalker.  She decides to take a nap.  It is at this point that we learn that Meryl is a lesbian, as she gazes longfully at a picture of Crystal Gayle in Danskins.

As she lies in bed, she reflects on her day so far: fighting kids, clocks, scrubbing floors, men who eat like pigs, clocks, food, and clocks.  Donna Summer, her stalker, has worked her way into the house and is singing at the top of her lungs.

It’s afternoon, and apparently Meryl is back at the diner.  She drops a plate in the diner’s kitchen.  The impact of the plate on the floor is so powerful that it literally knocks Meryl over.  Donna Summer comes to Meryl’s rescue, but Meryl wisely pushes herself away from her stalker.

At the sweatshop, the women are working so hard (for their money) that they literally are having orgasms.  But not Meryl.  She doesn’t get the same thrill from sewing that the other women do.  All she can think of is Crystal Gayle.

Time to go home again, after another stop at the grocery store for more cereal.  To Meryl’s surprise, she enters the house to discover that her stalker, Donna Summer, has trashed the place.  This is very upsetting.  And THERE SHE IS!!  Donna Summer!  Banging at the door trying to get in!!  Run, Meryl, run!!

But Meryl does not run.  Instead, she puts on her best garden party dress, and goes into the city again.  She’s going to dance in the middle of the street.  She’s joined by other women workers — waitresses, cops, construction workers, hookers, and even a milkman, um, milkwoman (because that’s something you see a lot of — milkwoman). 

Actually, by the way they dance, one might conclude that they are all hookers wearing costumes, but they are not. 

Hundreds of bystanders watch from the sidewalk while Donna Summer, who is apparently not just a stalker, but Satan himself, watches over her minions from the fire escape above the street.

The dancing liberates Meryl.  She weaves her way through the dancing women (all of whom get fired later because they abandoned their jobs).  She’s happy now — now that she’s leaving her kids and crappy jobs.  No longer will she work hard for the money.  Way to go, girl.