Monday, July 09, 2018

RBG (2018)

This documentary about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg premiered earlier this year at Sundance. I saw it at a packed house in Olympia on a sunny Saturday afternoon in June, with an appreciative audience who clapped and laughed at all the good parts. (This was the week before we got all the bad news from the Supreme Court. We would probably be crying this week.) RBG is a kind of hagiography, I know. How could it not be at this historical moment? Yet in many ways Ginsburg deserves the adulation. We need more heroes like her, and we could use a few more stories like hers too. The picture had utility for me, as I didn't know that much about her life. Family of immigrants, born and raised in Brooklyn, the first college graduate in her family—Ginsburg's beginnings are as humble as her intellect is formidable. She went into law because she was interested in it and then into her branch because of the discrimination she found when she tried to get a job. Her '70s career as a litigator is particularly impressive, setting out as systematically as she could in a shrewd series of cases to lay a foundation for gender equality under the law. Some of the cases are explained in detail—it's good stuff. In that period, Ginsburg argued six cases before the Supreme Court and won five of them. From there it was on to a stellar career in the judiciary, and eventually, of course, to a Supreme Court appointment herself. Her marriage from a young age to a good man who supported her verges on unbelievable, but there it is and this is a documentary. They can't be lying, right? So good for him, good for her, good for all of us. She's a certain role model and their marriage is part of it. It was interesting to see her close friendship with Antonin Scalia—a genuine friendship from all signs, which made him momentarily more palatable. (But I was happy another person interviewed in the picture expressed amazement that she could have such a friendship because for better or worse I still have a hard time with that myself.) It was also interesting to see how Ginsburg regards her latter-day fame, an icon to many as the "Notorious RBG." Her comment about the nickname is that she thinks it makes sense. She has a lot in common with Biggie Smalls. They were both raised in Brooklyn. Applause. It's priceless, as is much of the movie too and RBG herself, in a taciturn but utterly charming kind of way. See it for your feel-goods. God knows we need them in regard to the Supreme Court right now.

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