It’s kind of funny and kind of wonderful that such a tiny old lady has become a symbol of hope and power for a young generation of voters, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg is just the icon the world was needing recently. Though she has been working tirelessly for decades, it’s only recently that Millennials have given her their highest praise and greatest stature, turning her into a meme. Perhaps it is the recent turn in American politics that has created a void that RBG is uniquely qualified to fill. Her thoughtful words and stirring arguments have lifted us up in our time of need. And though her career as a Supreme Court Justice may have started out more moderate, the Court’s present makeup has forced her to become more outspoken, a more liberal voice, a voice of dissent.
No woman is born a legend. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a baby once, and then a quiet, serious child, and then a teenager with no patience for small talk. She learned some valuable lessons from her mother before losing her at a tender age. She went to Harvard Law, where she had to justify taking a seat away from a man. She met her husband, Marty, who admired her intelligence during a time when men were meant to dominate their spouses. She finished law school as a mother and a caretaker to her husband, who was stricken with cancer. Long before she was known to her country, she was known to friends and family as dedicated, hard-working, and tough.
As a young lawyer she herself faced gender discrimination before taking up the cases that would help change those laws. She saw herself as a kindergarten teacher in front of many judges, trying to get them to see what life was like for the females in the room. A brilliant legal mind, she made a name for herself with historic wins for gender equality, but it wasn’t until 1993 that Bill Clinton saw fit to appoint her to the Supreme Court. Since then she was been a hero for us all.
Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen make an excellent biography for an important woman. They demystify her with glimpses into her collar closet (where she adorns her robes with various lace), her surprising friendship with Scalia, her chuckles over Kate McKinnon’s portrayal of her on SNL. Without a boastful bone in her body, RBG is nonetheless tickled by all the attention she’s been receiving. At 85 years old, she’s quite a ways past what most of us would consider retirement age. Luckily the documentary supplies us with perhaps the most hopeful images we could have asked for: the Notorious RBG working out in a gym. Strong in mind and body, she is determined not to abandon us anytime soon.