Since its Sundance 2018 unveiling, the documentary RBG has — like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — proven to be most resilient. While fellow successful theatrical release docus from that Sundance like Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Three Identical Strangers were strangely excluded from the final Oscar ballot by the Academy’s Documentary branch, RBG has soldiered on, with a strong $14 million theatrical gross for Magnolia. As the film takes a turn for the home stretch in the Oscar race, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy offers perspective on what makes the docu and its 85-year-old subject so remarkable. And how Ginsburg’s accomplishments lit a path for Kennedy and other ambitious, smart women in fields traditionally dominated by men.
Ruth Ginsburg graduated from law school four years after I was born. Her cri de coeur for equal rights and human decency changed my life.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the trail blazer that my generation benefits from each and every day. And her indefatigable energy at 85 years old is beautifully captured and illuminated in this documentary and gives us hope that she will continue well into the next decade with thoughtful, uncompromising legal decisions that will benefit the next generation.
To think that in 1961 women could not serve on juries in some U.S. states, let alone become a justice on the Supreme Court, makes Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s story that much more astonishing.
In 1973, during her first oral arguments to the Supreme Court, she famously stated, “I ask no favor for my sex,” quoting Sarah Grimké from 1837. “All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” A sentiment that captures the conditions of that era and with Ginsburg’s powerful acknowledgment, still resonates today.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg may be a small package but she has always been a forceful voice for change. Her patience and persistence is a lesson for me and for all of us who recognize change is often slow, but deliberate and focused persistence, founded in the guiding principles of human decency, respect and personal commitment to what is right for all. That is what Julie Cohen and Betsy West so beautifully remind us of with this portrait of a woman who will forever remind us of what really matters.
NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg, who has covered the Supreme Court for more than 40 years, put it strongly in the film: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg changed the way the world is for American women.” This documentary – the first ever about a sitting Supreme Court Justice – goes a long way towards remedying a gap in our cultural literacy about women’s rights.
My struggles as a woman stepping into an industry dominated by men in the early 1970s were rewarded in part by the work Ruth Bader Ginsburg was doing in the shadows. Her powerful voice on behalf of all teens and women in their twenties, like myself, was resonating in every step we took in our education, careers and most importantly in our belief that we could be acknowledged, rewarded, and respected in our desire to work hard and succeed.
She fought discrimination against men (like a law denying benefits for widowers who wanted to be stay-at-home dads) as vigorously as discrimination against women. She targeted the complex pervasive legal framework that led to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. She argued that if the law only acknowledges what is seen as appropriate, then it fails to recognize the interests, needs, desires, competencies, predilections and home and work lives of both men and women, thus creating a disadvantage for both.
Ginsburg’s body of work has made great advances for women under the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution and has effectively discouraged legislatures from treating women and men differently under the law.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has, simply put, made the world a better place for all of us, and I know I am eternally grateful to her for putting that wind at my back in my personal life and career, and I thank Julie and Betsy for making this film and for giving Ruth Bader Ginsburg the hero status she deserves.
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