Let the year of Ruth Bader Ginsburg begin

A story worth telling.
A story worth telling.
Image: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
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It’s well past due, but one of America’s biggest political and cultural icons is finally getting the Hollywood treatment she deserves. US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, known affectionately as “the Notorious RBG” in some internet circles, is the subject of both an acclaimed documentary and a highly anticipated biopic this year.

The documentary, RBG, which premiered at Sundance in January to glowing reviews, released its first trailer yesterday (March 7), highlighting everything from Ginsburg’s illustrious legal career advocating for women’s rights to her long tenure as a Supreme Court justice, to the intense workout regimen she still practices at the age of 84.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933, Ginsburg graduated first in her class from Columbia Law School, before teaching law at Rutgers and then returning to Columbia as its first tenured woman law professor. While at Columbia, she also co-authored the first ever casebook on sex-based discrimination, which would emerge as a major theme of her groundbreaking legal career.

In 1972, Ginsburg joined the American Civil Liberties Union and co-founded its Women’s Rights Project. She argued six cases of sex discrimination before the US Supreme Court, winning five of them. In 1980 she was appointed to the US Court of Appeals by president Jimmy Carter and in 1993, president Bill Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court, where she became the second woman justice in its history, after Sandra Day O’Connor.

There, she earned a reputation for her fiery, gripping dissents, leading to rock-star treatment on the internet and the nickname that stuck, a reference to the rapper the Notorious BIG. (She’s also the subject of a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch starring Kate McKinnon, lampooning her small stature and gutsy truth-telling.)

Much of Ginsburg’s life will be dramatized in the upcoming Hollywood film, On the Basis of Sex, directed by the great The Leftovers director-producer Mimi Leder and starring Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star War Story) as Ginsburg. Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name) will play Ginsburg’s husband, Martin D. Ginsburg, who was also a distinguished lawyer and died in 2010.

Several (very) early Oscar predictions for 2019 put On the Basis of Sex squarely among the top contenders for the major award categories, including best picture. Given the talent involved, and the incredible life upon which it’s based, that seems as good a bet as any.

For her part, Ginsburg has said she currently has no plans to retire and wants to keep dishing out savage judicial opinions as long as her health will allow it.