Film Review by Karly Stilling
If you think a documentary about an American Supreme Court justice is not for you, then RBG is out to prove you wrong.
From the film’s opening credits, my feminist heart swelled at seeing the female names on the screen in positions so often occupied by men: directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West, a half dozen female producers and executive producers, cinematographer Claudia Raschke, editor Carla Gutierrez — the list goes on.
It’s only fitting for a film about one of the most influential women in America who has spent her life arguing for equal rights regardless of gender.
There’s no denying Ginsburg is a superhero of American culture – only, instead of a cape she wears black judicial robes and a trademark lace collar. She’s become an icon for modern-day feminism, specifically for the generation of ladies who’ve grown from girl power to vocal women demanding substantive governmental and legal change.
This is a generation that lives on the internet, and this is where Ginsburg has found her modern-day fan club. As one RBG interviewee points out, every time she registers a dissent the internet freaks out. As the sole woman on the Supreme Court, she’s come to be the face of resistance in the face of a growing swing to the right.
The beauty of this film is that it captures not only the tremendous impact Ginsburg has had on American politics and society, but also all the things about her that make her such an unlikely cultural hero, like her reserved personality, or her lack of interest in much of contemporary culture. At one point, West and Cohen show Ginsburg a clip of Kate McKinnon doing RGB on SNL and when asked if the caricature reminds her of herself she laughs and says “No. Except for the collar.” When asked if she has a smartphone, she admits that she had two “until they took one away from me – apparently nobody uses a BlackBerry anymore.”
Despite her shy nature, she doesn’t seem to mind her growing cult status. The film makes a good point of demonstrating how Ginsburg’s politics have shifted left over her time on the bench – as new conservative judges come on, Ginsburg has allowed herself to be pushed left in order to compensate.
Now, her dissenting opinions have become infamous statements of protest in their own rights.
American society has so much to thank Ginsburg for – equal rights for spouses regardless of gender, the baseline assumption that discriminating against someone for their gender is as unjust as discriminating against them based on race, and the list goes on.
For international audiences, who might not know much about the powerhouse that is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG should be required viewing, and a much-needed reminder that quiet voices can have a big impact if they persevere.
An in-depth look at Ginsburg’s impact on the American judicial system this is not – luckily we have podcasts for that (I urge the interested to check out Stitcher’s RGB: Beyond Notorious series and More Perfect S3’s episode Sex Appeal) – but it is a great overview of the life’s work of a woman who undoubtedly changed the course of justice, and it still fighting today.
A version of this review was first posted on The Digital Fix.