Friends, it’s been a brief time since we’ve broken our own rules, so we’re back at it! And we couldn’t have strayed for a more worthy cause. We saw RBG, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary, at the Women + Film Festival. We laughed, we cried, we loved it. Obviously, we’re about to discuss it. And we’re joined this time by a special guest, so get ready for even more lack of brevity.
But first, AM kick us off. I can’t even offer any help steering this ship because I want to discuss everything at once.
A: First of all, it’s terrifying and glorious all at the same time that Ruth, tiny, 85-year-old Ruth, is about all that stands between this country and true political insanity. We don’t talk politics on WWT for a v v good reason, but we can’t ignore it for this post. She’s doing insane, vital work for someone our age, never mind her advanced age. Get it, lady. That’s first and foremost the impression you get from this movie: this woman is a force to be reckoned with, and we need to listen to what she has to say as long as she’s able.
Brooke and Shannon, if you can, what is the most favorite thing you learned about RBG?
B: I’m going to be honest, my first instinct was to ignore you and list 17 facts, but I’ve checked myself and will settle for two. One from the movie and one from before the movie started — so it’s technically not cheating. The movie fact I most love is that RBG lives like a rockstar. She burns the candle at both ends, she can’t cook and she uses her weekends to catch-up on sleep. As a habitual overbooker, I am going to take comfort in imagining RBG napping a Saturday away every single time I do the same thing.
The other fact has to do with something the movie highlights quite well: Marty Ginsburg was an amazing partner to this amazing woman. (And vice versa, I’ll resist explaining why just now, but we’ll get there.) Quite apart from Marty being a champion for his wife, we learned from a Judge and former Supreme Court clerk who spoke before the film that he was also a clutch host.
The story went thusly, back in the ’90s, it was customary for the Justices to host the clerks they didn’t work with for lunch, the idea being that the clerks could get to know all of the Justices. Well, RBG didn’t do lunch. She always did tea. Because of course she did, she’s not only a force, she’s classy AF. (I added that bit, but I feel like the Judge agrees.) Anyway, as part of her teas, RBG served treats prepared by, you guessed it, Marty. She always made clear who the chef was and that they were after feedback so Marty could continue to perfect his recipes. Word is that the treats were always delicious. Ladies (and gents and gender non-conforming individuals), GET YOU A MAN WHO CAN DO BOTH.
Okay, I have to go swoon over this power couple some more, Shannon, give us your favorite bit of knowledge from the movie.
S: Hi guys, hiiiiiiiiiiii! Thanks for inviting me to the Required Viewing party! And what a film to watch as I make a guest appearance up in here. I could go on for days about the incredible impact she’s had on women’s rights during her career, but instead, I’ll go on for minutes about my favorite RBG factoid. The woman is tough AF. She fought and beat cancer. Twice. All without missing a day on the bench. And this 85-year-old’s regular workout puts my thrice-weekly jaunt on the elliptical to shame. (I also love that she has different collars — jabots — for different moods … is it still cheating if I make my second favorite parenthetical?)
But going back to RBG’s relationships (including those of the non-romantic type), we learned about a few over the course of the film. AM, who was your favorite RBG BFF?
A: Oh but first, I must tell you about my favorite RBG fact. I think it’s that after SO many years of public legal service, she’s become a rock star. The pop culture moment is firmly with RBG, even though I think she’s been doing the same thing for her entire f’ing life. I’m sure it’s perplexing, but I love that she seems to understand not only what’s going on (may I be so lucky at her age), she is entertained by it. She gets it. She knows her legacy is so much more than memes, but I think she finds it amusing and flattering.
Fave BFF is Nina Totenburg, who as an NPR legend, looks nothing like I pictured and also exactly like I imagined she would. (Nina’s also a force of awesome in her own right.) I greatly enjoyed her presence as an emotional ballast for the film and a good friend to Ruth. And obviously, the comedic relief in the form of her two childhood best friends is priceless.
Same question: #BFFGoals
B: AM, I feel like you just claimed a ton of BFFs for your own, but you didn’t get mine. I was all about the granddaughter who was clearly also a pal. I mean, how many people in the world get to troll RBG about not giving an adequately helpful response to the very mundane question, “Do you have any stevia?” Not many. And rightly so, but as someone lucky enough to have had an amazing relationship with my maternal grandmother while she was here, that bond leapt off the screen and into my heart.
Shannon, we still need to hear your winner of the favorite bestie award. And then I want to hear from both of you about the RBG extracurriculars. All those little character notes that told us what this legend is like away from the bench.
S: I think what sets RBG apart from a regular shero is that she is such an exceptional woman that she is able to build strong relationships on both sides of the political aisle. As one of the most liberal justices, her closest relationship on the high court was with the late Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative. And Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, could not have spoken of her with more admiration. In this divisive time, may we all achieve such grace. But also, find you someone who looks at you the way Joe Biden looks at Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In terms of my favorite RBG extracurricular, I think I have to go with the obvious: her love for opera. In a completely invented-by-me scenario, I can just see her sitting in her chambers, writing one of her famous, biting dissents while listening to Mozart’s Requiem, and it gives me chills — in the best possible way.
AM, B — your favorite character notes?
A: Shannon, could not agree with you more on the Biden note. He looked at her with such pride, admiration, and love that he practically had hearts shooting out of his eyes. It was spectacular. I almost wish I would have had the patience to watch C-SPAN to catch moments like this. Is this a new challenge for our Required Viewing series? Trying to find absurdist comedy (and probably succeeding) in our government?
STOP. THAT WORKOUT. Ruth’s workout is reportedly intense, and it looked that way from the film. I, like the director, was actually kind of shocked that she let cameras into the gym, but then I thought about it some more. Here’s why this happened:
- Ruth is 85. She doesn’t give a shit.
- She’s in awesome shape and probably doesn’t ‘gram. How else can she show off?
- Now we all believe that she truly does do that workout, so maybe we can move onto another topic, like moar equal rights.
Brooke, your fave character moments, and let’s not even pretend like we’re going to keep it to one.
B: AM, are you suggesting I have no talent for brevity? I am wounded. Wounded! Wait, no I’m not. #LevityNotBrevity
Anyway, apart from the aforementioned (by me) naps and tea, my favorite character insight was that RBG is stoic, but she was still tickled as all get-out by the SNL clip of Kate McKinnon that she watched side-by-side with the director. Talk about a graceful lady. I also love that she has seemingly taken up Marty’s talent for one-liners since she lost him. We saw clip after clip of people just eating out of her hands. I couldn’t get enough of it.
Okay, friends. We’ve skirted it pretty effectively, but I don’t think we can avoid it any longer, this movie is a bit of an emotional juggernaut. Props to all of us for managing silent floods, but I think it’s time we talk about the feels — weepy and otherwise.
S: There is a quote that RBG references in the film, and I think it may even be repeated a few times. Every time I hear it, it gives me chills:
“I ask no favors for my sex … All I ask of our brethren is, that they will take their feet from off our necks.”
I looked it up, and the quote is from 1837 by a woman named Sarah Grimke, a proto-RBG. Via Wikiquote, “Sarah Moore Grimke was an abolitionist, attorney, judge and feminist. Because she was barred from receiving a formal education, she educated herself.” Back as far as 1837, these women were fighting against societal norms, expectations and THE MAN to give us the rights we have, and lay the foundation for the important feminist movements of today. Cue the waterworks.
AM, B, what moments made you ladies ugly cry?
A: The moments with Marty definitely made me tear up, knowing that he’s passed on, and Ruth’s lost such an amazing partner. The two of them hosting a dinner party in the 1970s? I wish so so so much I could travel back in time and be a part of it. (I don’t know if they hosted ’70s dinner parties, but you know I’d be there in a fashionable caftan, ready to discuss the things.)
I find it more rage-inducing rather than waterworks-inducing that it’s 2018 and we are STILL have to have this conversation. It’s frankly unacceptable, however predictable. Cue the Anger gifs.
B: There was about a 10-minute stretch of this movie where I was full on Claire Danes crying. First, they went and showed us RBG with Obama and there were instant tears. I recall exchanging a look with Annemarie and the two of us saying “I miss him so much,” with shiny, teary eyes. In my memory, we went right from that into Ruth reading a letter that Marty wrote for her and I was toast. It’s well-documented on this site that letters from lost loved ones rank high on the list of things that wreck me. I mean, what a gift to have the words and thoughts they thought about you at hand even when they’re gone. I can’t.
Happily, the other overwhelming emotion I had during the course of this movie was optimism. Watching Ruth speak to those high school kids and hearing so many talking heads rhapsodize over her was pure magic. As long we have a glass ceiling busting Justice as a cultural icon, I think we’ll be okay.
With that, I’d say we’re due for closing thoughts. Here’s mine: Will Betsy West and Julie Cohen bring Ruth to the Oscars with them next February?
S: Mine is fairly obvious, but it’s this: RBG has been, and continues to be, the real-life superhero we need, but probably don’t deserve. May we someday be deserving.
A: I don’t see a ton of documentaries, in fact, this will probably be one of 2 or 3 I see this year. But I can’t imagine a world in which RBG doesn’t get picked up for a best doc nod at the Oscars, and I also can’t imagine a world in which RBG wouldn’t to go and be a Hollywood superstar for a night. It’s what she deserves.
We’re going back to the ’90s vault next time, as if we ever left it, with Peak River Phoenix.