Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in her 80s when she took over the internet. Then came the movies.
The Supreme Court justice, who died on Friday at 87, became an unlikely pop culture celebrity late in her life. Though private in her personal life, she was publicly known for the delivery of pointed and powerful court opinions, which became the fodder that kindled Ginsburg’s internet fame. A Tumblr blog called Notorious R.B.G. — a play on the name of the rapper Notorious B.I.G., who was born in Brooklyn like Justice Ginsburg — was started by a law student in 2013 and excerpted the justice’s opinions, as well as images and news articles about her. It laid the groundwork for an increased interest in her life.
A biography, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” was published in 2015 by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, the law student who started the blog. Three years later, the documentary “RBG” became a summer hit and earned an Oscar nomination. A biopic, “On the Basis of Sex,” written by her nephew, was also released that year.
Here’s more on the movies and what The Times wrote about them when they were released in 2018.
The documentary “RBG” chronicles Ginsburg’s upbringing, her time as a law student at Harvard, where she was one of nine women in her class, her marriage to to Martin Ginsburg and her rise to the Supreme Court. It was nominated for a best documentary Oscar in 2019. (The Oscar went to “Free Solo.”)
The film helped bring Ginsburg more prominently into the realm of bona fide celebrity and it was a role she willingly accepted. “She knows the fact that she’s doing this, and embracing it, means so much to young women — because she’s teaching, every time she gives a speech or talks to people,” Theodore B. Olson, the conservative lawyer and a longtime friend, told The Times in 2018.
In his review, A.O. Scott wrote that the documentary is “a loving and informative documentary portrait of Justice Ginsburg during her 85th year on earth and her 25th on the bench,” and that the movie helped explain how she became such a cultural icon.
‘On the Basis of Sex’
“On the Basis of Sex,” a 2018 biopic starring Felicity Jones, depicts Ginsburg’s time at Harvard Law and the suit she argued with her husband that would become one of the building blocks of the laws that prohibited gender discrimination. Her nephew, Daniel Stiepleman, spent several years writing the script, consulting her throughout the process.
The film “does a brisk, coherent job of articulating what Ginsburg accomplished and why it mattered, dramatizing both her personal stake in feminist legal activism and the intellectual discipline with which she approached it,” our critic wrote in his review.