‘On the Basis of Sex’ inspires all ages with RBG’s story

“On the Basis of Sex,” directed by Mimi Ledger, was released on Dec. 28. Despite falling short of a Golden Globe nomination, the film did not fail to inspire hope for all ages.

basis of sex

Mel Wulf (Justin Theroux), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones), and Marty Ginsburg (Armie Hammer) arrive prepared for their court case, Charles E. Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Photo from Focus Features

Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”) plays the role of young Ginsburg: mother, wife and top of her class in law school. The film illustrates Ginsburg’s challenges as an educated woman in a male-dominated society, throughout her trials in law school and struggles in finding a job that views her as an equal.

Martin D. Ginsburg, played by Armie Hammer (“Call Me by Your Name”), is a tax lawyer and Ruth’s husband. The two have an equal marriage without gender roles, and Martin values his role as a husband and father more than how society defines him as a man. The Ginsburgs’ equality is later solidified through their partnership on tax case Charles E. Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

Leading up to the court case, Ginsburg works closely with ACLU leader Mel Wulf, played by Justin Theroux (“Zoolander”). Wulf’s character consistently challenges Ginsburg throughout the film, attacking her credibility to cover the tax case, but his hypocrisy ultimately contributes to the development of her tenacity and strength while taking on the case.

Ginsburg’s preparation for the case was not traditional, lacking formal practice as a lawyer or attorney. Instead, her own experiences as a minority and knowledge in gender discrimination prepared her for the trials to come.

According to Slash Film, director Mimi Ledger said, “Here were countless generations of women before her who fought very hard against gender discrimination, and it took a man who was being discriminated against to fight for a win that overturned a century of gender discrimination. I find that to be very telling.”

Prior to her first case, Ginsburg was a professor of law at Rutgers Law School. She later taught at Columbia University before and while preparing for the case, teaching courses covering sex discrimination. Ginsburg’s students at Columbia, primarily female, serve as support system before and during the court case.

Jane Ginsburg, played by Cailee Spaeny (“Pacific Rim: Uprising”), inspires hope, reflecting a new outlook on the trials of the time. The trial, originally a point of tension in Jane’s sometimes challenging relationship with her mother, ultimately contributes to the growth of both individuals. Jane’s view of her mother evolved as they shared the experience and challenges of the trial.

“On the Basis of Sex” is rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive content. The run time is two hours.

Emily Stisser – Opinion Editor 

This will be Emily Stisser’s first year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her freshman year.


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