Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Pop Culture Phenom and Wonder Woman
By Christina Angel, PhD, Denver Pop Culture Con Director
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hero to millions, a titan of the American justice system, and a genuine pop culture phenomenon. Pop Culture Classroom celebrates her life and legacy.
Justice Ginsburg may be an unlikely celebrity — but she’s a pop culture icon all the same.
(Music: “Lady Liberty” by Denver’s Dressy Bessy, © 2016 Yep Roc Records)
RBG: Wonder Woman
Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last weekend due to complications from her many battles with cancer. She was 87. To many, she was a real-life Wonder Woman.
For 27 years, Justice Ginsburg served as a powerful voice for gender equality and women’s rights on the Supreme Court. She was nominated in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and was only the second woman to be appointed to the position.
RBG came to the court as a legendary champion for the rights and opportunities of women. Her influence as Supreme Court Justice — and later, pop culture icon — was even greater.
A Story Worth Telling
RBG was well-known as a fierce litigator and thoughtful jurist, absolutely certain in her convictions, and not afraid to be vocal in her dissent.
Named one of Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women for several years, she also:
- Won the right for women to have their own names on mortgages and credit cards without a male co-signer.
- Became only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and the first of any SCOTUS members to officiate a same-sex marriage.
- Graduated first in her class at Columbia Law School in a time where few women were pursuing law degrees. She’d later be the first woman professor awarded tenure at the law school.
- Was only the second female law professor at Rutgers, where she fought for equal pay.
- Co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at ACLU.
- Argued six cases before the Supreme Court in the 1970s — and won five of them.
You can learn more about her extraordinary life from the National Women’s Hall of Fame — and at the pop culture links I’ve listed below.
RBG’s Pop Culture Power
Consider the supreme pop culture power of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. No supreme court justice has garnered her respect and name recognition.
For more than a decade, Justice Ginsburg has proudly been celebrated as the “Notorious R.B.G.” In several interviews said she loved the moniker because she and the rapper Notorious B.I.G. had “a lot in common.” One thing they have in common: a powerful place in America’s pop culture.
Justice Ginsburg was one of those rare icons who had a film made about her in her lifetime.
- The 2019 film “On the Basis of Sex“, tells the story of victory as an attorney in Reed v. Reed, a landmark case in the fight for gender equality.
- She was also celebrated in “RBG“, a 2018 documentary about her life and influence on pop culture.
- Becoming RBG is a weighty graphic novel that takes young readers through Justice Ginsburg’s incredible life, from 1930s Brooklyn all the way to the Supreme Court.
- At just 24 pages, Female Force: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a great starting point for young readers interested in learning more about the Supreme Court justice.
This list is far from complete. Ginsburg’s life and accomplishments have been widely – and rightly – celebrated in pop culture. Visit your local library, bookstore, comic shop, or places you find pop culture to find other RBG-related titles.
Understanding History Through Comics
While we often celebrate and even idolize fictional superheroes, it’s nice to know that occasionally we encounter real-life ones whose contributions have shaped our world.
Pop Culture Classroom believes in the power of comics and other pop culture to promote historical understanding and inclusive representation in pop culture and education. It’s one reason our Classroom Team and creators produce free educational comics on important — and often under-taught — people, places, and events, in history.
Check our latest, free issue of Colorful History, “Suffrage and the 19th Amendment.” Or, subscribe below and we’ll email you about new comics and other opportunities to connect with pop culture and our work.