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The Notorious RBG

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Written by Joseph Carrick

Ruth Bader Ginsburg gained a reputation as a stalwart figurehead for the modern feminist and progressive movements since her inauguration to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993. While the importance of a supreme court justice is not lost on anyone with even a rudimentary education on the American political system, how did Ginsburg specifically gain this reputation over her eight other counterparts? How did she manage to penetrate pop culture so effortlessly, and how will her legacy be remembered?

While she joined the Supreme Court in the early 1990s, her entrance into pop culture began in the mid-2000s when she became the only female justice after the retirement of Justice O’Connor. Her dissents became legendary in the legal community for holding nothing back. Her scathing remarks managed to breach popular discourse with the meme “Notorious R.B.G.,” an allusion to the rapper Notorious B.I.G. After gaining the nickname, a book with a similar name exploded in popularity and easily became a New York Times bestseller. This was followed in 2015 by an opera, of all things, titled “Scalia v. Ginsburg.”

Since the mid-2000s, Ginsburg’s face has graced everything from protest posters to Halloween costumes and coffee mugs. Her role as a strong woman and unapologetic critic was greatly appreciated by the modern feminist movement. The last few years of her still very active life in politics was equally matched by her appearance in the pop culture atmosphere. “On the Basis of Sex,” released in 2018, detailed her fight for equal rights. Surprisingly, she even makes an appearance on “The Lego Movie 2” (2019). Ginsburg also allowed the toy company to create a figure in her likeness.

Ginsburg has since been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, was listed in the “100 Most Powerful Women” list by Forbes in 2009 as well as Time’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2015, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Scribes, an American Society of Legal Writers.  This is in addition to a plethora of other awards, nominations, and even a species of praying mantis being named after her. While her passing has immediately become a political issue in the United States, her legacy of advocacy is remembered both in the legal community as well as with the public. It is not often that government officials are able to penetrate the public consciousness, but Ginsburg was able to make it look effortless.