NPR Hypes Movie Glorifying 'Pop Culture Icon' RBG, Skips Fact Checking

January 13th, 2019 1:23 PM

On Friday, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On The Basis of Sex -- from NBCUniversal's Focus Features division -- expanded into more than 1,900 theaters. So the puff piece on Thursday's Morning Edition on NPR served like an informercial for the "liberal pop culture icon."

NPR host Rachel Martin interviewed Felicity Jones (who plays Ginsburg) and director Mimi Leder. Jones gushed "Well, initially, I was very, very intimidated. And it's nerve-wracking paying such a beloved woman. And I, myself, am a huge, huge fan of her. But I had to put the fandom away. And I had to play the truth of this woman's experience."

But did truth come first, or the liberal messaging?

Jones concluded the interview underlining "how important it is to argue against that because when you dismantle those [gender] stereotypes, it's a much healthier society for everyone." What didn't come up? Whether the film "takes liberties" with actual history, as USA Today documented. For example, they found unlike the movie, Ginsburg's daughter Jane didn't work side-by-side with her mother during her early legal career. Despite the unusually authorized nature of this "historical" movie -- Ginsburg had substantial creative control through her screenwriting nephew -- Martin didn't go there at all as she discussed mother-and-daughter scenes in the movie: 

MARTIN: And can I ask you about the relationship with her daughter? This is, in part, about this intergenerational definition of what it means to be a feminist. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg has one idea, and she's fighting these really big fights. And, Felicity, can you talk about how her daughter Jane sees the fights, just, like, on the street level on a day-to-day?

JONES: Yeah. I mean, absolutely. Ruth was very much at the mercy of the time in many ways, and you see that sort of 1950s patriarchy at play. And she's having to conform to that on so many levels, and she's having to be so sophisticated in how she pushes against it because, to her, the most important thing is that she wins.

And then what you see with Jane is Jane doesn't have to do that - is that the times have shifted enough that Jane can get angry, and she can be more outspoken. And you see that moment in the street when they're in New York, and she shouts at those guys in a way that Ruth would never have thought of doing that.

Martin also noted that Ginsburg's husband Marty was very progressive for his time in nurturing his wife's career and doing all the cooking, but caught herself: "Calling Marty Ginsburg exceptional - I mean, he was exceptional for the time. But it is amazing how we give men a lot of kudos just for doing half the work."