Show & Tell: On the Basis of Sex


In New Hampshire, spring is a process rather than an event, and we’re being given a textbook example of that process. Snow banks diminish, but linger, resolving into slop. Daytime temperatures inch toward comfort, but aren’t there yet, and nights still put a skim of ice on the puddles. So, unless you’re a spring skier, the out of doors just isn’t the place to be right now.

What to do? What to do?

My suggestion would be to head for The Music Hall and take in some pleasingly distracting movies that will transport you away from the grit, mud, and cold of a Seacoast spring.

And I have a dandy for you this week. On Tuesday, we will be discussing On the Basis of Sex, a biopic about the early career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her history-making assault on legal discrimination against women.

Ginsburg has already had a superb documentary film (RBG) last year, which we discussed earlier, but On the Basis is focused more closely on dramatizing Ginsburg’s own education and her struggle to bring a sex-discrimination case to a Federal bench. (And I think you’ll find both her efforts to overcome the male-dominated educational system of Harvard and her cleverness in choosing her case to appeal quite satisfying.)

This movie isn’t a deep dive into legal thinking, and it has a clear heroine of whose success we can be totally confident, history being what it is. If it were a war movie, the plot structure would be equally clear, although the battlefield would be different. Sometimes you just want to see a movie where things turn out right. And this is that movie.

I can’t guarantee that the discussion following On the Basis of Sex won’t swerve into politics. That’s kinda built into the topic. (And I’m not ruling out an impromptu prayer for the real Justice Ginsburg’s health.) But I think there will be plenty to talk about besides politics, and I hope you’ll join me for some conversation (and the usual free coffee and popcorn) after the film screens.

And be sure to tell Siri to remind you of the discussion dates in April, which are: Cold War on Tuesday, April 16, and Gloria Bell, which will show on an unaccustomed Wednesday, April 24. You can also take up your old-fashioned pen and put those dates onto your tree-killing paper calendar, just as I do.

I hope to see you tonight for On the Basis of Sex, which will show at 7:00 in the Historic Theater.

Paul Goodwin