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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

O the Bliss of Sex

On the Basis of Sex (2018) on IMDb

Plot Overview

(Based on a true story:) The year is 1956. The man-jacks of Harvard are amassed in military style entering another year, chanting their favorite fight song: “Ten Thousand Men of Harvard.” If one allows for the six years they've been co-ed, the three years it took them to transition, and give it another two for the women to articulate their demands, I'd say we are looking at the result of conscription and patriotism when the men were away fighting WW II, and the women had to do what only men had been allowed to do in the past. Now they're used to it and want to be included in their men's preserve.

A diminutive Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) is in the mix. She is there—at least in part—so she can better under­stand her husband Martin (Armie Hammer) who's a second year student. She's a bit of a fish out of water but soldiers on and is quite successful in her own right. One of the starting lessons is that the law seeks stability, going by precedents so it's not willy nilly in its decisions. It's called the doctrine of stare decisis. Major revolutionary changes occur maybe once in a generation, like the 13th & 14th amendments (1865 & 1868) that over­threw slavery and enjoined equal protection under the law, or Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that enjoined school desegregation. Her Professor Freund characterized it as, “A court ought not be affected by the weather of the day, but will be by the climate of the era.”

female patriotIn 1959 her husband, now a successful tax lawyer, accepted Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue at the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Denver, representing Colorado man Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey) on appeal of his denial of tax deduction for care of his ailing mother. The law only recognized female care givers. Ruth, now a lawyer, too—although until now confined to academia—is co-counsel pleading the law be extended to include bachelor care givers of their dependent moms. This case is not of itself germane to any broader issues of sex roles, but it started the ball rolling on sex-discrimination litigation, which wasn't on any­body's legal radar at the time.


Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) was of my mother's generation and her daughter Jane (Cailee Spaeny) of my baby boomer one who took the bull by the horns with our protests. My mother was smart enough to be a doctor but wasn't allowed to by her father, so she became a nurse and in one case saved a woman's life in the waiting room by her timely diagnoses (“Marge is diagnosing again”) before her turn with the doctor came up. In her generation my mother was daring. She took up her friends' dare to go dancing with a wonder­ful man who'd asked her out when she was engaged to some­one else. That wonder­ful man became her husband and my father. My sister eloped with a Negro. That about defines the scale of social changes in this movie.

In Goesaert v. Cleary 335 U.S. 464 (1948) the Court ruled that Michigan's law denying any woman a bartender's license (save if she were the wife or daughter of the male owner) was in fact constitutional despite major changes of woman's place in society. Mr. Justice Frank­furter delivered the opinion of the Court saying, “The Constitution does not require legislatures to reflect sociological insight, or shifting social standards, any more than it requires them to keep abreast of the latest scientific standards” (Mendelson 580.) “On the Basis of Sex” explores changing social norms; I want to look here at changing science so as not to give away the movie's points.

The 2015 movie “The Martian” shows Earth scientists having got wise to green­houses staying warm from blocking convection, not radiation as was thought in the 1800s. Locally we have a feminist judge presiding over a suit of the government that alleges the Earth is warming due to green­house gas emissions. That's outdated science, but the judicial system hasn't caught up with correct science yet. I had the same judge in a Ten Commandments case, who had real problems grasping the commandment about not taking God's name in vain.

The principle of stare decisis is analogous to, (Prov. 22:28) “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” A landmark establishes borders so one may distinguish where the line is that demarcates between two entities. Here's one case of the skin color line where writer Bodie Hodge (134) quotes “Bible Questions and Answers,” The Golden Age (July 24, 1929): p. 702.

Question: Is there anything in the Bible that reveals the origin of the Negro?

Answer: It is generally believed that the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the Black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren,” he pictured the future of the Colored race.

I won't attempt to explain it here as that's not part of the movie per se—other movies have touched on it—only to say the Bible Belt south hadn't wanted to change the Negro's status until a Civil War forced them to.

The 13th amendment (ratified Dec., 1865) abolished slavery, and the 14th (ratified 1868) gave all citizens equal protection, but ratification required three fourths of the states, which they were unable to obtain without certain southern states who didn't want to. The Union troops there­fore occupied them until they voted to ratify. However, ratification is supposed to be voluntary for it to count.

In Lionel Hampton's autobiography, we find:
I remember one time Walter White, head of the NAACP, … told me about what led up to the Supreme Court decision in the school desegregation case in 1954. Walter told me he … phoned Eisenhower and requested an appointment. He said he went there and listed all the reasons why school segregation was wrong. He said that if the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case Brown v. Board of Education and ruled [for] desegregation, it would break the back of segregation in American society. He said, “Mr. President, this is the last chance for you to help us.” Eisenhower listened, didn't say a word. But then he picked up the telephone, and said, “Get me Chief Justice Earl Warren.” And he got on the phone with Warren, and he said he knew the president was not supposed to put pressure on the Supreme Court, but he was going to send Walter White over to talk to him about the case. And the Supreme Court decided to hear the case and ruled in favor of the NAACP lawyers and desegregation. (97-98)
That was a violation of the separation of powers.

This movie singles out the Negro's plight and makes it seem as if society passively changed over time, and the law was changed to reflect those changes. The actuality is more militaristic and involves a lot of moving the proverbial landmark. RBG wants to step up the process to include women.

She works hard to get what she wants out of life and is a good example of, (Prov. 22:29) “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.” She was going places. It's no wonder that some­one asked her if she kept Shabbat. Keeping the Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandments. Further­more, he explains to Jane that killing is always wrong. Thou shalt not kill. Jane had defended Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird who covered up a murder. RBG seemed prey to class envy in the classes she taught, which is a violation of the command telling us not to covet. Last but not least she honored her parent, which commandment has the promise of doing well in life and living long, as in fact we see her do at the conclusion. Her daughter Jane for her part had problems with rebellion against her parents, which afflicted a lot of us baby boomers.

All in all from the portion of her life shown in the movie, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an exemplary Jewish wife, mother, and worker. In a legal system that systematically flouts God's comman­dments, the only one she had a problem with here is class envy. I'm not conversant enough with the rest of her life to make any comment.

Production Values

” (2018) was directed by Mimi Leder. The script was written by Daniel Stieple­man. It stars Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, and Justin Theroux. Hammer has too much in the way of Holly­wood good looks to pass muster as a mundane tax lawyer. Felicity Jones from Great Britain gave her sardonic lines an endearing dry British humor, which would have back­fired had we listened to someone with the cynical Brooklyn accent of a New Yorker like Ruth herself. Jones's squinched up face reminded me of a beaver, which helped project how busy she was all the time. The script was pretty pedestrian to get all the legalese in there, but it couldn't be helped though the writer tried to break it up with dramatic moments.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for some language and suggestive content. There is some lively 1960s music in places.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This is not a documentary. It depicts a floundering young lawyer on a single case, some of her academic trials and tribulations, and a good marriage where a dutiful wife is an asset to her husband. She seemed to have a lot of female fans in the theater when I saw the movie. It seemed to strike a good balance between a winning woman in a man's world and a lot of room to do more.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: No action, no adventure. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Predictable. Overall movie rating: three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Hampton, Lionel (with James Haskins). Hamp an Autobiography. New York: Amistad, 1993. Print.

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.

Mendelson, Wallace. The American Constitution and the Judicial Process. Homewood, IL: The Dorsey Press, 1980. Print.