Read Every Word of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s 2012 Glamour Woman of the Year Speech

The loss of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, supreme court justice and champion of women, is immeasurable. In her two decades on the bench, and long before, she has passionately defended the rights of all people, especially those who are underserved. “More than any other person, she can take credit for making the law of this country work for women. She is a transformational figure…and for me, an inspiration,” fellow supreme court justice Elena Kagan told Glamour in 2012, when the magazine honored Ginsberg with a lifetime achievement award at that year’s Women of the Year ceremony. 

Ginsberg was presented her award by her friend Nina Totenberg, the American legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio. “To the unschooled, she might seem an unlikely superwoman. Soft spoken, diminutive, and very shy with those huge glasses on top of her nose. But let me tell you: Ruth Bader Ginsberg quite simply changed the world for women,” Totenberg said as she took the stage. “As a young lawyer, she led the fight for gender equality. And by the time she herself donned supreme court judicial robes and a white lace collar in 1993, Justice Ginsberg had worked a revolution. At her confirmation hearing, she predicted that in her lifetime she hoped there would be three, four or more supreme court justices who were women. Speaking as a journalist who covered the all-male supreme court for 13 years, I can tell you that when I walk into that chamber now and see that her prediction has come true with three women on the bench—one at each side, and Justice Ginsberg very close to the center—my heart just skips a beat.” 

Ruth Bader Ginsberg at the 2012 Glamour Women of the Year Awards

Dimitrios Kambouris

Below is an excerpt of Ginsberg’s speech—to quote the feminist icon herself, we are tremendously indebted to her. Her lucky number may have been two, but she was first in our hearts. 

“The judiciary is not a profession that ranks very high among the glamorously attired. In fact, the black robes judges wear leave little room for stylistic innovation. In fact, judges’ robes are made with men’s ties and trouser pockets in mind. Taking a cue from our colleagues abroad, Justice O’Connor and I broke the plain black monotony by wearing a variety of lace collars, and we also added sewn-in pockets. Not very long ago the only way to distinguish the justices, at least in appearance, was to separate the bearded from the close-shaven. Is it not…a wonderful sign of progress that three women now serve on our supreme court and no one confuses me with Justice Sotomayor or Justice Kagan? 

“Most of my life, my lucky number has been two. Second woman to be appointed to the U.S. court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, and then second woman to the supreme court of the United States. But I am tremendously indebted to Glamour for making me first. First supreme court justice named Glamour Woman of the Year. Justice O’Connor, who has been designated first in almost everything said, ‘Ruth, that’s fine, you will soon be 80. It is high time.’ A thousand thanks for tonight’s delight, and every good wish to all of you.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Champion of Women, Dead at 87

Ruth Bader Ginsburg—Supreme Court justice, feminist, towering intellectual, pop culture icon—died on Friday. She was 87 years old. 

Ginsburg was the second woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court, after being appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She was celebrated for her powerful arguments and passionate defense of the defenseless for years before she attained status in popular culture as a diminutive icon of fairness and decency. The Supreme Court shared that her death was due to complications from metastatic pancreas cancer. She had previously survived colon cancer. 

The justice—known to her fans as The Notorious RBG, or just RBG—was celebrated for her lifetime of studying and teaching law, for her incisive questions from the bench, and ultimately, for her fiery dissents, written in the strongest of language, objecting to rulings by the court that she found unjust. She served as a symbol that strength and might are not determined by size, or gender, or anything much other than grit. One of few women in her law school class, she faced outright gender discrimination when looking for jobs after graduating, turning her focus to women’s rights. She co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU, and her career as both a lawyer and ultimately Supreme Court justice were characterized by her strong defense of women’s rights. 

In a statement Ginsburg dictated to her granddaughter, Clara Spera, in the week before her death, she said, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” The vacancy on the court is likely to inspire a massive power struggle between Democrats and Republicans.  

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a legend among women and among Americans. We will think of her when we raise our hands in crowded classrooms, when we advocate for ourselves in job negotiations, when we lift up the silenced and ignored in our communities, and when we fill out our ballots. 

Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.                                 

Gwyneth Paltrow Has Words for People Who Think ‘WAP’—or Her Vagina Candles—Are Vulgar

Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop brand and products are no stranger to controversy—remember the “vagina steaming” hoopla rom a few years back?—so all the press surrounding one of her new candles isn’t a surprise. There’s really nothing to make a fuss over; the candle is just called “Smells Like My Vagina.” But, of course, some people are up in arms about it. Scan Twitter, and you’ll find messages from users dissing the candle or calling it “weird.”  But Paltrow has a message for her detractors, as well as those who think Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s song “WAP” is vulgar. 

People who take issue with Paltrow’s candle probably have a problem with Cardi’s song, which is an abbreviation for “wet ass pussy.” It all seems to stem from the discomfort a large subset of the population has with women owning their bodies and sexuality. 

“It’s all part of the crumbling patriarchy,” Paltrow tells Elle in a new interview. “And I think that we’re all changing it by releasing like a punk rock, feminist candle and Cardi B. is changing it by her incredible lyrical prowess. You have to push, you have to go too far. You have to have a WAP song or a ‘Smells Like My Vagina’ candle. So people are like, ‘What is this?’ And they freak out. And then the center moves a little bit more this way. It’s a process that happens over time. But women, especially my generation, and my mother’s generation, we were raised to feel so uncomfortable with ourselves and it’s bullshit. It’s not cool. We have to be integrated and love ourselves, love every part and integrate all of the parts of ourselves. So I think it’s a good part of the process.”

Cardi B has a similar message for people who knock “WAP.” “The people that the song bothers are usually conservatives or really religious people, but my thing is I grew up listening to this type of music,” she said on the Australian radio show The Kyle and Jackie O Show. “Other people might think it’s strange and vulgar, but to me it’s almost like really normal, you know what I’m saying?”

She continued, “You wanna know something? It’s what people wanna hear. If people didn’t wanna hear it, if they were so afraid to hear it, it wouldn’t be doing as good.” 

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Now, where is the Gwyneth Paltrow-Cardi B collab the world needs?

Gwyneth Paltrow Has Words for People Who Think ‘WAP’—Or Her Vagina Candles—Is Vulgar

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop brand and products are no stranger to controversy—remember the “vagina steaming” hoopla from a few years back?—so all the press surrounding one of her new candles isn’t a surprise. There’s really nothing to make a fuss over; the candle is just called “Smells Like My Vagina.” But, of course, some people are up in arms about it. Scan Twitter, and you’ll find messages from users dissing the candle or calling it “weird.” But Paltrow has a message for her detractors, as well as those who think Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s song “WAP” is vulgar. 

People who take issue with Paltrow’s candle probably have a problem with Cardi’s song, which is an abbreviation for “wet ass pussy.” It all seems to stem from the discomfort a large subset of the population has with women owning their body and sexuality. 

“It’s all part of the crumbling patriarchy,” Paltrow tells Elle in a new interview. “And I think that we’re all changing it by releasing, like, a punk rock, feminist candle and Cardi B is changing it by her incredible lyrical prowess. You have to push, you have to go too far. You have to have a ‘WAP’ song or a ‘Smells Like My Vagina’ candle. So people are like, ‘What is this?’ And they freak out. And then the center moves a little bit more this way. It’s a process that happens over time. But women, especially my generation, and my mother’s generation, we were raised to feel so uncomfortable with ourselves and it’s bullshit. It’s not cool. We have to be integrated and love ourselves, love every part and integrate all of the parts of ourselves. So I think it’s a good part of the process.”

Cardi B has a similar message for people who knock “WAP.” “The people that the song bothers are usually conservatives or really religious people, but my thing is I grew up listening to this type of music,” she said on the Australian radio show The Kyle and Jackie O Show. “Other people might think it’s strange and vulgar, but to me it’s almost like really normal, you know what I’m saying?”

She continued, “You wanna know something? It’s what people wanna hear. If people didn’t wanna hear it, if they were so afraid to hear it, it wouldn’t be doing as good.” 

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Now, where is the Gwyneth Paltrow–Cardi B collab the world needs?

Did Gigi Hadid Give Birth? Here’s Why Everyone Thinks So

Gigi Hadid is out here posting more baby bump photos as if the rest of the world isn’t wildly speculating about whether or not she’s given birth to her first child with Zayn Malik

On September 17, Gigi posted four selfies from back when she was around 27 weeks pregnant. “Time flew,” she wrote in the caption—which seems like something one might say if they’d reached the finish line of a major milestone. Maybe. 

This fueled speculation that was already brewing after Hadid’s father, Mohamed, shared a since deleted poem to his (future?) grandchild called “Grandpa Heart” on September 16.

“Hello little grandchild, it is me, my heart as happy as can be,” he wrote in the poem, per People. “I wish for you the sun & moon, I wish for you a happy time. Know that grandpa’s always here, I’ll do anything, anything for you, my dear. When I heard you were on the way, I smiled and wiped a tear away. I cried the tear because I knew my heart would always belong to you.”

In the caption he also shared a heartfelt message for his supermodel daughter. “In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, in peace, my love, Gigi,” Mohamed reportedly wrote in Arabic. “In the name of God The merciful I want to say l love you and so proud of you. @gigihadid.”

Obviously the internet did its thing, but Mohamed attempted to shut down the speculation. “No, not yet,” Mohamed replied to one user who asked if the baby had arrived, per Us Weekly.

Meanwhile, sister Bella Hadid shared a post that’s not helping matters. On September 15, Bella posted a funny pic and wrote she and Gigi both had “buns in the oven” after eating a burger. 

However, it’’ easy to see why fans would latch onto the post, considering the rest of the caption is pretty emotional. “I love you both so freaking much,” she wrote. “Can’tstopcrying.”

For what it’s worth, I guess we’ll just have to wait for the official confirmation from Gigi Hadid to know the truth. 

Cottagecore Is So Much More Than a Trend for These Five Black Influencers

People of color are making strides in standing up for themselves and refusing to be excluded. If you want to wear a flowy dress and go on a picnic, it is your absolute right to do so without the weight of political underpinnings.

Has the trend self-soothed or empowered you? 

It is both to me really. The ability to commune with nature, relax by reading a book, or just feel the sun on my skin are therapeutic to me. But there is also the reality that I am very fortunate to have the time to be able to do so when there are many that do not, is something that makes me all the more grateful.

Amy’s Cottagecore picks: 

The Ellie Nap Dress

$125

Hill House Home

The Athena Nap Dress

N/A

Hill House Home

Raphael Pale Blue Floral Maxi Dress

$195

House of CB

DIY Cheese & Cured Meat Board

$195

Lady & Larder

Courtesy of Nicole Ocran

Have you ever felt that the Cottagecore trend excluded Black women or WOC? 

I was an avid Little House on the Prairie watcher when I was growing up, I loved any and all iterations of Little WomenPride and Prejudice, and Emma. I truly never saw myself at all in Cottagecore until I saw the iconic Paula of Hill House Vintage. I immediately thought this is the warm and peaceful aesthetic that I’ve always craved seeing Black women in. We operate within this idea that Black women or WOC can’t be whimsical, or kitschy or playful and we absolutely can.

Do you find that Cottagecore willfully glosses over the roots of its nostalgia? 

There is a peace in the aesthetic, especially for someone like me who lives a very city lifestyle in general, where this open-air escape and warm sunlight feels like comfort in these times of real stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. I’m not blind to the roots of it, but like all movements and subcultures, there is a subversion here that still makes it relevant. As always and as ever Black folks contain multitudes! 

The outdoors have historically excluded Black people—is Cottagecore another way Black women are smashing stereotypes? 

Black women continue to smash stereotypes across all genres! It’s a total joy seeing us out on beautiful picnics, slowing down with good food, and taking our time. For me, it feels like putting ourselves first in spaces that have often wanted nothing to do with us. 

Have you participated in Cottagecore? If so, how? 

In more ways than I thought, really! I’ve been loving the hyperfeminine dresses, big billowy sleeves, straw hats, picnic baskets, and flowers—but in general, the getting outdoors and enjoying nature, especially during this lockdown period is something I never would’ve taken the time to explore before. My aesthetic is similar in a lot of ways. In general, I’ve never felt like a very “sexy” person, so that would never have worked for my fashion sense anyway. Cute, sweet, and kitschy is much more my vibe. 

Nicole’s Cottagecore picks: 

Voluminous Open Back Midi Dress

$179$125

& Other Stories

ArtNTiquesGallery Wicker Picnic Hamper

Lambswool Knee Blanket in Quiet Grey Gingham

$77

The Tartan Blanket Co.

70s Floral Print Satin Scarf

Prince William Reportedly Had the Best Reaction to Losing to Kate Middleton in a Bake-Off

Prince William is clearly used to losing to Kate Middleton.

During a visit to Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery earlier this week, the pair went full Great British Bake Off on some of the shop’s famous bagels. Elias Cohen—whose father, Amnon, opened the shop in 1974—ultimately ruled that the Duchess of Cambridge had the better dough ball-rolling technique. 

According to People, Prince William was…not surprised. “We’ll go with that,” he reportedly said. “The usual story.”

Looks about right.

WPA Pool

The duchess, on the other hand, was not so sure. “Just wait until you see the aftermath,” she reportedly replied. “I had beginner’s luck. They are getting worse!”

Unfortunately, there’s been no official word on who took home the grand prize after all was said and done, but the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge did share their experience on Instagram on September 16.

“A visit to one of London’s most iconic bagel shops to see behind the scenes,” the official Kensington Royal account wrote underneath the video. “@beigel_bake was forced to reduce their opening hours during the pandemic but is back to 24hrs and continuing to support their local community. 🥯”

WPA Pool/Getty Images

The bagel shop wasn’t the only stop on their outing this Tuesday, September 15. Prince William and Kate Middleton ventured to multiple London staples to learn more about how local businesses are coping amid the coronavirus pandemic

Despite Prince William’s implication that his wife’s win was a usual occurrence,  he  had much better luck during a visit to Wales last month. While playing games at an arcade, the duke ended up scoring a ton of tickets during a ball-throwing game, which the couple played together. Unfortunately, when the duchess attempted to grab a teddy from a claw machine—throwing up a thumbs up when she thought she had it in the bag—the bear slipped at the last minute. 

WPA Pool/Getty Images
WPA Pool

I guess the old saying is true: You win some, you lose some…

Lady Gaga Released the Music Video for Her Song ‘911,’ and It Has a Jaw-Dropping Twist

Lady Gaga released the music video for her new single “911” on Friday, September 18, and it’s classic Gaga: bizarre, abstract, filled with head-turning fashion and makeup looks, and a surprise twist you won’t see coming. 

The clip starts with Gaga lying down in a desert, seemingly alone. Her face is covered with some type of red cloth, and a broken bicycle is next to her. She’s then led by a man on a horse to a village, where she weaves around a group of elaborately dressed people. One man is repeatedly banging his head against a pillow. Not much of it makes sense. 

But then we get to the twist. I don’t want to give it away for you, so go ahead and watch, below: 

At the climax of the video, we see that all of this was a dream of sorts. Gaga is resuscitated by a medic, and she finds herself back in the real world, bleeding on the ground. She was in a car accident outside an Armenian film festival, and all the characters in that “dream” played a part in said accident. 

“I didn’t have pain pills,” Gaga says to the medics, crying uncontrollably. “I don’t want to die.”

Both of those quotes carry weight in the context of “911,” a track about Gaga’s relationship with antipsychotic medication. 

“[The song] is about an antipsychotic that I take,” she told Apple Music in a May interview. “And it’s because I can’t always control things that my brain does. I know that. And I have to take medication to stop the process that occurs.”

As for Gaga’s quote about not wanting to die, she opened up in a new interview with CBS Sunday Morning about previously having suicidal thoughts.

“Did you think about suicide?” journalist Lee Cowan asks her in the interview, which airs in full this Sunday (September 20) at 9 a.m. ET on CBS. She responds, “Oh yeah, every day,” Gaga says.

“This short film is very personal to me, my experience with mental health and the way reality and dreams can interconnect to form heroes within us and all around us,” Lady Gaga wrote about the video on Instagram. “I’d like to thank my director/filmmaker Tarsem for sharing a 25-year-old idea he had with me because my life story spoke so much to him. I’d like to thank Haus of Gaga for being strong for me when I wasn’t, and the crew for making this short film safely during this pandemic without anyone getting sick.” 

She continued, “It’s been years since I felt so alive in my creativity to make together what we did with ‘911.’ Thank you @Bloodpop for taking a leap of faith with me to produce a record that hides in nothing but the truth. Finally, thank you, little monsters. I’m awake now, I can see you, I can feel you, thank you for believing in me when I was very afraid. Something that was once my real life everyday is now a film, a true story that is now the past and not the present. It’s the poetry of pain.”\

Kiersey Clemons Says These Pants Are the Only Ones She’ll Ever Wear

Watching horror films during an already scary year is not for the faint of heart. But Kiersey Clemons prefers to think of it a little differently. “I can take all my paranoia or anxious thoughts and project them into whatever I’m watching or playing,” she says of the genre. “It distracts me from the horrors of real life.” 

Considering that Clemons is currently starring in Antebellum (out September 18), an intense psychological thriller, and will next voice and executive produce the serialized horror podcast, Ghost Tape, you’d think she was always drawn to frightening material. That’s not the case. “It’s weird, because I used to be the kid that didn’t like scary movies,” she says with a laugh. ”I would be like, ‘Oh no, this is going to happen to me!’ Now, I like horror.”

Kiersey Clemons (left) and Janelle Monae (right) in Antebellum

Matt Kennedy

Even so, Clemons needs a break, which is where The Bachelor, Love Island UK, and Married at First Sight come in. “Don’t get it twisted,” she says. “I also watch all of those shows. You need a release!” 

Especially when filming a horror movie. While working on Antebellum in New Orleans last year, Clemons found time for some levity. “There’s so much rich culture [in New Orleans], from the food to vintage shopping,” she says. “It’s really easy to let it all go when you’re in a location like that.” 

So with that in mind, we asked Clemons to fill us in on her favorite finds, from the weighted blanket that keeps her calm to the skin care products she swears by. Time for another round of Your Fave’s Faves!

The weighted blanket I’m obsessed with:

I got a weighted blanket when I got to New Orleans because I missed cuddling with my dogs. The one I initially got had beads in it, like one you get a Bed, Bath and Beyond, but my favorite one is from Sheltered Co, which is handmade in L.A. and from recycled material. They are beautiful, and I have two of them now, one that’s a king size blanket, and one that’s a little lighter for travel.

Pink Salt Weighted Blanket

$305

Sheltered Co.

My go-to luggage:

Speaking of travel, I can’t wait to go back to Australia, New York, and also visit family in Florida. I love visiting new places and buying things from all over, so I’ll take an extra suitcase with me. I love Away luggage, and I always check my bags so I can take as much as I want with me. My friends have Away, too, because they last forever. But I’ve got my eye on their large silver aluminum one because it’s so nice.

The Large: Aluminum Edition

$595$505

Away

The perfect comfort food recipe for the fall:

My mom, Allison, has this amazing chicken and dumpling recipe. My girlfriend makes it for me when I’m sick, and it’s so good. The actual dumplings you can make out of Pillsbury biscuits. You roll it out and cut it into pieces. It’s delicious.

My go-to boots for cooler weather:

I’m a classic Dr. Martens person. I like an Australian brand as well called Blundstone. When I was in New Orleans, I also came back with, like, three pairs of cowboy boots. I’ve been waiting to wear them with vintage dresses because they are so cute paired together.

Dr. Martens 1460 Pascal Boot

$150

Nordstrom

Blundstone 1460 Pascal Boot

$200

Nordstrom

The only pants I will ever wear:

I can only wear pants from Everlane, because otherwise I always get a gap in my waist since my butt is so big. Everlane’s fit me perfectly! I literally have every type of pants from them. Whenever I put them on, it feels like the first time I’m putting them on, and I tell my girlfriend, “Babe, look at me, don’t I look so good?!” 

The Put-Together Pleat Pant

$88

Everlane

The Straight Leg Crop

$72

Everlane

The hair product that helps my hair grow faster:

I just bought Chebe hair butter. I watch a lot of YouTube hair tutorials, because after I shaved my head, I was like, “How do I get my hair to grow faster?” And this hair butter is the reason why my hair grows so fast. I also love Tracee Ellis Ross’s hair line, Pattern. And now that my hair is growing out, I love oversize jumbo silk hair ties that you can find on Etsy or Amazon.

Chebe Butter

Pattern Leave-In Conditioner

$25

Pattern Beauty

My skin care regimen that I swear by:

I use Sunday Riley’s Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment. It’s technically a mask, but you can leave it on all day. I’ll use that if I have an event or if I’m trying to look extra cute. Two other lines I use are called Surreal Skin Care and the other is Dayle Breault’s Goddess of Skin, from the woman who does my facials. She’s just the best. For Surreal Skin Care, I use the Napalm face mask. It looks like blood when it goes on. I also use their Cheat Death moisturizer and their Queen Tut lipid barrier serum, which injects my skin with juicy goodness. For sunscreen, I use Supergoop! SPF unseen sunscreen 40, which goes on completely clear. And my exfoliator is from Goddess of Skin, and it’s called Bonafide Scrub. Everything has such a fun name.

Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment

$122

Dermstore

Queen Tut Skin Resurfacer & Liquid Barrier Repair

$92

Surreal Skincare

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

$34

Supergoop!

Bonafide Scrub

$75

Goddess of Skin

My fail-proof makeup routine:

My favorite foundation is the RNS Beauty “Un” Cover-Up Foundation. It’s really the best thing since, like, bread. And whatever I put on my lips I’ll put on my cheeks. I like Burt’s Bees tinted lip balms because they have really pretty colors and are super moisturizing. A lot of times I’ll get a container and mix all of my balms together to make different shades of pink and red. You can literally trick anyone to think that you got sleep and you’re not sad and we’re not in a pandemic. 

Rms Beauty “Un” Cover-Up Cream Foundation

$52

Rms Beauty

Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Tinted Lip Balm

The two books I read over and over again:

I really love to read and listen to audio books. In a time like this, I recommend a book from an American Buddhist nun named Pema Chödrön called Comfortable With Uncertainty. I read it over and over again because it makes me really calm. The idea is to lean into whatever is happening, because even if what’s happening is awful, life is always happening simultaneously. We try to put things in boxes and compartmentalize and when you do that, you work against yourself, and that’s kind of the theme of the book. It’s a really nice reminder. And then another one is the classic book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s an easy read, but when you’re done, you’re like, “I needed that.” It helps reset your mind.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion

The TV shows I’m really into:

I just finished I May Destroy You on HBO, which destroyed me. I also finished the fourth season of Search Party on TBS and HBO Max. I love Alia [Shawkat] and have been obsessed with the show since it came out. And I just started Lovecraft Country, also on HBO. I love dark shows with interesting female protagonists.

The best gift my friend just got me:

I recently had the flu and my best friend, Bryant, lives in New York, and he sent me these two beautiful green vintage wine glasses because he knew I would love them. I thought it was the nicest and most specific gift. It is from Jack Juliar and it’s one-of-a-kind, antique jewelry.

Kiersey Clemons can currently be seen in Antebellum, available On Demand.

Jessica Radloff is the Glamour West Coast editor. You can follow her on Instagram at @JessicaRadloff14.

‘Ratched’ on Netflix Is Perfect for Sarah Paulson Fans—But It’s Confusing

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

Ratched on Netflix is beautiful to look at. That is its greatest strength. The most recent project from Ryan Murphy is pure cotton candy for the eyes: stunning monochromatic costumes, lavish sets, wide shots of the California coast where you can practically taste the salty air. I finished all eight episodes of the first season visually stuffed and satisfied. But also confused. 

Any amount of aesthetic artistry Ratched gives its viewers is overshadowed by a head-scratching plot. Billed as an origin story for Nurse Mildred Ratched—the terrifying antagonist first seen in Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and again in its 1975 Oscar-winning adaptation—the series leaves you with more questions about its central character (the divine Sarah Paulson) than answers. People who’ve seen Cuckoo’s Nest know Ratched as cold, callous, and no-nonsense—and this series, in theory, should explain why. It doesn’t. 

We spend eight episodes learning about a woman who survived abusive foster homes to become a relatively empathetic war nurse. She then schemes her way into joining the nursing staff of a psychiatric hospital, but only to save her brother (Finn Wittrock), a serial killer. While there, she’s exposed to experimental torture-porn treatments from the hospital’s lead doctor (Jon Jon Briones), which she’s inherently aware are horrible but feigns approval of to gain his favor. 

She’s also grappling with her sexuality, particularly when a female character, Gwendolyn (Cynthia Nixon), enters the picture. At first, Mildred rebukes Gwendolyn’s advances, her own internalized homophobia at play. But in time she finds herself—and love—with Gwendolyn. They end up on a beach together in Mexico. It’s nice! 

Sarah Paulson and Cynthia Nixon in Ratched. 

SAEED ADYANI/NETFLIX

But when, I kept asking myself, do the events happen that turn Mildred into the hardened, hollow person we see in Cuckoo’s Nest? What turns her into a true monster?

To be fair, Ratched was greenlit for another 10 episodes, so maybe this is just the first half of her origin story. Still, the character is written as a woman capable of empathy, love, and understanding. The only time Mildred shows shades of the witch she turns into is at the beginning of the series, when she makes cutting remarks to a gas station attendant and stares down a fellow nurse (Judy Davis) over a peach. She only softens from there—minus one scene where she brutally stabs a man’s eye with an ice pick. So, yes, there are shades of the Ratched we see in the source material present here, but, for me, there was no real “a-ha!” moment. Nothing that made me see, clearly, how she transforms from human to horror. 

Ratched also features violence that hinges on scares made even more stomach-churning by the show’s exceptional cinematography. If the good shots were stunning enough to take my breath away, you can imagine how detailed the gory scenes are. They’re downright repulsive, which is obviously the point, so if you have a weak stomach, proceed with caution. (The hydrotherapy scenes? I’m still shaking.)