Hair plays a big part in everyones identity. From being bald to blond there are constantly stereotypes and associations connected to this spot on the top of our heads. My focus is on the rarest of natural colors, the redhead! Apparently we make up just 1% of the entire population. Although there are many shades of this color it always seems to get noticed and stand out. Much like a traffic cone the attention to this hair color comes with a lot of stigmas and outlandish ideas of how the person under the hair will behave. Things like sexy and hot tempered to evil or weird. Even a very popular theme that gingers are soulless have all been associated with this hair color. Our popular culture and media have taken this identity and transformed it into so much more.
In movies like Devils Advocate the red haired woman plays an evil vixen, a spawn of the devil. She uses sex appeal to manipulate peoples lives and seems to get happiness and pleasure out of all of it. This evil theme associated with red hair has traveled through out history as well. Things from a symbol of witchcraft to Judas “betrayer of Jesus”(Best) both frequently are portrayed as redheads and caries a negative taboo in our culture. In Hocus Pocus Winifred the witch sister with bright red hair was considered the ugly and worst sister. Even the way she talked was creepier then the others. Another big example of this evil theme associated with red hair is Chucky. He is best known for his bright orange hair as well as his demonic lifestyle.
Another very popular idea about red heads is the statement made by South Park, “gingers have no soul”. This is something that I know every kid and young adult with red hair in America has been told. What started out as just another episode idea has morphed through out our pop culture. Other shows like Glee build off of this idea, as well as thousands of you tube videos both fighting and contributing to this idea of gingers have no soul. One in particular with millions of views appeared on the Tosh show as a video redemption. Here his video of trying to protest against the bullying that has came from that episode of South Park is completely mocked. Proving that in the end gingers are an easy target and our mainstream media supports this idea all over the place.
Having not seen the Gingers Kids episode of South Park since it probably aired years ago I watched it again. It was almost like watching old Disney movies where I was shocked by some of the things that were being said. In this episode a Doctor even suggested putting down a perfectly healthy kid because he was a ginger. If it was based instead on the color of his skin and not just on the color of his hair this episode probably would not have been made and definitely be considered horribly racist. It also would not have developed such a huge following carrying on this prejudice. This episode from beginning to end sends out the idea that gingers are not really people and should not be treated the same. All the parents of the “gingers” were actually disturbed by the idea that their kid has red hair. It makes me sad that this episode has gotten as much attention as it has for being humorous. I can take it as a joke but when kids see this or even worse bullies see this episode it just gives them more ammunition to make this group feel bad based solely off of physical appearance.
Another common association that comes with red heads is the fiery, sexy concept that has been shown in tons of movies and shows. One I grew up to was Jessica Rabbit from the cartoon movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Even though she was a cartoon character she was still viewed as a sex symbol even in current times. Everything from her curves and the slit in her dress, to the sound of her voice screamed sexy. Which seams a little strange for a children’s movie, but definitely goes along with this popular theme. An idea that has continued to be expressed in current popular culture with shows like Mad Men. Joan plays the role of a voluptuous red haired secretary in the show. In the office she is the desire of everyone. The men all want her and the women inspire to be more like her. Things like fiery are often used to describe her in efforts to relate her personality to her hair. In the show she sticks to another common role associated with her sexy looks an affair with a married man. She is the other woman and the lust of her boss. A vixen is another idea we have connected to red hair. One possible reason for this association is the idea of Lilith having red hair passing off her sexual defiance ways all with that color(Best).
Through all of the stigmas and prejudice that have come to light in our present day pop culture another thing that has also become popular. A unity of all red heads. In an effort to support and encourage others through out the world. Even in Portland last summer they attempted to set a world record for most red heads in Pioneer Square. This idea formed in Europe where real problems of “gingerism” have been occurring to spread the word of equality for all hair colors. Its seems that in our current society we would be over discrimination based on physical appearance but clearly many people around the world are still facing problems of prejudice in their daily lives.
Overall times are changing and so are stereotypes. We live in a world where everyone has predisposed opinions and ideas on everything. Red hair can symbolize attractive traits as well as some of the worse. One thing that will hopefully change is support and love for everyone no matter the color of their skin or hair. Its such a meaningless characteristic that no one can change, but sadly since its something you see first it also has made it an easy joke.
Best, Amy. Druann, Maria Heckert. Ugly Duckling to Swan: Labeling Theory and the Stigmatization of Red Hair. JAI Press Inc.
The Devils Advocate. Dir Taylor Hackford, Warner Bros. Pictures, 1997. Connie Nielsen.
“Ginger Kids.” South Park. Comedy Central. November 9, 2005. Bette Midler.
Hocus Pocus. Dir Kenny Ortega, Walt Disney Pictures,
Mad Men. AMC. July 19, 2007-present. Christina Hendricks