When you live with a redhead, every day is Ginger Awareness Day.
As my red-haired roommate described to me last week the plot points of “American Horror Story’s” pilot, which she claimed explained why she had a nightmare about gimp sex, she stopped to gripe about a trope featured in the show that she says is all too common: the redheaded bully. In “Horror,” young red-haired twins are mean to a kid with Down syndrome and ransack an old, creepy abandoned house, only to be killed there by who knows what and appearing later as ghosts. She wasn’t amused:
I always thought gingers (and I use the term lovingly) were the bullied in TV and film, but after research, it’s true that redheads are just as often the ones picking the fights. Regardless of whether they are throwing punches or receiving them, on-screen gingers often are social pariahs of some fashion or another, whether they’re sniveling tattle-tells or OCD sufferers. What gives? Why all the hate for our recessive-gene fellow humans? It’s not the Middle Ages anymore; I’m pretty sure it’s been proven they aren’t all witches or vampires.
Sure, there are famous redheads who land leading roles and aren’t labeled as weirdos, and author J.K. Rowling did her best to throw redheads some love with the Weasley clan. But when it comes to stereotypes, the casting of gingers (or creating of in the case of cartoons) as outsiders still holds.
Just look at the very-serious evidence:
The O’Doyles, Billy Madison: There’s a whole family of red-headed bullies in the O’Doyles, a series of sons out to make Billy’s life miserable as he progresses through grade school. They throw dodge balls at his face, pour liquid on his head and stuff manure in his locker. These are the anti-Weasleys.
Yosemite Sam, “Looney Tunes,” “Merrie Melodies”: This is just flagrant typecasting and abuse, making the ginger unstable and gun-wielding. He’s got a temper, and he’s one of the main enemies of Bugs Bunny, that rascal. But I’m pretty sure Bugs pushed him to his craziness.
Marine Sergeant Nicholas “Nick” Brody, “Homeland”: Oh, sure, cast the cute redhead as the marine who may have been turned by Al-Qaeda during his time as a POW in Afghanistan. Of course the ginger would betray his country.
Emma Pillsbury, “Glee”: Naturally, this cute redhead (with equally cute clothes) debuted on Fox’s series as a 30-something virgin with serious OCD and intimacy issues. A recent episode expanded her backstory to feature redheaded parents who are racist against non-gingers.
Ferguson Darling, “Clarissa Explains It All”: One of — count them — three annoying redheads featured on Nickelodeon shows in the 1990s, Ferg-face was always trying to harsh Clarissa’s cool. Because all gingers are obnoxious nerds. (My roommate’s theory is that any self-doubt she has can be attributed to these Nick shows.)
Roger Klotz, “Doug”: OK, Doug Funnie’s best friend, Skeeter, is literally blue, but they had to make his arch-nemesis green with red hair? Doug goes on to feature Roger as the villain in his Quailman comics, using such titles as “Klotzilla” and “Dr. Klotzenstein.”
Bobby Budnick, “Salute Your Shorts”: Ah, the misunderstood ginger bully. Budnick really just wanted to feel like he belonged at Camp Anawanna (and to change the lyrics to its theme song). And he had his softer moments — remember when he and Dina briefly dated? But I’d probably be obnoxious, too, if I had a mullet like that.
Ginger Kids, “South Park”: Probably the most egregious of the stereotyping is Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s treatment of gingers as creepy, freckled creeps who just may want to take over the world. Cartman claims gingers are gingers because they have “Gingervitus” and thus no souls. OK, these episodes are funny. But mean! So mean!
Dylan Kussman, Dead Poets Society: Ugh, The Fink! This loser rats out Mr. Keating after Neil’s death to try to save his own ass. As if he didn’t secretly love meeting in a cave to read poetry with his best buds. You know he also wanted to stand on his desk at the end. But it wasn’t in the script. Gingers don’t get to be cool.
It, “It”: I think this explains anyone’s wariness of gingers — most clowns are terrifying, and most of them have red hair. Maybe we should just rid the world of clowns and ginger-hating will go away.
Sarah Carlson has a front-row seat to the decline of the newspaper industry and lives in Alabama.