Pretty Women: Why Does Hollywood Hate Redheads?
Posted on Tuesday February 16, 2010, 15:17 by Kat Brown in Empire States
Twenty years after Pretty Woman cemented red hair’s association with prostitution*, I’m looking at a rare breed of screen redheads. When I first saw, and fell in love with, Pretty Woman, I was a gangly ginger kid being picked on at school. “Never mind,” I thought, “by the time you’re an adult there’s sure to be loads of mainstream films with glamorous redheads in them.”
Well, I was half-right: there are whole cinematic genres based around gangly kids being picked on in school, but redheads? Not so much. While television has welcomed gingers with open arms thanks to the likes of Desperate Housewives, Mad Men, True Blood and Grey’s Anatomy, the big screen has proven to be a lot slower: the quirky redhead remains an art house or indie staple but has not made it into the mainstream. With just Amy Adams, Isla Fisher and Julianne Moore leading the charge of redheaded A-list leading ladies, and even fewer leading men beyond Damian Lewis and Kevin McKidd, Moore’s joke to fellow ginger Conan O’Brien that they should form a club seems less of a giggle and more depressing.
Why so few? Well, for starters, they are the few. At only 1-2 percent of the world’s population, redheads are rare. Natural blondes are nearly as rare at 2 percent, but significantly more people fake blonde so the numbers are amped up. Watching Stuart Hazeldine’s Exam (see below), it intrigued me that while pains were made to feature pretty much every other hair and race permutation, redheads didn’t get a look in. I prodded Chris to include a question in the Empire Exam papers asking why there weren’t any, resulting in “Who knows?” “Damian Lewis wasn’t available” and “Maybe I sub-consciously hate them.”
Fewer excuses – on, my God, so many levels – for Couples Retreat, whose UK poster campaign re-cast Malin Akerman’s wholly redheaded character as a blonde. Increasingly it appears that, while cartoonishly scarlet hair à la Red Sonja or GI Joe is fine on film posters, auburn hair is being toned down to avoid scaring the horses. Fine if you find red hair a bit on the weird side, but bloody annoying if you’re a ginger yourself.
Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Bryce Dallas Howard in The Village, Emma Stone in The Rocker and Nicole Kidman in To Die For all played ginger characters who were blonded or brunette-d for the poster. Spider-Man 2 cunningly merged Mary Jane’s hair with a flaming skyline and to this day Pretty Woman’s poster shows Titian Roberts with the scraggy brown locks of a dodgy bathroom dye job. Hepburn and Hayworth were lucky they could hide behind black and white.
So why should we care? Well, because films are a huge part of your life and occasionally it’s quite nice to have someone who looks like you on the big screen. If you see people on the street and can’t recognise them in the cinema, then you start to wonder what’s wrong with you. Thankfully, today’s little redhead girls have their own Disney princess in Amy Adams’ Enchanted as well as Harry Potter’s Ginny; Sex and the City fans can forget the horrors of redheaded car-crash Miranda thanks to Isla Fisher’s Confessions of a Shopaholic; while women who like thinking as well as fashion have Julianne Moore full-stop. Slowly, redheads are being promoted from the quirky best friend to centre stage: girls who don’t have “redhead tempers” and who don’t get ditched for a blonde or brunette once their exoticism’s been exhausted. Redhead boys have Damian Lewis, Eric Stoltz, Ron Weasley and then it’s back to TV.
And still the fact remains that the most iconic cinematic redhead of all time is a prostitute who ends up with Richard Gere. Much as I love Pretty Woman, I’ve got to hope that the next crop of ginger kids cling on to the Weasley family instead.
*Another Mary Magdalene; thanks for that.
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Posted on Tuesday February 16, 2010, 22:40
I agree that there should be a greater representation of gingers on the big screen, and it's not just because I have a hint of 'russet' in my barnet either. No, it's mainly because I find red haired women smoking hot.
Posted on Wednesday February 17, 2010, 09:37
Kat - I totally agree! As a natural red head with *gasp* curls AND that horror of horrors...freckles... I know exactly how you feel. Its actually a shock now to see someone with red hair on the big screen as its such a rare occurence. Actually commented to a friend about this the other day after watching Legally Blonde - a film which features a large cast of young girls with all sorts of hair styles...except any red heads at all.
Still its better now then it was when I was a kid - the only red heads on screen I knew of the was Dana Scully and Aerial off the little mermaid! At least now there are a few more red-heads about and its become a little more acceptable to have the ginger locks... its freckles that currently have to be covered up and pasted over according to hollywood.
Posted on Wednesday February 17, 2010, 11:35
I think, for me, the worst example of this is the blonde version of Cinderella in the Disney Princesses range. In the original cartoon she was ginger, or at the very least strawberry blonde. As I have often said to anyone who will listen in the pub/wherever: 'It's a revisionist plot to expunge gingers from prominent positions in history'.
Posted on Wednesday February 17, 2010, 13:17
Beause redheads have no souls. Duh.
Posted on Wednesday February 17, 2010, 13:58
Do you get paid to write this stuff. I mean was it a slow day in the office?
You start by answering your own question, pointing out that red heads are a minority and therefore I feel they are actually over represented on screen.
Perhaps the vitriol should be aimed at the women who dye their hair from red rather than the movie industry for apparently trying to erase the race from our screens.
Playing victim by claiming the most iconic cinematic redhead is Pretty Woman, and this is terrible due to her being a prostitute? I don't think anyone even noticed she was a redhead.
American television is absolutely jam packed full of redheads as America has such a large ginger community. So the idea Hollywood would intentionally ignore these people is crazy.
Plus your talking about an industry that requires broader strokes than real life as its a mass medium trying to appeal to a mass audience.
I realise you hopefully aren't being entirely serious but here are a few examples of why you are mistaken;
Lindsay Lohan, Alicia Witt, Christina Hendricks, Rose McGowan, Angie Everhart, Aviva, Amy Adams, Lauren Ambrose, Debra Messing, Emma Stone, Evan Rachel Wood, Alyson Hannigan, Isla Fisher, Nikki Cox, Laura Prepon, Amber Tamblyn, Kirsten Dunst, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jenna Fischer, Kristen Stewart, Karen Elson, Molly Ringwald, Nicole Kidman, Cynthia Nixon, Geena Davis, Julia Roberts, Julianne Moore, Kate Walsh, Lauren Holly, Lydia Hearst, Marcia Cross, Tilda Swinton, Phoebe Price, Gillian Anderson, Maggie Smith, Susan Sarandon, Bette Midler, Rupert Grint, Robert Redford, Ron Howard, Scott Grimes, William H. Macy, Jr., Simon Pegg, Ewen Bremner, Toby Stephens, Danny Kaye, Courtney Gaines, Damian Lewis, Eric Stoltz, Jeffrey Jones, David Caruso, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul McCrane, Leslie Howard, & Chuck Norris.
Need I go on?
Seriously if your argument were a bucket it would be holding no water about now.
Posted on Wednesday February 17, 2010, 14:04
On the Empire homepage at the moment ther are 3 readheads, an animated redhead and Johnny Depp sporting a red haired wig.
Posted on Wednesday February 17, 2010, 14:21
SirJawa, how rude! I thought this was a well-written and clever article and something that needs to be said... There is a distinct lack of real redhead representation. If one is a true redhead (as I am) one notices these things!
And unless you're being obtuse, many of the women in that list have only played dyed redheads but aren't true redheads...
Anti-redhead jokes have lately popped up on Glee (twice - and used "ginger" which as far as I was aware isn't a common Americanism, rather a horrible British derogatory term), which is hilarious since the prettiest woman on the show - Jayma Mays - is a true redhead...
Posted on Wednesday February 17, 2010, 14:46
Don't worry about it Gretzky, SirJawa is a classic example of you will recognize as a 'gingophobe'. Regardless of the fact that at least half a dozen of those he names aren't natural redheads, he obviously fails to recognise that the lovely Ms Brown was writing from her point of view, which will be matched by many other redheads.
I suspect he was rejected by a (doubtless gorgeous) redhead once, and has never got over it ;-)
Posted on Wednesday February 17, 2010, 19:19
Blame it on the usual stereotypes that you see about women on the silver screen. When it comes to females, for some reason, red hair is associated with either a. power, b. sexual passion or c. something maverick - which can range from independence to witchcraft depending on context. Now, looking at the list above, does it seem to you that any of these three are very representative for the vast majority of female characters out there (and I have to stress "vast majority" here)?
On a different note, I have male friends who say that red heads seem less accessible. So given the fact that the average movie goer in the US is the 17 to 25 year old male*, we wouldn't want anybody to exit the theater unsatisfied or - God forbid - insecure, now would we?
* I don't have the precise number, but I know it's pretty close to that.
Posted on Wednesday February 17, 2010, 19:38
Good article, Kat.
Kind of a sequel to Helen's "Why Does Hollywood Hate Ireland?". I think there's a theme here. Ireland, Redheads...
I can only speak for myself, but I personally cannot get enough of redheads. Women, that is. Julia Roberts has never been as beautiful again as she was with that long curly red hair. Isla Fischer and Amy Adams are so attractive and talented that they carry the flag well. I actually went to college with Julianne Moore (she was Julie Smith at the time) and fell in love with her before the world did. She was a Senior when I was a freshman and everyone in the BU drama school had a crush on her and admired her immense talent. Lauren Ambrose is fascinating to watch. Ariel is even my favorite Disney girl/fish.
The mythology of the feisty, spirited, emotional, deeply ALIVE redheaded girl is one that, cliche or not, true or not, I choose to believe in. There's just something unexplainable about them.
It's like my last name, which nobody can ever pronounce. I hated it as a kid, I love it as an adult. Everyone wants to be unique, special.
Redheads are special.
Posted on Thursday February 18, 2010, 00:08
It's simple. Hollywood is run by men - for men. Men don't like redheads as much as blondes and brunettes.
Posted on Thursday February 18, 2010, 00:25
i'm a man and i fucking LOVE redheads.
Posted on Thursday February 18, 2010, 18:04
Redheaded women drive me wild. If gingerphobes don't want these flame-haired hotties, give 'em to me!
Posted on Thursday February 18, 2010, 20:58
Sorry, what about Rose from Titanic? The characters a red head, and her hair wasn't toned down on the posters.
Posted on Thursday February 18, 2010, 22:15
If we're talking about Couples Retreat, at least they only changed Malin Ackerman's hair colour and didn't remove her from the poster entirely...
On redheads, I would have said that Rita Hayworth's Gilda was more iconic than Julia, but possibly not as resonant, as she's in black and white?
Finally, bring on the ginge! Love Eric Stoltz: with a spoon!
Posted on Saturday February 20, 2010, 14:10
Thank you SirJawa for taking the words right outta my mouth. COMPLETELY agree with everything you said.
And for the record, I'm a red head.......and Irish!
Posted on Sunday February 21, 2010, 12:59
Damian Lewis is yummy.
That is all.
Posted on Thursday February 25, 2010, 17:07
I'm with Fenwick and SirJawa....you actually get paid for this? THE most pointless article I have ever come across. I'm up for articles that are less than serious, but this is ridiculous. and i have the ginger gene, freckles and all.
You are writing for what i tend to regard as the best movie mag (website) in the business. Your range of possible potential topics to discuss seriously or make fun of is almost endless and you chose this?
Posted on Monday March 1, 2010, 16:13
Lighten up a bit? It's a blog post, which by their nature can be as frivolous or as serious as the journalist likes. This isn't the frothiest ever posted and whilst you might not feel it's a pertinent point, some of us do...
Posted on Tuesday March 9, 2010, 14:58
Hollywood doesn't hate redheads, just redheads that happen to be male. Of course that doesn't mean they love redheaded women either, just that "Hollywood" and men in general lust after red haired women as sexual prizes to be used and violated in only the special ways that Hollywood can think of.
Posted on Thursday March 18, 2010, 20:59
it's probably because they smell of piss and biscuits
Posted on Monday June 13, 2011, 03:22
Women can dye their hair and fool us in public but they can not fool us in bed, unless they are extremely thorough in their grooming skills. Would it not be great if they realized we not only like to nuzzle the hair on their head but the other places it is prominent as well, and remove it where it should not be (under arms). Supposedly only 6% of the population are true genetic redheads, but pretenders probably 25% or higher. Most need to remember a man's largest sex organ is between his ears. It is not so much what we know as much as it is what we think we know. Successful married women know this already, but they won't tell.