The Big Redhead Book: Inside the Secret Society of Red Hair is an inside look into one of the most elite societies in the world—the real two percent. Well, you know, the two percent of the world's population that are natural redheads, at least. This book has equal parts pop culture, ginger facts, and humorous stories about what it's like to actually have red hair. It's loaded with everything you'd ever want to know about us reds; how we're scientifically different from the norms (non-redheads), how we've been stereotyped in pop culture, and the do's and don'ts of having a red in your life, among other things!
Whether you are a redhead, know a redhead, or are just an enthusiast, this book explores the realities, the myths, and where red hair actually originates (it’s not Ireland). Author Erin La Rosa not only delivers the facts, statistics, and undeniable realities of being a ginger, but she also weaves in her own personal and hilarious stories about being red. Being a redhead is not just a hair color, it’s a lifestyle—and this book is your own exclusive peek into that fabulous world.
Some surprising facts about redheads that you will discover include:
- The association between redheads and humor came from redheaded slaves in ancient Greece
- There are over 30 leading or recurring redhead characters in Disney and Pixar films... that's a lot when you remember we're only two percent of the world's population!
- Redhead women allegedly have more sex, more threesomes, and more orgasms than other women... or do they? Let's find out!
- Some Egyptian rulers dyed their hair red to assert their power (looking at you, Cleopatra)
- And redheads need more anesthesia at the dentist, because they're not going down without a fight
|St. Martin's Publishing Group
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About the Author
ERIN LA ROSA is a writer and performer living in Los Angeles. She received her MA in writing from the University of Southern California, and a BA in Fiction from Emerson College. As the Bureau Chief for BuzzFeed Los Angeles, she frequently writes about the perils and triumphs of being a redhead, along with her love of whiskey, being an introvert, and various TV shows she’s obsessed with. Before BuzzFeed, Erin worked for the comedy websites Funny or Die and MadAtoms, as well as E!s Fashion Police, Wetpaint, and Ecorazzi. Storytelling has always been a passion for Erin, and she has performed in such storytelling series as MORTIFIED, "Funny but True" at the LA Times Book Festival, and Sunday Night Sex Talks. In the last year alone, Erin has appeared on CNN, Headline News, Jimmy Kimmel, and The Today Show on behalf of BuzzFeed. She is the author of Womanskills and The Big Redhead Book.
Read an Excerpt
Film, TV, and Redhead Stereotypes
Let me hold your hand, draw a bubble bath, and softly whisper in your ear that redheads are the unsung kings and queens of the pop culture world. Admit it: it's not just the jasmine bath salts talking; you agree that redheads leave a lasting impression. Our red hair is like a life raft in the pop culture sea of blond, black, and brunette hair — you can't help but doggy paddle toward us! And indeed, you've definitely seen plenty of redheads on TV and in movies. In fact, you're probably thinking of a specific one right now, aren't ya? Bonus points if it isn't Wendy from the hamburger commercials. And it's not just you; a 2014 report by Upstream Analysis found that 30 percent of the TV commercials that run during primetime feature a redhead prominently. During their research they even found that at one point, CBS showcased a ginger every 106 seconds. That's a lot of red when you remember we're just 2 percent of the world's population. You get so much of the same on a regular basis, that to see something different makes us instantly memorable — which is probably just one of the reasons why advertisers are so keen to use us. As a result, we've quietly infiltrated your viewing landscape, and now your bubble bath. So, let's talk about exactly how this all came to be.
THE SIX KINDS OF REDS
For better or worse, pop culture is how most of us shape our identity. We see a character or view the world through a protagonist's eyes and we think to ourselves, this person is exactly like me. You may even start to emulate them, because you feel a connection you didn't know possible. Before you know it, you've joined Potterworld, inked a Gryffindor tattoo on your lower back, and booked your honeymoon to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. So, yeah, pop culture is something that definitely defines us. And redheads are no different.
The only difference is that even though there are a lot of redheads in pop culture, they don't tend to be particularly diverse kinds of characters. I don't need to tell you that lack of representation is not limited to one group and certainly doesn't just happen to redheads. But because this is a book about redheads, they're who we'll be focusing on here. And while most other hair colors have an assortment of role models — the kooky brunette, the poetic brunette, the intellectual brunette, etc. — redheads have a much smaller pool to deal with.
For example, when I was growing up in a magical, roll-on-glitter-filled time called the '90s, the redheads I saw on-screen were people like Ginger from the Spice Girls, Scully from The X-Files, Amber from Clueless, Peggy from Married with Children, and Angela Chase in My So-Called Life. Only two of those people were my age, and none of them was a natural redhead. My brother, also a ginger, had an even smaller number of male reds: both Petes from Pete and Pete, and Budnick from Salute Your Shorts. That's three people my brother could emulate, and one of them (Budnick) was a bully. Needless to say, options for role models were slim. Redheads were there, but it was impossible not to sense the stereotypes people had from the roles you saw redheads in. A lot of these stereotypes still exist, and sometimes stereotypes aren't all bad. The real problem is that even if you don't fit the box people put you in, you have no control over how someone else will perceive you. But the best way to get rid of a harmful stereotype is to try and understand where it came from. Because when you do that, you can discern the fact from the fiction, and grasp that #notallredheads are one and the same. So let's grab a shovel and dig into the most prevalent depictions of reds in pop culture.
1. The Redheaded Vixen
Ah, the redheaded vixen. While all redheads are sexy motherfuckers who are too good for this earth, the vixen is something else entirely. Let's paint a visual: she walks into a room; her hair is loose, and her outfit is so tight it might actually just be her skin covered in paint. Chances are, she's after your man! So hide your kids and hide your significant other, because here comes this stereotype. And plenty of gorgeous red-haired women who are only after one thing have popped up on-screen: just remember Julia Roberts as Vivian in Pretty Woman, Julie Cooper (Melinda Clarke) from The O.C., or Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes in House of Cards, to name a few.
So what's the harm in portraying women with red hair as sexual? Couldn't that be a good thing? Let's explore!
HOW IT HAPPENED:
From a psychological standpoint it's not hard to see why redheads have been sexualized in pop culture — red is the color of passion, and studies have shown that just seeing the color red can make your pulse increase. It's inarguably the sexiest shade of lipstick. And while a little black dress is timeless, it's the little red dress you wear to feel smoldering. So, yeah, the color red is admittedly hot. And for ginger ladies, that just so happens to be our hair color.
But how did this stereotype manifest in pop culture? Was it simply one redhead appearing on a screen and, BOOM, she changed our worlds forever? Not quite, because before there was even a TV or movie screen to broadcast our likeness, there was art. And redheaded women have historically been viewed as objects of desire in the art world. For example, let's take a look at a religious figure (in the Jewish tradition) who's often painted as a ginger on canvas: the evil demon Lilith. It's thought that Lilith was Adam's original wife, before Eve, but she decided to leave Adam because they were a terrible match. (Fun fact: the Lilith Fair music festival is named after her and her desire for freedom.) The mythology surrounding her has taken many forms, including her association with the power of seduction — she's been blamed for causing wet dreams by enticing men in their sleep, for example. That sexuality naturally took form in art, a great illustration of that being the painting Lilith (1892), by John Collier. We see Lilith with a serpent wrapped around her like, well, a lover, or a snake she's just very oddly close to. But more important is her hair, which falls like a red blanket around her. It's alluring, suggestive, sultry, and plenty of other words that all translate to her being depicted as a ginger vixen. And it doesn't matter whether Lilith was actually a redhead because the viewer assumes she was based on what they're seeing.
So when you're examining how the vixen pyramid was built, you'll see our depictions in the art world close to the bottom, and Rita Hayworth somewhere in the middle. That's because the modern image of the redhead sexpot took off with Hayworth. Iconic Hayworth, with her gorgeous red hair (though she was naturally a brunette), really cemented herself into the pop culture world with her role in Gilda, where she played a femme fatale. In fact, her performance was so memorable that atomic bombs being tested during that time were nicknamed Gilda, after her bombshell character (much to Hayworth's disgust). But nonetheless, Hayworth was the first modern ginger temptress (though obviously not the last).
OUR POP CULTURE PERSONA:
Hayworth made way for characters like Ginger in Gilligan's Island, Amber in Boogie Nights, and Ginger from the Spice Girls (apparently all vixen redheads are named Ginger). And it's still an image we see in the current landscape — looking at you, Melisandre from Game of Thrones and Olive in Easy A.
The vixen may not be overtly sexual at all times — who has that much energy? — but is often the focus of everyone's lust.
Indulge me, if you will, by examining Mary Jane in the Spider-Man series, or Tony Stark's affection for his flame-haired assistant, Pepper Potts. These two women aren't your stereotypical vixens, but they tempt our heroes and, in that way, become an object of longing and a version of the vixen redhead. There's also Doctor Who, a show where every Doctor since David Tennant has been obsessed with redheads and red hair. It's become a running joke, so much so that it led to this bit of dialogue in the series: "Loves a redhead, our naughty Doctor. Has he told you about Elizabeth I? Well, she thought she was the first."
Women in general are sexualized on a daily basis. That's a fact that we must shake our fist at the patriarchy for. But for redheads, it's a little more severe. It's similar to the way blondes have been stereotyped to the point where people sometimes joke that they're ditzy just by looking at them. With redheads, though, people assume we're going to pull out crazy shit in bed, like Michelle from American Pie did. Or if we aren't crazy in bed, we'll act crazy about sex, like Gloria in Wedding Crashers. It's not a coincidence that those characters have red hair. They cast redheads because, as a viewer, you know what seeing red hair translates to: you're in for a wild time.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR REDHEADS:
This stereotype doesn't just end on-screen; it bleeds into a redhead's everyday life. Like, say, one minute you're at a bar, having a drink with someone you think might actually be a sensible, normal person, and the next thing you know they've said, "I hear redheads are crazy in bed." You'd respond, except for the fact that you're sort of choking on the ice cube you just accidentally swallowed in shock. Now, to be fair, some redheads may lean into this stereotype — after all, sex is fun, and what's the harm in having another person know you're down for fun? But it's also legit to say that not all redheads want to be objectified that way by norms. So bottom line: think before you talk to us.
2. The Comic-Relief Redhead
Let's not beat around the fiery bush: gingers, on average, are funnier than everyone else. Maybe it's because we've been the butt of so many jokes that we've learned how to tell them, or that we're just genetically predisposed to have beautiful hair and magnetic storytelling skills. But the truth remains: people assume we might be funny when they see us, and there's a historical reason for this (other than our outstanding sense of humor).
HOW IT HAPPENED:
According to Professor Andrew Stott, who teaches the history of comedy at the University of Buffalo, we first began to see the circus clown as we know it — face paint and brightly colored wigs — in the early nineteenth century. The wigs needed to be bright to be seen from the backs of large theaters, and it's not hard to guess which bright but natural color was often chosen to take center stage in those performances. Professor Stott also speculates that the red-haired clown really solidified in our culture during the early twentieth century as a nod to the influx of Irish immigrants to America. That's right, my fellow Irish-American reds, it's entirely possible that we had a bit to do with this. Modern clowning tradition often plays on the juxtaposition of the clown as a rustic fool (in this case, the Irish immigrant is that fool) versus some savvy cosmopolitan element (e.g., the Irish living in big cities like New York). And Professor Stott went even further, telling me, "It's no accident, I would argue, that the Irish-surnamed Emmet Kelly was a (often red-haired) hobo clown, or that Ronald McDonald spells his surname the Irish way instead of the Scottish."
So it's fair to speculate that modern clowns, like Bozo, are influenced by the various historical depictions of the rustic fool. Which also explains why so many clowns choose to don a red wig. Whether they realize where these associations come from is another question entirely. But the role of the clown or the fool slowly developed onstage, making way for redheads to take control of the stereotype and shape their role as comics — like Lucille Ball's character in I Love Lucy, which is a kookier and arguably more charming version of the rustic fool, or Carol Burnett in Annie as Miss Hannigan, more of a drunken fool. So we've thankfully turned a corner and become comedians without the need for a rubber nose as well.
OUR POP CULTURE PERSONA:
If life teaches you anything, it should be that Lucille Ball was and always will be one of the funniest people this world has ever known. And while I Love Lucy may have aired more than fifty years ago (from 1951–57), Ball remains one of the most iconic redheads. A lot of people now know she was a natural brunette and not a real redhead, but it wasn't until she dyed her hair that she truly found success in Hollywood. The show aired in black and white but, even so, the viewer could almost sense her red hair shining through the muted tones on the screen. So she's an honorary ginger for that! Plus, she gave us this legendary quote to live by: "Once in his life every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead." Couldn't agree more.
The same year that I Love Lucy debuted, a show called The Red Skelton Show premiered, starring Red Skelton. He got his nickname from his hair and began his career as a clown and in vaudeville, eventually moving into film and TV full-time. Let's just say the '50s were a bit of a golden age for redhead comics.
And ever since Lucille Ball came onto our screens, many other funny redheads have tried to emulate her, like Grace on Will & Grace and Lily Aldrin on How I Met Your Mother. Comedians like Louis C.K. and Kathy Griffin are the hilarious stars of their own shows, while plenty of other reds, like Alan Tudyk, Maria Thayer, and Carrot Top (for better or worse), regularly get comedic sidekick roles.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR REDHEADS
If you already have a great sense of humor, the comedic redhead stereotype means that you're more likely to jump in when funny moments happen. When you know that people expect you to laugh things off, it's easier to joke about something. And if you have the license to be outrageous, it gives your personality room to grow and you can stop worrying so much about what other people think. In a lot of ways, this stereotype can be a huge advantage and explains why so many of us are incredibly charming.
That said, some would argue that our reputation for humor also puts redheads at a disadvantage. This is more so for men, since the traditional roles in film and TV for ginger men are that of funny sidekick. Just look at Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family — his relationship with his husband, Cam, is played onscreen more as a friendship than as a romantic partnership. Or Noah Werner on Suburgatory, whose wife divorced him because she preferred her career to their relationship and whose housekeeper rejects him when he tries to start something with her. These examples suggest that if you're a male and a redhead in the comedy world, there's something slightly asexual about you. In fact, Conan O'Brien made a great joke about this phenomenon when he said, "A new study claims that red-headed women are sexually desirable but redheaded men are not. I wouldn't have minded, but the study mentioned me by name."
The reality is that the only way to combat this is to make roles for ginger men where they can display their comedic prowess and their sexuality too. Because there's truly nothing as sexy as someone who can make you laugh, especially if that someone is a ginger. Am I right, ladies?!
Excerpted from "The Big Redhead Book"
Copyright © 2017 Erin La Rosa.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
one Pop CultuRED Film, TV, and Redhead Stereotypes,
two All the Red Science You Ever Wanted We're Secret Superheroes,
three Red-Hot Sex Talk How People Think You'll Be In Bed vs. How You Actually Are,
four PhenoMENal Red Men Because It's Time We Start Appreciating Our Greatest Natural Resource,
five Redhead Beauty Basics Facts, Tips, and Brushstrokes About Beauty as a Red,
six The Badass History of Reds From Warriors to Poets, We've Come a Long Way,
seven Raising a Little Red It's Not Easy Being a Lotto Winner,
eight How to Treat a Ginger You'll Only Truly Understand If You're a Real, Live Red,
nine The Secret Society of Redheads It's Time to Join Up!,
About the Author,