It’s November 20th and one group of young students waits quietly behind a corner for another student to walk by. They grow giddy with anticipation as their unsuspecting peer is gets closer to falling into their trap. It’s over in seconds, their pray walks into the ambush where she is hit, knocked to the ground, and then kicked till she is bloody and bruised. The young victim is a thirteen year old girl whose only crime is having the wrong colored hair. Across the nation dozens like her are also feeling the stings and bruises of physical and emotional assaults, all the result of National Kick a Ginger Day, a made up holiday with origins on Facebook. Starting as a group of Canadian teens, the group quickly accrued more than 5000 followers in Canada and nearly doubled that when the group was introduced to American youths. While the group was started in jest it quickly grew into a Ginger hate group which capitalized on the growing disregard towards red heads in the media. In no time at all Kick a Ginger Days was in full swing and successfully brought anti-ginger prejudice into view.
National Kick a Ginger Day can explain only one day’s worth of attacks on people of Red Hair, attacks that have reported occurrences not only within the United States and Canada but around the world (Children Injured During ‘Kick a Ginger Kid’ Day, 2013).While the attacks have prompted fear for red haired people, who are understandably afraid for their safety, they are only one facet wide spread prejudice that is forming as a result of media stereotyping. From shows like South Park, which dramatize age old jokes about soullessness and disease, to nicknames like carrot top and the flying tomato, media is becoming desensitized to prejudice against the red haired population. Media is ever present in effecting the way we think as a global community and it has spawned prejudice of red haired people throughout all of history, it has shaped how Gingers are treated and thought of in society today, and it will continue to dictate how they are treated in the future.
Red Hair in History
Myths about the origins of red haired people have been passed down for ages, and the media, has wasted no time in making sure that these were recorded and spread throughout the past. Many of these myths are grounded in what was known about the people of that time. One such myth discussed the possibility of red heads, known as rose heads, containing the blood of the elites. This is likely due to the number of red haired people that were in the ruling class at the time. Cleopatra and Alexander the Great are both believed to have been red haired rulers possibly those who spawned the origins of the myth, as time continued and other gingers such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Queen Elizabeth also ruled the myth became more stone set (Warreagal, 2008). From this myth is likely born the belief that gingers have no soul. The reasoning behind this belief lies either with the thought that all red haired rulers contained a single essence and did not contain souls of their own, or with brash words taken out of context in regards to a particular red haired ruler (The Myths and Histories of Red Hair, 2008).
European media throughout history has also portrayed red haired people of being born of dark magic. It was believed strongly by the ancient Greeks that people with red hair would be reborn as vampires after death. Probably due to the light pigmentation of their skin, as well as the freckles (known as devils marks) that appeared frequently, these stories continued and evolved through the middle ages when posters and town criers would warn of unclean red haired children and red headed witches that would use the blood of children for rituals (The Myths and Histories of Red Hair, 2008). These stories and propaganda continued into the American colonial era and are the roots for many of the prejudices that are brought against red haired people in today’s civilization. The media has always had portrayal of red haired people that reflected negatively and it continues to do so today.
Gingers in Modern Society
In today’s society the media is as hot and cold with Ginger prejudice as it is with other prejudices. Rather than propaganda that openly displays prejudice, red heads are attacked jokingly in television shows, made comic relief characters and sidekicks, and are hated in secret online groups. The prejudice is still there, it just uses different methods to attack its victims. Prejudice against Gingers escapes notice, however. Ginger discrimination is not considered taboo, like racism, homophobia, and sexism. Instead prejudice against red heads is used openly and is the subject of jokes and identity.
Nowhere was this made more evident than in the adult cartoon South Park, which quotes that “Ginger kids are born with a disease, which causes very light skin, red hair and freckles (South Park Ginger Kids Quotes, 2005).” It later goes on to suggest that not only are gingers soulless and diseased, but gingers are hostile people that want to take over the world and kill everyone. While South Park’s creators claim that the episode was only in jest and they had no intention of it causing injury, the episode is suggested as the major catalyst that lead to the development of National Kick a Ginger Day (Gingers have good reason to snap, 2013). Parents of the children who fell victim to this were disgusted and upset by the incident. “My son rang me and said kids were kicking him, saying it was National Kick a Ginger Kid Day. He was scared so I went to get him out of school (Children Injured During ‘Kick a Ginger Kid’ Day, 2013)”, one of the parents says about the incident. It’s clear that the prejudice is not dead if children that young would attack students because of poor media portrayals.
Other media prejudices are less obvious. These include using gingers as weak side characters who are afraid of the sun and sickly and using red haired kids as the comic relief side kick. While some argue that characters like Ron Weasley from Harry Potter provide a positive ginger role model, in reality Ron is a buffoon who is afraid constantly and can never live up to Harry Potter, an extremely powerful and famous black haired boy who. While Harry is the main character, Ron is left with creating cheap laughs based on food and the rest of his poor and challenged red haired family, or creating a bouncing board for Harry’s angst. This role is repetitive for gingers in television, books, and video games. It is very rare to come across a red haired protagonist, and when you do they are not without an unfair amount of personal issues.
Both of these things have led to a surging prejudice against gingers in online groups. With the creation of Kick a Ginger Day on Facebook as well as websites like Ihategingerkids.com, and the Ginger Extermination Squad, the online presence of ginger hate groups is growing. These groups provide social media walls where users can log on and share their anti-ginger ideas with likeminded peers (Gingers have good reason to snap, 2013). It is thanks to the influence these groups have over members, especially younger children, that have led to acts of violence against gingers in real life. While in countries like the United States and Canada investigations have been mounted against the perpetrators of these crimes, in several European countries such as Corsica it is still common for people to turn their heads and spit when a ginger walks by (The Myths and Histories of Red Hair, 2008). This is not the way a civilized culture should behave and until the media starts regarding prejudice against gingers with the same distaste as it does with racism and sexism the hate against red headed people will not end.
The Future of Gingers in the Media
It is no more likely that all prejudice against gingers will be abolished any more than any other group of people. However, media is adapting to be less prejudice and with time prejudice against gingers will lessen like it has with other discrimination. No group of people is lesser than another group and no group should feel they are being mistreated no matter the color of their skin their hair, or any other feature of their body. The more the violence and hatred of the prejudice against red haired people is brought to the attention of the public the more likely it is that we will experience a change in the way that red heads are portrayed in television and across all forms of media.
In order to help push us toward a future where everyone is aware of the prejudice and the danger it holds to red haired children groups like the Ginger Liberation Army and Ginger Anti-Hate Group are working to eliminate the hatred not only of red haired people but of all people who are under the threat of discrimination (Gingers have good reason to snap, 2013). With more people joining and working to expose the negative impact media has had on ginger people in history and the present, a world with little or no discrimination only a hairsbreadth away.
Children Injured During ‘Kick a Ginger Kid’ Day. (2013, October 18). Retrieved from International Business Times: http://ehis.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=6&sid=cec60947-3605-4847-a71a-73d3b63e0d56%40sessionmgr4001&hid=4102&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=bwh&AN=515040.20131018
Gingers have good reason to snap. (2013, January 15). Retrieved from Daily Mail: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=326262
South Park Ginger Kids Quotes. (2005). Retrieved from Internet Movie Data Base: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0761286/quotes
The Myths and Histories of Red Hair. (2008). Retrieved from The Myths and Histories of Red Hair: http://www.themythsandhistoryofredhair.co.uk/aliensatlantis.html
Warreagal. (2008, October 12). Top 25 Famous Red Heads . Retrieved from Listverse: http://listverse.com/2008/10/12/top-25-famous-redheads/