I've been musing about a blog on redheads for some time. Red hair occurs naturally in about 1 – 2% of people, though those with northern or western European genes run higher, 2 – 6%. (Maybe higher yet among those of Celtic heritage.) Definitely a minority, but one that gets more buzz than other hair colors!
The red hair category covers a wide range of hues from dark auburn to strawberry blond and includes copper and carrot orange and usually comes with fair skin, light colored eyes, and a tendency to freckle. As Wikipedia says, "Cultural reactions have varied from ridicule to admiration; many common stereotypes exist regarding redheads and they are often portrayed as fiery-tempered."
On the negative side, there is the "red headed stepchild." I googled to get more information on what is probably a very old phrase. Apparently it can suggest an unfaithful wife who had an affair (the reference I found said that Irish postmen were often mentioned), and since the husband is the legal parent, he's stuck with "a redheaded stepchild." (It hardly seems fair to blame the child! But life is not fair.)
More broadly, the phrase refers to someone who stands out as different, and may be marginalized or unwanted. In Britain, redheads are sometimes called gingers, and not as a compliment. The Wikipedia article lists a number of examples of Britons being harassed and even physically attacked for being "gingers." (I've not seen this in the US; teasing, maybe, but low key. Possibly it's because the US has a more diverse population that Great Britain has traditionally had?
Also from Wikipedia: "In September 2011, Cryos International, one of the world's largest sperm banks, announced that it would no longer accept donations from red-haired men due to low demand from women seeking artificial insemination."
But enough about the downside of red hair. I once read that blond was fashion and red hair was style. One can buy fashion, but style is more intriguing and elusive. Perhaps it's innate.
One place where red hair is really popular is in romance novels! Lots and lots of fiery red-haired heroines, often with green eyes. (They tend to ride black stallions that no one else can manage. Yes, we are in fantasy land here. <G>)
There are red headed heroines who hide their hair under bonnets because they hate their hair color and feel it makes them look unrespectable. Their heroes, of course think they look like glorious goddesses. (Yes, I did that in my book Angel Rogue. <G>)
There are fiery redheaded heroines who battle things out nose to nose with the heroes. (I do less of that; my characters tend to talk things out reasonably. Much less drama.) There are even well-behaved redheaded heroines here and there.
Not as many redheaded heroes, and they are more likely to be at the darker end of the red hair color spectrum. Our Edith Layton's wonderful book, The Fireflower, has a grand cover that she thought might be the only redheaded version of superstar cover model Fabio.
Many painters have adored redheads: the color "Titian red" was inspired by the painter Titian's inclinations. The Pre-Raphaelite painters adored redheaded women, and painted a number of them, generally doing something wildly dramatic. Artists have painted Mary Magdalene, the glamorous bad girl, as a redhead.
But let us not forget that Queen Elizabeth I, one of the greatest rulers in British history, was a redhead, and she was called Gloriana. This picture of her is the Armada portrait, commemorating how she inspired her ships and sailors to defeat the much larger Spanish Armada.
And in the grand royal tradition, today there is the handsome and dashing Prince Harry.
So where do you stand on redheads in real life and in fiction? Are you a redhead, and if so, how do you feel about it? Has red hair caused you trouble, or given you grand confidence? Both? These days, anyone can have red hair. If not a natural redhead, have you chosen to become one?
How about redheads in novels? When a character shows up in a story with red hair, does that suggest anything about the character to you? And is that good, bad, or indifferent?
Mary Jo, with average brown hair and possible a bit of red hair envy.