Three jewels but no crown this year - Once again the Triple Crown has come to an end, after Palace Malice won the Belmont Stakes last Saturday. As in past years, there was no Triple Crown winner in 2013.... More →
I am a ginger. Yes, that means I have red hair, pale skin and freckles. It does not, however, mean I lack a soul. And no, I will not infect you with “gingervitis,” a disease that will turn you into a redhead.
As a person with red hair, commonly referred to as a “ginger,” I have suffered many jokes and taunts from people who find it amusing to poke fun at a group of people different from everyone else only because of the orange-red pigmentation of their hair.
An episode on the popular television show “South Park” called “All about Gingers,” which aired in 2005, perpetuated stereotypes against gingers.
In it, the character Eric Cartman delivers a hate speech against gingers in class but is then transformed into a ginger using hair dye. He eventually rallies the other redheaded people of his town to exterminate all non-gingers. In the episode, Cartman makes a single statement that set off a cultural phenomenon, proclaiming, “Gingers have no souls.” So thanks to “South Park,” the assertion that redheads lack souls has spread faster than a wildfire.
Here at ’Stoga, many friends find opportunities to poke fun at my alleged lack of a soul in regular conversations and casually make witty remarks about my hair color, saying that it “burns like fire.”
At first, I observed the stereotypes from afar: should I get offended and treat it as hate speech? Or is the whole situation not worth getting into a red-hot furor, as redheads are stereotypically prone to doing? Perhaps it isn’t something worth getting into a heated argument over, but it’s important for people to be aware that jokes can be hurtful when they go too far.
Although humor is important and necessary, in the case of redheads, it has a tendency to go too far. As with other casual jokes about religion or race, when it goes from laughter to hurt, the value of the joke fizzles out. Ginger critics fail to realize that even a stereotype with a positive intention can go too far and become an insult—claiming that redheads are soulless and have no emotions is more harmful than amusing.
One individual that defies the stereotypes associated with gingers is actor Rupert Grint, who portrays the character Ron Weasley in the “Harry Potter” films.
Ron grows up with six red-haired siblings and proves himself to be a character who definitely has a soul. Grint has consistently portrayed Weasley’s courageous, if occasionally flawed, humanity over the past ten years, offering inspiration to “gingers” everywhere.
People adore the character and the actor, yet Grint still demonstrated the persistent stereotyping of redheads when he thanked author J.K. Rowling at the final movie’s premiere for “all you’ve done for gingers.”
And he’s right—Rowling created a character that debunks the traditional stereotypes and proves to readers that redheads are a force to be reckoned with. But more importantly, Grint inspires his fans to realize that being a redhead is something that they should be proud of.
Although the “South Park” episode perpetuated misconceptions about redheads, its conclusion still had a positive message. At the end, Cartman discovers that he is not actually a redhead and encourages the gingers to accept everyone.
Even though Cartman acts out of selfishness, the lesson of consideration is spot-on. We should all make a conscious effort to ensure that our humor does not unintentionally go beyond just friendly jesting and become degrading towards others.
When it comes to “ginger” jokes and jokes about other stereotypes, understand that they can go too far and resist the temptation to make a snide remark. Before you call another redhead soulless, remember—they might just steal your soul away. Or not.
Lavi Ben-Dor can be reached at email@example.com.