Today is a special day for me. It was two years ago today that I first took my camera and went to the park to see if I could find a woman who had a thing for men with red hair. I was nearing the end of a Masters program in Filmmaking at the Edinburgh College of Art and I thought I could make a cute short film about being ginger. In my wildest dreams I did not think it would lead me here.
I received a nice letter yesterday from a woman in Greece. She told me that she wished she had red hair. She also expressed complete dismay over the fact that I was making this film. She simply could not understand why having red hair is an issue. This is a fairly common letter so I thought today would be a good day to address it here.
Different people have different experiences, and different people respond in different ways to similar experiences, so it would be foolish of me or anyone else to think that they know what it is/was like for all redheads. I try very hard to make it clear that I don’t speak for everyone. I have met redheads who told me their hair was never an issue, and I’m very happy for them (if a little skeptical).
Having bright orange hair makes you stick out, and when you are a kid the last thing you want is to stick out. The kid on the playground who sticks out, for any reason, is the one the bullies go after. It has also been culturally acceptable to bully redheads for years, and for some (not all) it was terrible. The fact that society has never deemed it terrible only makes it worse for those who go through it.
I’m fairly well adjusted now that I’m an adult, but people still say random things to me all the time, and some of it is shocking. I’ve used dating as a subject in the film because the quest for love is something that everyone can relate to, and my hair and the way that I was treated because of it had an impact on my self-confidence. Looking back at it now that I am near the end, it might be more accurate to say that the film is about the quest to be accepted, which might actually be more universal (can one thing be more universal than another, or is universality just a yes/no thing?)
I’ve spoken to people who weren’t redheaded who have asked me to make a film called “Being Tall” or “Being Short,” because for them being 6’6” or 4’11” had a big impact on their self-confidence, which in turn has impacted their social life as an adult.
The list of things that childhood bullies pick up on is staggering: being over-weight, being under-weight, having a facial scar, being too smart, not being smart enough, wearing glasses, being poor, being rich, being gay, being the only person of your race or religion in school, the list goes on forever. This is something that (unless you are the luckiest person on the planet) we have all had to deal with at some point in our lives. And while many people “get over it,” I know that many more don’t. And that is who my film is for. It’s called Being Ginger because that’s my thing, but really it should be called Being Different, and it is my sincere hope that it isn’t just a funny entertaining film (although I think it is that as well) but that it is my way of communicating to anyone who has self-confidence issues related to bullying that they aren’t alone.