I need to start this off by saying that I don’t have any answers. Only questions.
I’ve come across a lot of random abuse for being ginger. Enough that I decided to make a film about it. Now that I’m an adult I think I’m rather well adjusted and I choose to just laugh stuff off. The South Parkepisode didn’t bother me, in fact I remember at the time rather liking it. I figured South Park makes fun of everyone; if they make fun of your “group” it just means that you really are a group. Plus, as a fan ofSouth Park I always thought that there was a sharp edge to their humor on par with the best political satire. I didn’t think they intended to spread hatred or mistreatment of redheads, but instead were mocking people who had those views. But what is the real world impact of those jokes?
I was just made aware of a joke in an episode of a TV show called The New Normal. It’s a US show that airs in the UK on E4. The show follows two gay men and the surrogate mother of their child. Early on in the third episode, Baby Clothes, the three of them visit the doctor where they discuss tests to make sure the baby is healthy. One of the tests can detect upwards of 85% of birth defects, “Anything from spina bifida to red hair.” This shocks one of the fathers who immediately says, “Red hair? Can we do that test now?” The doctor replies, “You know I read online that Judas was a redhead. I don’t trust any one of them. Every time I see Reba McEntire I just want to shout ‘You killed my Lord and savior.’ You see a redhead walking down the street just go, ‘Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!’” (You can jump to 42 seconds in for the joke:)
I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. After all I’ve been told to my face that my hair color is a birth defect. My defense against such stupidity has always been to mock it. And I hope that is the intention here.
I haven’t actually watched The New Normal, apart from the first two and a half minutes of this episode, but it looks like a typical sitcom full of stereotypical characters. The one father who is so upset about the idea of having a redheaded child is also so vapid and materialist it would take an absolute moron to hold him up as a role model. So it should be okay for him to say something stupid and offensive because everything he says is stupid and offensive. But at the same time, what does it do to people who watch it and laugh at it? Also, no one corrects him. Instead they all look disgusted by the idea of having a redheaded child. The standard “rule,” which goes back to Archie Bunker on All In The Family, says two things: It’s okay to have an evil racist character as long as he is evil towards everything equally, and as long as there is someone else to correct him. This is the same rule that has allowed South Park to get away with so much. The anti-redheaded view is ridiculous, but not having someone there to point out how wrong it is, makes it okay.
Last week I decided to take advantage of Google’s auto-fill feature to see what the most common searches were for “is being ginger.” First on the list was: is it a race, which is fair enough, but the eight options below it were quite shocking.
I thought it was ridiculous, so I shared it on facebook. I’ve also recently started a meme with different ginger themed ecards. I decided to mock what I’d found on google with this:
Now I’m sitting here, and I’m honestly afraid I might be part of the problem. At least one follower on facebook was offended, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and if you want to be creative and you want to be funny, sometimes you won’t be understood and some people will be offended. But I still feel bad about it.
I have other ecards planned, and some of them are based off of shocking things that real people have said to me. But now I’m questioning if I should actually put them out into the world. I can laugh at it all, I’ve been dealing with the stupidity for years, but I remember how hard it was a kid. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if the South Park episode had come out when I was 10.
Most of the feedback I get from other redheads has been extremely positive, thanking me for talking about the issue and sharing “our” experience. I hope that shining a light on it will make it better for others, but I just don’t know.
Please, tell me what you think. Where do you think the line is? Leave a comment below or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
24 January 2013