You've probably noticed that Princess Merida, star of Pixar's new animated adventure, Brave , has red hair. Lots and lots of red hair. In fact, if you consider that fewer than 4% of the world's population has ginger hair, we reckon she's somehow made off with at least 50% of it.
Although it's not the first time that we've had an animated heroine with such fiery locks (Ariel from The Little Mermaid is another Disney example), the sheer in-your-faceness of Merida's mane has prompted people to start talking about it as though it's something new.
We say to those people: “Where have you been?” Science-fiction and fantasy is stuffed with redheads! Jayne Nelson – a redhead at time of writing this – counts down the ten best examples of fabulous ginger hair in this fine old genre of ours...
10 Jessica Hamby
True Blood(opens in new tab)
Colour: Strawberry blonde.
From a bottle? Nope, all natural (as far as we can see).
It's hard to imagine Deborah Ann Woll's newbie vampire without her gorgeous strawberry blonde hair, which is as much a part of her character as her pointy fangs and blood-red lippy. With the majority of True Blood 's cast (defiantly bottle-red waitress Arlene aside) either blondes or brunettes, Jessica's ginger hair stands out a mile and serves to make her unique. Hell, recently the show's been hiring so many pretty women with dark hair they're getting hard to tell apart; no fear of that with Jessica.
People with red hair often have very pale skin, which also gives Woll an edge when it comes to looking like a vampire – we reckon she must use 50% less white vampire make-up than the rest of the cast. Perhaps that explains why she looks so damn perfect with fangs.
9 Dr Beverly Crusher
Star Trek: The Next Generation(opens in new tab)
From a bottle? Natural, although considering how many hues of red it went through during the course of the show, we assume there was some additional colouring.
Dr Crusher boarded the USS Enterprise with hair so flaming we're surprised it didn't set off the ship's smoke alarms. Not only did it look stunning, it also worked rather well in conjunction with her cool-blue Starfleet uniform and made her stand out from her rather drably-haired co-stars... if they even had hair at all. (Okay, so Denise Crosby's Tasha had an interesting 'do, but she didn't last long.)
For a while we must admit that her hair was the most exciting thing about our good Doctor, although it can't have been easy playing a character who existed merely to make people feel better, give out long speeches of medical technobabble and shoot dewy-eyed looks at her genius son. As time went on, however, she managed to make her mark on the show... and then a traitorous Gates McFadden decided to get blonder and blonder for the Next Generation movies. Oh well, as they say, a change is as good as a rest.
8 Hoban Washburne
Firefly(opens in new tab)
Colour: Strawberry blond.
From a bottle? Nope.
There's a trope in popular culture which, rightly or wrongly, implies that redheaded women are extraordinarily sexy, combining the colour of their hair with their allegedly “fiery'”nature. Some of these women are admittedly on this list, but we omitted characters like Jessica Rabbit because she lived up to the stereotype a little too much (she can't help it, though, she's drawn that way).
By the same token, there's another trope for male redheads to be geeks, losers or the victims of bullying. And so we proudly present Wash to disprove that idea.
...Okay, we admit he's a geek. In that respect, he lives up to the stereotype. But he's also the pilot of a spaceship, the funniest person on said spaceship and is happily married to the spaceship's hottest and baddest female character. It's good to be Wash. Well, up until that bit in Serenity where his leaf-blowing abilities come to an abrupt end, anyway.
Honourable mention 1: Alan Tudyk as Alpha on Dollhouse . Nobody plays a psychopath quite like him. We're not quite sure where the redhead stereotype stands when it comes to being serial killers, though.
Honourable mention 2: Christina Hendricks as Saffron, the redheaded tease who so brilliantly duped Mal and the crew in two episodes of Firefly . She's a prime example of a redhead written to be sexy, a la Jessica Rabbit... though thankfully there's more to her than that.
7 Felicia Day
The Guild(opens in new tab)
From a bottle? Natural, although topped up with dye to give it oomph (from what we can tell).
She's become the poster child for geeky women everywhere, a spokesperson for an entire generation of nerds and a bona fide international internet treasure. The fact that she's ginger probably isn't important when you take that into account, except for if you see her as a role model for redheads. Which she is.
Her most notable acting stints include a Potential Slayer in Buffy 's seventh season (by which time she was rocking the short red hair look, while Alyson Hannigan's Willow as rocking the long red hair look), the adorable Penny in Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog , two guest spots in Dollhouse where she nearly stole the show from the main stars and a repeated role in Eureka . And – of course – she's the brains behind The Guild .
In short, if redheads ever wanted to take over the world, Felicia Day could be their leader.
The Fifth Element(opens in new tab)
Colour: Radioactive carrot
From a bottle? Frequent dyeing meant keeping the colour specific was impossible, so Milla wore a wig.
Milla Jovovich's endearing, spiky, gibberish-spewing performance as the eponymous Fifth Element in this 1997 blockbuster was undoubtedly enhanced by hair so bright you could use her as a runway light at Heathrow Airport. Not only did her flourescent orange 'do serve to make her look more “alien”, it was also used rather effectively as a signal that she and Bruce Willis's world-weary cab driver were meant to be together... as he wears a shirt that's exactly the same colour. Subtle.
The really weird thing about Leeloo's flaming follicles is that she has blonde roots and darker ends. Funky!
5 Willow Rosenberg
Buffy The Vampire Slayer(opens in new tab)
From a bottle? Natural, with occasional additions.
A TV show which starred a blonde cheerleader who kills vampires in her spare time was always going to have fun playing with stereotypes and conventions. And so, while elsewhere in this feature we've discussed how redheaded women are often cast as sex bombs, in Buffy we found a redhead cast as a quiet, shy nerd who would simply explode from embarrassment if anyone ever called her “sexy”.
Which, of course, actually made her sexy in her own way. Bravo!
Honourable mention: Seth Green as Oz, a fellow redhead who hooked up with Willow and created possibly the most adorable couple on television at the time. (Shame his fur when he was a werewolf wasn’t bright red as well.) And Mr Green himself has gone on to prove his geek credentials in many ways, not least with Robot Chicken.
4 Simon Pegg
Various(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
Colour: Blondy-gingery-bleached. Sort of.
From a bottle? Although Pegg's hair and beard are mildly red in hue, they've definitely been aided and abetted by bleach over the years.
Former SFX columnist Simon Pegg has done such sterling work bringing redheaded geekery to the masses that we sometimes feel he should be given a special award for services to the genre. The man behind Spaced , Shaun Of The Dead and Paul is probably best known now for playing Scotty in the new Star Trek films – fitting, given that our favourite engineer is Scottish and they're a nation of proud redheads (see Brave for proof).
However, he's not quite possessed of a flaming red noggin like some of the other people on this list: he's more blond than anything, and his hair is often dyed to make it seem redder (whether accidentally or deliberately). “I went to a hairdresser in Knightsbridge, but they dyed it the wrong colour and it turned sort of reddish,” he says. “So when Shaun Of The Dead arrived everyone assumed that was my hair colour, but it's not.”
Either way, he can grow a magnificent red beard. Montgomery Scott would be proud.
3 Amy Pond
Doctor Who(opens in new tab)
From a bottle? Nope.
The Doctor has had several redheaded companions over the years, from Turlough to Mel to Donna – far more than you'd expect given the small proportion of redheads in the average population. He's even complained, post-regeneration, about the fact his own locks haven't gained a carroty hue, so clearly he's a fan of all things ginger.
(Note: if he had regenerated as a redheaded Matt Smith, his red bow tie would have clashed horribly with his hair. These are the things costume designers have to think about, you know.)
However, nobody has flown the flag for ginger-haired folks on Doctor Who more than Karen Gillen. It sounds ridiculous when we write it down: of course she didn't wake up one morning and announce, “Today I'm going to be ginger and become a role model to thousands!” It's just her hair colour, and Amy Pond is more than just hair .
But the fact she's become so popular, so recognisable and so beloved while sporting such a glorious barnet can't be ignored. Amy Pond is an inspiration to us all.
2 Dana Scully
The X-Files(opens in new tab)
Colour: Various shades of red during the course of the show.
From a bottle? Yes – Gillian Anderson's real hair colour is light brown.
It's strange watching the pilot episode of The X-Files and clapping eyes on a brunette Agent Scully. Yes, in case you've forgotten (or even never noticed), Gillian Anderson didn't actually go red until the show was picked up, and even then her first season hair was a little subdued compared to later iterations (you can check out the metamorphosis of her mane here: http://chrisnu.com/scullyhair/index.html ).
But red it was, and slowly Scully's hair became one of the talking points of The X-Files as the show became so popular it all but took over the world. Anyone around in the '90s will remember how amazing it was to see a character so buttoned-down and subdued on telly becoming the sultry star of UK lad's mags, and every article discussing how sexy Scully was mentioned her drop-dead-red barnet.
For a while, Dana Scully was the poster child for redheads everywhere. Never forget, guys.
1 The Weasley Family
Harry Potter(opens in new tab)
Colour: As ginger as ginger can be.
From a bottle? Nope (in the books). Yes (in the films, as many of the actors weren't natural redheads).
Arthur, Molly, Bill, Charles, Percy, Fred, George, Ron and Ginny: if you look in a dictionary under “ginger” you'll find this list of names. Thanks to JK Rowling's uber-popular books and this heroic, down-to-earth family, redheads everywhere have new role models to wave under people's noses and say, “See? We rock!”
And that's because they do. Nowhere in the world of Harry Potter are there characters more recognisable; if you were plonked down in the middle of Hogwarts without a clue who to speak to, you'd spot these ginger folk a mile off and know exactly who they were. They're the kind of people we'd love to know, as well, from Ron's hilarious asides to Fred and George's pranks to Arthur's lovable glee over all things Muggle. They're also heroes, as their sacrifices in the final book will testify, and Molly Weasley's “Not my daughter, you bitch!” is one of the franchise's greatest quotes. (It even has its own Facebook page ).
Kudos must be given to JK Rowling for putting redheads front and centre of her books. “What you’ve done for ginger people is just... I cannot put that into words so, thank you, Jo,” said Rupert Grint at the premiere of the final Potter film. Hear, hear.
Honourable mentions: Lily Potter, Harry's mum, who also had red hair, and Dumbledore – who had auburn hair before everything went grey.