Redheads onscreen have long fallen into two camps: fetishized or ostracized. Typically, this dividing line comes down to gender. Redheaded women, like Jessica Rabbit, are portrayed as hyper-sexual vixens; while redheaded men, like Napoleon Dynamite, are presented as undesirable outcasts. These narrow portrayals put redhead characters into limiting boxes that can be othering and even dehumanizing.
Because red is the rarest hair color, the redhead has historically been used as a visual symbol of differentness. Digging deeper into onscreen portrayals of redheads, we can better understand our culture’s responses to difference in general. Moreover, this ostracization-and-fetishization dichotomy exposes how our prejudices can manifest in media.