The Prompt community suggested I write about the lack of redheaded representation in Hollywood, politics, and corporate boardrooms across the country.
Secondly, fine. Reluctantly, I will address the issue. Sure, winning an Oscar or having a fancy job title is what we all strive for in life. They’re on the top level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for that reason. But redheads, because of the disproportionate amount of obstacles and prejudice we face, rarely make it that high.
Let’s start with a quick refresher on Maslow’s pyramid.
Maslow was some important thinker guy who created a pyramid that listed five basic human needs. We humans all start down at the first level, the base of the pyramid, where we are motivated to first fulfill the most basic needs, and as we successfully address them, we progress upward to focus on the next level of needs.
No other need will motivate you unless you feel capable of surviving. As an example, I can’t worry about picking up chicks on Tinder (third level, love and belonging), if I think a MOAB is about to be dropped on my face (second level – Safety). Our “state” in the pyramid is not permanent, and we constantly fluctuate between levels. But living a fulfilling life, like, say Oprah, means that we generally stay at the top level(s).
So what does Maslow have to do with the dearth of redheaded representation at the Oscar’s or corporate boardrooms? Well, surely it’s because we face obstacles that you melaninated people don’t face.
To start, none of us feels capable of meeting our basic physiological needs. Maslow was talking about the absolute bare bones minimum for the human body to function. Oxygen, food, not burning to death in the sun. The basics. Until we find a way to put enough SPF in sunblock, I personally don’t give a fuck about being receiving a gold statue at a podium or a C-level job title. I’m just trying to live. Literally.
Maybe a lack of SPF is a mere technical problem with a technical solution. Fair point. I’m sure I could purchase a full body UV-blocking suit, and I’m now stepped up to Maslow’s second level, Safety, which encompasses the stability of many core tenets of living well—stable health and security.
Again, we redheads have a major obstacle here seeing as there’s an international holiday dedicated to making sure we bleed internally: National Kick a Ginger Day. It’s no coincidence we are genetically-enabled for a high tolerance for pain. That’s Darwin at work over decades of us getting pummeled at recess.
Presuming that a few resourceful redheads successfully claw up to the third level of the pyramid, we now have to fulfill a need to feel loved and to belong. We want to experience intimacy, which I’m pretty sure just means copulating with someone you don’t pay.
Question: Would you feel loved if a respected publication like Psychology Today published a study proclaiming you are genetically less attractive?
Answer: No. You’d probably feel pretty isolated. You know, like a redhead does.
Maybe we redheads get lucky. Maybe we find a sexual partner who’s blind or something, we’d still then have to develop self-esteem, the fourth level of Maslow’s pyramid. We want to feel confident in who we are and be respected by our peers. This is quite literally impossible for all of us.
Before I even hit puberty, the media had subliminally convinced everyone (including me) that our personalities were just as unappealing as our freckled faces. Think about it.
Who’s the least liked, most bozo-brained character in every famous story? The redheaded one.
Remember that little dweebnugget, Arnold Perlstein from the Magic School Bus? Sure you do. He’s easily the most unlikable character in the history of moving images.
Arnold did nothing but bitch about going on the best field trips of all-time. As if that weren’t enough, they killed him in a show designed to educate children. I wonder what lesson America’s children walked away with after watching Arnold accidentally freeze-dry his head by taking his helmet off in space.
It was an inexplicable plot development, and yet, no one cared. Name one other character that was inexplicably killed off without anybody caring.
Oh, right, Barb from Stranger Things…guess what color her hair was?
The media created these negative stereotypes decades ago, and they are still operating in our subconscious. I can list off a million of them.
If Deborah Messing and The Joker had a child and sent it to a clown college, you’d get Carrot Top. Honorable mention: Ronald McDonald.
A frenetic low-level lab assistant that spoke in meeps and successfully completed zero experiments.
Deviated-septum having, good-for-nothing wet rag who holds back his best friends from having gargantuan, Reptar-levels of fun. (This stereotype was also made famous by Ron Weasley.)
By the time I was a teenager, I looked down upon redheads as much as the rest of the world. And then to top that off, J.K. Rowling spent the next ten years promoting a poor, crackpot, red-haired family, the Weasley’s, whose children 1) fell victim to a curse and terrorized an entire school (Ginny), 2) sucked at all things magic (Ron), and 3) died (Fred).
Winner of worst representation of a redhead in film, Ron Weasley.
This highest level, Self-Actualization, is pretty impossible to achieve. To my knowledge, Ed Sheeran is the only person to break through the obstacle course of redheaded life (because he can rap!), and people still mock him as ugly.
So when you all talk about achieving my full potential as a redheaded CEO or some musical genius, remember this pyramid. Remember my skin melting off. Remember National Kick-a-Ginger Day. Remember Arnold Perlstein.