Stephen McGinty: Redheads should not be ridiculed – but instead revered
IT HAS been a good week for gingers. Nicole Kidman has at last stopped pretending that she is a natural blonde and allowed a russet hue to reappear in her barnett. Anyone who had seen her carrot-top performance in BMX Bandits (1983) would have been aware of the nonsense she had long spouted. Yet that's not the most exciting revelation points to the ancient nobility of redheads: even a dinosaur was proud to be ginger.
According to a new report in the science journal, Nature, a feathered dinosaur, which lived 125 million years ago, had a russet-coloured back, with a white and ginger striped tale. The sinosauropteryx, as he is known, has a head that resembles Russ Abbot. The colour was discovered when scientists studied the fossilised pigments under an electron microscope.
This led me to wonder if the sinosauropteryx was bullied by the other dinosaurs on account of his spectacular colour. I've always thought it unfair that redheads remain about the only public group whom we are all licensed to mock. I know, of course, that we shouldn't go around mocking anyone – that it's not very nice and our parents wouldn't approve. But as everyone knows, there is a list – one officially sanctioned by the board for political correctness – that says who we can, and, more importantly, can't pound to the ground with a volley of verbal brickbats.
We all know that humour derived from race or sexual orientation has long since been consigned to the coal cellars of working men's clubs, where rust-belt comics perform to dwindling crowds of elderly men in flat caps and a solitary whining whippet. But certain physical characteristics are still common targets. Woe betide the school pupil with big ears and we're also big on bellies. Yup, if your daily diet consists of several small calves, battered and served up on a double bed of French fries, then be prepared for a comic belting.
Yet surely there should be the equivalent of a protective helmet for those blessed – yes, I tell you, blessed – with hair of a scarlet hue? Unfortunately, it would seem not.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that redheads are the victims of prejudice. First, let's examine their fate throughout history. Eve, the incubator of original sin, was considered to be a redhead – well, at least according to the stained-glass depictions at St Paul's Cathedral in London and the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Eve's son, Cain, also a redhead, tarred the name slightly by, well, murdering his brother, Abel.
In Ancient Egypt, the tables were turned and it was the redheads who were sacrificed, which, let's face it, is hardly a good start, but does leave room for improvement. The Ancient Greeks didn't quite consider it a death sentence, but Aristotle considered them to be "emotionally un-house broken". In the 16th century, so malevolent were redheads deemed to be that the fat from a red-headed man was an essential ingredient for poison, while the 19th century gave us the phrase: "Beaten like a ginger step-child."
And yet the reality is that redheads should not be put down but held aloft, celebrated, at least in these isles, where they are evidence of our most noble and ancient ancestors.
Our greatest queen, Elizabeth I, was a redhead, as was our finest prime minister, Winston Churchill. Redheads stride among us carrying the blood of our forebears, who arrived in Britain 40-50,000 years ago. So, in conclusion, the answer is: No. Redheads should no longer be the subject of ridicule and abuse, but should be nurtured like little human flames. So welcome home, Nicole!
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