Emma Stone, Lindsay Lohan, and Molly Ringwald: Why do redheads rule high school cinema?

According to Science, only two percent of humanity has naturally red hair, but approximately 100 percent of high school comedies feature redheaded leads. Okay, only that first part is true, but does anyone else find it interesting that some of the most iconic stars in the teen-movie pantheon have red hair? Molly Ringwald in all the John Hughes movies, Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, and now Emma Stone in Easy A. And if you throw in Angela Chase from the short-lived-but-never-really-dead My So-Called Life, you’ve got nearly 25 years of redhead domination.

Tell me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure Lohan’s the only natural redhead in the bunch (and her hair’s been pretty much every color but red for about five years now). But even that just adds to the curious mystique of the Red-Haired High School Outcast Goddess. In fact, you can practically trace the entire history of teen movies — and teenagers? — through the Ginger evolution. Molly Ringwald’s hair was (pardon the pun) a red herring. It made you think she was a weirdo, when really, the only weird thing about her was that she wanted to be normal. (Would a true misfit really fall for dudes named Jake Ryan and Blane McDonough?) Angela Chase is a slight deconstruction of the Ringwald myth: moodier, more introspective, and the jock she falls for is secretly an illiterate musician.

Lohan’s home-schooled new-girl-in-school is a legit weirdo, who tries to fake being an empty-headed popular girl, then becomes an empty-headed popular girl. It’s a journey to the high-school heart of darkness, and Mean Girls seems to suggest that all the ills of high school can be solved by heartfelt speeches and trust falls. Even though only six years have passed, Easy A feels like it comes from a completely different era: Emma Stone’s character actually comes to life when she’s faking, making her the perfect icon for the Gaga era of self-expression-through-make-believe.

PopWatchers, is there any other teen-movie trend as instantly prevalent as red-haired stars? Is this some sort of subconscious Charlie Brown thing, or is there some deeper symbolism to all the scarlet hair? By the way, I realize there’s not really a Ringwald-type for the She’s All That era. But you could argue that Alyson Hannigan’s band-camp sex-freak in American Pie pretty much sums up that male-dominated era of teen movies, in which girls were constantly covering themselves in whipped cream or making out with each other.

Read more:
EW’s review of ‘Easy A’

Comments (46 total) Add your comment
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  • Megan

    It’s not hard to figure out. They’re easy to sympathize with because they seem like the unique one. They don’t fit into the stereotypical blonde/brunette majority. And most people feel out of place in high school. So they see a redhead and they don’t feel any particular Hollywood bias of blondes (popular) or brunettes (average, or smart/nerdy).

    Now, this isn’t how the real world works, but it’s marketing. And there are exceptions. It’s just a shortcut to likability and relate-ability, redheads aren’t mainstream.

    • Grubi

      Knock out Ringwald completely and replace her with Stone and I agree

  • Nathan

    Because redheads are hot, and especially those 3 particular redheads.

    • Celia

      The gingers are hot! I love me some Rupert Grint.

  • DMC

    I don’t remember if Brittany Murphy’s character in Clueless was a redhead, but it sure seems like she was. (Interesting to note that typical blonde-type character Amber (Elisa Donovan) was a redhead in the movie, though.) And was there a redhead in Heathers?

    • Eliza

      Yep, Tai was a redhead.

      • sarah d

        tai’s hair was kool aid red, until they washed it out in her second scene. truly she was brunette.

    • Melanie

      Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty) was a redhead!

  • Drew

    Mean Girls is totally the most quotable movie of the last decade. “Gretchen stop trying to make fetch happen, its not going to happen!”

    • Penny

      I also think it is the most socially relevant but people don’t want to admit that girls are that b*tchy in real life so they aren’t willing to learn from it.

    • Stephanie T.

      Don’t join Mathletes! It’s social sucide!

  • Bee

    ^ YES! it is. tina fey is a genius. every single line of that movie is quotable, priceless, and still funny after being told the 100th time.

    and idk what the answer is, but these mentioned redheads were HOT. darn i miss pre-screwed up like lindsay. so pretty and so much potential.

  • Mike Sorge

    I’d have to fully agree with both Megan and Nathan… Both make great statements, haha! :)

  • tracy bluth

    I love Mean Girls, but to be honest I found Lindsay’s character a bit boring. Lizzy, Rachel, Amanda, and Lacy had the better lines. And Molly Ringwald is still #1.

  • Kelsey

    Pretty clear — natural gingers are uncommon enough to make the character stand out in a crowd of blondes and brunettes. The lead needs to be physically different to stand out visually, and red hair makes that easy. It’s not rocket science.

  • Chris

    what’s messed up is red headed males are never the male lead and you never see an “attractive” one….just the good natured friend or the goofy sidekick.

    • Celia

      Ron Weasley is pretty dang HOT, but you’re right…he’s not the lead.
      There’s a lot of ginger discrimination, especially in Hollywood.

    • erin

      Don’t forget Eric Stoltz (dark red hair and HOT) in Some Kind of Wonderful…he gets both lead actresses in the movie :)

      • Mac

        And he was a quirky red head in Mask, too!

  • Victoria

    Amanada Jones, the most popular girl in “Some Kind of Wonderful” is a redhead. Plus, Lea Thompson, in my opnion is one of the Queens of Teen Cinema.

  • Lesliejoy

    I think it is because of the misfit thing. Rarely do teenagers want to look different than their peers and redheads stand out. My daughter is a 15 year old redhead, (more strawberry blond), she gets so many compliments on it but she hates her hair. Hopefully when she is older she will appreciate it. Oh, and almost all the heroines in urban fantasy books are redheads. Not sure why.

  • Shane

    It always makes me laugh because I can tell you 100% men do not like redheads.
    Once I dyed my hair blonde though, a guy actually ran his car off the road trying to get my attention, no b.s.
    Older guys sometimes do like ‘em but young guys…hot guys…no way no how.

    • JB

      You’re and idiot. I’m a natural redhead as is one of my best friends, and we never had problems meeting or keeping men. My husband fell for me BECAUSE of my red hair.

      And yes hot guys like redheads, you seriously sound like a 10 yr old with that statement.

    • jodipo

      Idiot is too generous. Shane, your hater jealous and it shows. Did your boyfriend cheat on you with a redhead hotter than you?

      • Jean Genie

        Nah – Shane’s too in love with herself to be jealous.

    • Dave

      Shane is an idiot. Please don’t speak for all men. I prefer brunettes, but redheads often catch my eye. And also, I don’t care for blonds.

    • Dave

      Another thing to add, I’m not old. I’m 24 years old. And not trying to toot my own horn, but I am fairly attractive. So there goes your “young hot guys…no way no how” hypothesis. Have fun with your fake blond hair though.

    • LL

      I’m a natural redhead and I think my fiance’s pretty hot. Can’t believe a redhead would dye her hair blonde… that’s redhead blasphemy!

      • Andrea

        I am a natural redhead and the boys love me, LOL! :) I often get men saying that they usually date blondes or brunettes (whatever their preference is) or that they don’t usually like redheads, but they find me attractive. I think there is just so few of us that most men don’t know how much they like red til they see one in person.. <3

  • Dave

    Pepper Ann.

  • Dave

    Donna Pinciotti.

  • Subotai

    Lets not forget our famous red haired alumnus ofSunnydale High

    • Stephanie T.

      Willow

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