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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Being Ginger review: caught redhaired

Being Ginger green light

A smartly perceptive and very brave personal documentary diary of one man’s attempts to come to terms with being an oft-derided and bullied redhead.
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m mildly ginger

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

No gingers were harmed in the making of this film. Well, actually… that’s not quite true. American Scott P. Harris, at grad school in Edinburgh, decided to make a little documentary ostensibly about people’s generally negative attitudes toward redheads — particularly redheaded men — but interviewing people in the parks and streets of that fine (and quite ginger) city was all actually a desperate ruse to find a cute gal who likes guys with red hair who might like to go out with him. And in the course of perpetrating that ruse, Harris comes across one obnoxious woman who happily shares her distaste — disgust, even — with fellow human beings based solely on hair color in a way that (I hope) she would never do with regards to skin color. Her casual and blatant bigotry is a little upsetting for Harris… and for me. (As a strawberry blonde, I’m not quite ginger, but I am at least ginger-adjacent, and certainly ginger sympathetic. I also think Harris is pretty darn cute and can’t imagine why anyone would disagree with that.) Mostly, though, this sweet, honest film, more personal diary than straight-up documentary, is a smartly perceptive and very brave public attempt by one man to overcome his own shortcomings: primarily a severe deficit of self-confidence stemming from extreme bullying he suffered as a kid because of the color of his hair. (He’s not exaggerating the bullying, either: when he gently confronts a former elementary school teacher — a teacher! — who said horrible, horrible things to him when he was little, the teacher agrees it happened just like that, and doesn’t seem to realize he did anything awful.It was all just for a laugh.) Invocations of famous and well-loved gingers, such as Ron Weaselly and Prince Harry, are no solace to Harris, but working through his problems out loud does eventually lead him to a new acceptance of himself. This isn’t even a movie about being ginger, not ultimately: it’s about discovering that we aren’t as alone as we sometimes feel, and learning how to love ourselves in spite of supposed “flaws,” which is a virtual hug we could all use from time to time. It’s also a remarkably stereotype-busting peek at male vulnerability, especially when it comes to dating. Being Ginger suddenly makes me realize that we haven’t really seen the revolution in very personal (while still being universal) filmmaking that cheap cameras and digital editing and Web distribution should have brought us. We should be seeing more films like this one.

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Being Ginger (2014)
US/Can release: Apr 4 2014

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated PG (contains mild sex reference, mild bad language)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    This is a weird thing. When I went to school nobody had ever heard of red hair being a reason for bullying, and in experience it appeared about six or seven years ago with people suddenly saying “oh, well, obviously everyone hates them” in a jocular way. I wonder whether perhaps it was strongly regional, and somebody on television brought it out into mainstream British culture.

    Definitely agreed: we should be seeing a whole lot more no-budget films.

  • Bluejay

    I wonder whether perhaps it was strongly regional, and somebody on television brought it out into mainstream British culture.

    According to MAJ’s review, though, the filmmaker is American, and he talks about being bullied for being a redhead as a kid. Is he talking about an American upbringing? Or did he grow up British, and become a naturalized US citizen later?

    I never heard of anti-redhead prejudice until I heard Tim Minchin’s song “Prejudice,” and then I just thought it was completely satirical. I didn’t realize it was actually a thing. (And Minchin grew up in Australia. So is this an Australian thing too?)

  • LaSargenta

    The only things I ever heard against red-heads were the phrase “red-headed stepchild” and the myth they have a short fuse. Aside from that, all I knew about red-heads seemed to be extremely positive…had a friend (half norwegian-american, half irish-american) years ago who had this gorgeous shimmery coppery mane who when asked about her hair always said “you can’t get >this< out of a bottle!" My father had a thing for "statuesque red-heads" (which was certainly not my mother) that I learned about from one of his friends after his death. Several people I know think natural red-heads are the sexiest thing on earth. No one makes 'blonde' jokes about them.

    About bullying, I never knew this was a thing. Another fucking stupid thing to pick on people about.

  • Kathy_A

    I always thought the thing against redheads was British, because I have never seen it in America, but maybe that’s because I live in a highly Irish community (including my redheaded mother), so teasing people for being redheaded would be rather stupid there.

  • “Several people I know think natural red-heads are the sexiest thing on earth.”
    *raises hand*
    Oh, yeah.

    I never heard of redhead bullying either. Sadly, I’m not surprised, though.

  • Adam Stevenson

    Having grown out of my childhood flame of red hair, I almost miss it now as a mark of distinction.

    Don’t remember anything pejorative about my hair except the odd ‘ginger nuts, which was ironic considering I was 8 but I was also short and hopelessly clumsy so they you have to pick your target carefully.

    They have redhead pride days in Scotland, the photos of that are a sea of carrot-tops.

    All it remains to say is, ‘Ginger Born, Ginger Bred’.

  • It is more prevalent in the UK than in the US, I think. But it still exists in America too.

  • Several people I know think natural red-heads are the sexiest thing on earth.

    But this is guys thinking this about women, right? The movie discusses this disconnect a bit.

  • He’s talking about being bullied growing up in America.

  • Did you go to school with anyone with red hair? :->

  • LaSargenta

    Actually, no. Among my dataset, it’s potentially anyone. Men about men, men about women and I know two women who have gone into DETAIL about guys… ;-) …the only one I don’t have data for is women about women. Will have to ask.

    A boyfriend I had years ago was bright red and had a rather extensive pelt. A ginger bear. I had no complaints (although I don’t put red heads above others…I’m potentially attracted to any hair/complexion combo).

  • RogerBW

    Yes, that’s the odd thing — there were usually one or two in each school year, but it wasn’t something that got used to segment kids from each other.

  • I never understand this categorically eliminating anyone as a potential partner based solely on physical aspects. I mean, sure, many of us have types that we’re drawn to, and that’s fine, but you never really know whether you’re going to find any *particular* person attractive till you actually meet them.

  • Yes folks, it’s a thing, although the teasing I got for being ginger at school was fairly mild compared to the treatment dished out for being fat. Ginger is mainly associated with Celtic folks, and the Celts are quite common in the British Isles. They’re not so common in mainland Europe and my ex-secretary was terribly bullied for growing up ginger in the Netherlands.

    PS Ginger-adjacent? The lady doth protest too much, methinks!

  • You mean I’m full-on ginger? I don’t think so… and I wasn’t trying to claim a minority status I didn’t think I was entitled to. :->

  • LaSargenta

    Ultimately, there’s this asshole phenomenon called “bullies” who are going to look for anything, no matter how natural or small or even common-in-another-setting, and pick on someone else about it. It’s stupid, annoying and potentially spirit-damaging.

    Hey you morons, knock it off!

    My parents used to tell me bullies were jealous and weren’t loved enough by their families. I don’t know if seeing them like that helped, but it sure didn’t hurt and there’s probably more than a grain of truth to it.

  • bronxbee

    meanwhile, in the US — comic books, romance novels, tv movies — redheaded women (or a particular rich, coppery auburn shade) are the desirable ones, even over blondes… and yet, natural redheads are even fewer in the population than in scotland (where is somewhere between 12 and 13 percent) or ireland (9 to 11 percent). is the implication that the british people are using red-headedness as a way to continue a prejudice and exclusion of the celts in their union? and is mostly red-headed men that are targeted (i haven’t seen the film) with women — depending on the shad — more attractive as redheads?

  • LaSargenta

    Absolutely. For a little part of my life, I steered clear of blonde conventionally handsome men after a really bad experience, but, then I realized how stupid that was. Good things come in all packages and you don’t know what’s there til you open it up.

  • Tonio Kruger


    Of course, most people — like me, for example — have to learn this the hard way, but still…

  • Tonio Kruger

    I’m guessing the term “quiet ginger” is a typo and not a Freudian slip.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Most people I know would describe you as a redhead, MaryAnn. But then I don’t know many people who would use the word “ginger” in reference to hair color, even if they’re describing the comedian Carrot Top. And being called a redhead in an age when Amy Adams and Scarlett Johansson are considered quite beautiful is hardly a bad thing. Unless you want it to be.

  • bronxbee

    i like “quiet ginger” … red hair that doesn’t shout about it. that would describe maryann’s hair.

  • The Doctor was sad in two previous regenerations NOT to be ginger. Was that an acknowledgement by Moffat and RTD that ginger-phobia is fading?

    Language would say not, since ginger itself has become a noun – pronounced with two hard ‘g’ sounds to rhyme with “minger”. The modern, but less complementary version of “redhead”.

    See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10387636/Kick-a-Ginger-Kid-Day-leads-to-attacks-on-schoolchildren.html for a recent example of ginger phobia.

  • I think the Doctor’s attitude about wanting to be ginger himself was meant to be an indication of how out of touch he is.

  • Well, actually, the movie is about an American redhead in Scotland (and there’s a sequence at a redhead festival in the Netherlands, too). Though his childhood bullying did occur in the US.

  • That *was* a typo, and I’ve fixed it now. I like that phrase, but it didn’t work in context.

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