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.