But increasingly as of late, redheads have been the victims of a rising tide of mockery, bigotry, and violence.
Here's a brief timeline of the weird and escalating Ginger Wars.
The foggy reaches of history are full of anti-redhead sentiment. Theophylus Presbyter, an 11th-century Benedictine monk, wrote that the blood of a young redhead could be used to transform copper into gold. The Malleus Malefacarum, a 1486 treatise on witches, declared that "Those whose hair is red, of a certain peculiar shade, are unmistakably vampires."
Ginger-hatred sometimes popped up in England, perhaps linked to anti-Irish sentiment. In recent years, a string of British advertisements capitalized on redhead prejudice: Last December, Virgin Media yanked an ad that seemed to suggest that redheads were sexually undesirable, while that same month, a British chain was forced to apologize after one of its Christmas cards that read "Santa loves all kids, even ginger ones," provoked a national response.
For the most part, though, redheads in America went about their business, untouched by the furor, thinking that the darkness slept. Then, in 2005, South Park aired an episode in which Cartman gives a hate speech declaring that "gingers do not have souls." You can watch the full episode on the South Park site, but here's a taste:
The episode went more or less unnoticed until 2008, when it was invoked on a Facebook page calling for a "Kick A Ginger" Day.
Some redheads decided they were not going to take this lying down. In January, a sincere young man going by the handle of Coppercab spoke out against this rising tide of anti-ginger sentiment in a YouTube shot heard round the world.
The clip went viral, accumulating nearly 6 million views to date and inspiring the inevitable raft of shitty remixes.
Coppercab seemed to sense that he was riding the crest of a wave of social change, and kept the red-resistance fires stoked with a flurry of YouTube posts. On February 13, he unleashed a searing blast of oratory, invoking the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King. Stakes was high. South Park, in true baseball-bat-to-the-hornet's-nest style, closed the loop with an episode mocking Coppercab.
All of which brings us to the latest flashpoint in the Ginger Wars: Yesterday Honda-hawking pop provacateur MIA released a nine-minute video for her song Born Free. Directed by Romain Gavras, the video imagines, in vivid detail, a world where brutal riot cops round up carrot-tops, shoot them in the head, beat them with batons, and force them to run through mine-fields.
The video has already been yanked from MTV and YouTube, but you can still see it on Vimeo, MIA's website, and right here, after the jump:
M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.
So what do you think, redheads? Are you a tragically oppressed minority on the verge of extinction? A handy stand-in for allegories about real prejudice? A proud band of beauties blessed by genetic mutation? What does the redhead revolution look like? We want to know.