26 October 2004

Remarkable Redheads

Um, in case anybody comes here looking for something -- a Kipling poem, say, or an analysis of gargoyles and grotesques in Gothic architecture -- and is dismayed to find it hardly mentioned at all, curse Google all you want, but before you do, go pop over to Sarah's site and take a look at Brummie Baywatch. At least this way you'll leave with a smile.

Ginger Genius
Now, on a rather frivolous note, I had a thought a couple of days ago. It wasn't my most profound thought, I must admit, but I reckon it's one worth blogging nonetheless.

A few years ago, a girl I worked with was astounded to hear that unlike virtually every bloke she knew, I didn't find Gillian Anderson, or at least her X-Files alter-ego Dana Scully, to be remotely sexy. 'But she's so intelligent!' wailed my friend, to no avail. Despite my weakness for those whose hair tends towards an autumnal hue, I didn't find Scully to be particularly attractive. Or intelligent, for that matter.

Eddie Izzard used to do a routine where he talks about Scully's complete disbelief in the paranormal, with typical exchanges between Scully and Mulder generally going something like this:
'"Look, Mulder, I don’t believe that Martians with big elbows are taking over the world."

"There’s 50 lbs. worth of files – there’s tons of files on that thing; it’s all here, Scully, you gotta read these files!"

And by the end of the episode, there’s Martians with big elbows everywhere! And she’s swatting them off with a tennis racket, "I believe you! I believe you, Scully! Mulder! You know who you are!"'
But the thing is, that would never happen. Because despite her supposed intelligence, Scully is possessed by an invincible scepticism, overriding all reason and experience. Even if she was swatting Martians off with a tennis racket she'd be coming up with all manner of ridiculous explanations for what was happening, every single one of them less plausible than the Martian invasion that was happening under her nose.

But anyway, Scully is supposedly intelligent. Exceptionally so, in fact. Everyone says so. And since the glory days of The X-Files, red hair has acquired a shamanic quality, becoming some sort of televisual totem, a shorthand symbol signifying feminine intelligence.

For example, take The West Wing's C.J. Cregg, the public relations wizard whose work for EMILY's List brought her to the attention of the Bartlet campaign and eventually elevated her to being, as Press Secretary extraordinaire, the public face of the Bartlet administration.

Yes, she's not the reddest of redheads, but she's certainly no blonde.

And is she, or is she not, the quickest, funniest, cleverest, classiest, most elegant, and quite possibly sexiest fraulein to currently bestride the small screen?

(Admittedly, The West Wing is a show awash with intelligent characters of both sexes, but of the women in the show I reckon C.J. reigns supreme.)

Or take a look, if you can stomach it, at the overpraised Sex and the City, a show memorably described by someone on The Simpsons -- I can't remember who, though I'm told it wasn't Bart -- as being about four women who act like gay men.

Look at the naive and prissy Charlotte, the insatiable Samantha, and the shallow Carrie - let's face it, the only one of the foursome who'd be bearable in real life would be the pragmatic, cynical, and decidedly pessimistic, but nonetheless witty and eminently practical Miranda.

And yes, again, she's a redhead.

And then of course, when it comes to redheads on television, one particular young lady really stands out. Yes, you've guessed it, it has to be the delightful Willow Rosenberg, Buffy's science-geek wallflower turned confident technowhizz turned lesbian witch turned revenge-crazed demon turned world-saving and woman-empowering goddess...

I recently saw the unaired pilot for Buffy - one of my students lent me a copy, and I was rather stunned to see that Willow was played not by the delectable Alyson Hannigan, but instead by one Riff Regan.

I've seen Regan referred to online as 'The Wrong Willow', and that's being nice - there've been snide comments about how she doesn't so much look like Willow as look like she ate Willow. Be that as it may, she's no match for Alyson Hannigan in the part.

Joss Whedon says the network had wanted Willow played by 'a supermodel in horn rims', and casting Alyson Hannigan proved to be a stroke of genius. Not merely did she bring a mixture of vulnerability and optimism to the part, she also brought wry humour, buckets of sex appeal, and -- above all -- red hair.

And as I've said before, that's important in Tellyworld.

Here endeth the lesson.

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