It’s headlines like these that make redheads want to reach for a bottle of black hair dye, as do ‘ginger’ jokes and names such as ‘ranga’ (a play on ‘orangutan’). And, as all reviled groups eventually do, redheads have formed social support networks such as redhead-world.net where they can discuss gingerism and the highs and lows of being ranga. Alternately, The Red And Nearly Ginger Association, which claims to “exist for all the red haired primates in the universe—from the bright orange to the tinge of ginge”, takes a more light-hearted approach and includes not just rangas but “those people who wish they were Rangas. And for all those who know or love Rangas”. They also raise money for orangutan conservation.
Redheads certainly need a sense of humour, over the years they’ve had to battle rumours of creeping extinction, and ranga-mapping seems to have become a hobby for some. The Guardian even ran a survey on gingerism (discrimination against people with red hair) and a whole website (gingerism.com) is devoted to the plight of the ginger.
Then, in 2012, researchers provided scientific evidence of the prejudice against ginger ninjas by publishing the results of a study in the journal Psychological Studies.
Keen to tackle the really pressing scientific questions of our time, Nicolas Guéguen examined how hair colour alone could influence a person’s chances of pulling at a nightclub. In the experiment he had women and men wear differently coloured wigs and measured how often the women were approached by men and how often the men’s advances were accepted or rebuffed. (I can only imagine the confusion of nightclub patrons surrounded by men and women wearing wigs. They must have wondered if the whole town had gone bald overnight.)
While the study’s small sample size and obvious gender bias (in real life, women pick men up too) make its findings highly dubious, media and bloggers were quick to trumpet the findings: women were approached most often when wearing a blonde wig and men were rejected the most often when wearing a ginger wig. This was (gasp) undeniable proof that the ranga was unloved and unlovely.
Back to the sperm donor issue covered by The Telegraph, where...
Mr Schou said the only reliable demand for sperm from redheaded donors from Ireland, where he said it sold “like hot cakes”.
Hear that? Hot cakes. Little red-headed hot cakes.
Plus there are a swag of romance titles and covers which suggest that, for some, flaming hair is the pinnacle of follicular beauty.
Happen what may in the real world, in Romancelandia redheaded heroines who embody the fiery spirit of passionate resistance to a good nobbing proliferate, and choleric ginger heroes with vast carnal appetites abound (well, maybe not as often as ginger heroines). So join us for a round up of rangas in romance…
Amidst the lust in the dust, there may be a ginger or two lurking…
In Sandra Chastain’s The Redhead and the Preacher our russet-headed heroine, Macky, is a raggedy tomboy sitting on a bag of hot cash from someone else’s bank robbery. Hired gun John Lee Brandon knows she’s up to no good (she is a ginger, after all) but since he’s masquerading as a reverend he keeps his mouth shut. And once they alight from their shared stagecoach in the mining town called Heaven and the town welcomes them as “Preacher Adams” and his wife, why, there’s nothing to do but to keep up the charade...
We can think of Georgette Heyer as the godmother of the regency ranga with her spitfire ginger ninja heroine (or Heyeroine, if you will) Leonie in These Old Shades and The Devil’s Cub. In fact, ranga-ism is a key plot element in These Old Shades, with the Duke of Avon only recognising street urchin Leonie as his enemy’s bastard because of Leonie’s ‘unique’ combination of red hair and black brows. From hence onwards, this plot shall be known as the ‘regency ranga plot’.
Yes, rangas have even penetrated the sacred enclave of the sword and sandal story. In The Last Gladiatrix by Eva Scott our heroine ranga Xanthe is captured and enslaved by a Roman legion. A warrior woman (and twice as feisty because of all those ginger follicles) she ends up training for the Colosseum floor. Titus, a Roman soldier, trains her as a gladiatrix to spare her becoming a courtesan but, as we all know, sparring between heroes and heroines always leads to lustful thoughts and acts, and ranga warrior women are nigh irresistible.
Highland Rangas (yes, there’s a preponderance of Scottish rangas)
Lynsay Sands loves the highland ranga. With titles like Devil of the Highlands, The Hellion and the Highlander, and Taming the Highland Bride, in her literary world there must be a sporran-full of ginger heroes and heroines running around the highlands wearing not much more than a stained kilt and a smile. And the hellion in the title above (Lady Averill Mortagne) has betroot hair and a temper fierce as a bucket full of badgers with burnt assholes.
I probably don’t need to mention the most famous highland romance ranga of them all, Jamie Fraser, the hero of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. But I did.
BDSM & Erotic Rangas
The hero of Fifty Shades of Grey — a ranga. But let’s not dwell on a book that’s already been talked to death.
A much better erotic romance starring a russet is Kylie Scott’s Heart’s a Mess. Look at that cover, a visual tribute to the beauty of the ranga! Our ranga heroine is Violet, a woman on a mission to get her life in order. Sleeping with her smokin’ hot new boss wasn’t quite part of that mission, but accidents will happen (especially when surrounded by so much alcohol). Bar owner Alex has finally got his libido back following a crushing divorce and discovers curvacious ranga Violet has the perfect parking space for his pink cadillac.
In Tempting Trouble by Cathleen Ross, the flame-haired Marina Henry is working as a Brazilian waxer when she attracts the attention of a serial killer who then picks off her clients one by one. (It’s a well-known fact that rangas draw the attention of serial killers more than any other hair type.) Unfortunately for Marina, the only man who can help her is framed by the killer and she’s forced to rely on her special ranga psychic powers to save herself. I imagine psychic powers come in very, very handy when you’re a Brazilian waxer, it lets you know when a customer is about to stab you to stop you from pulling off the next wax strip. Since the hero isn’t psychic, however, Marina reassures him that the carpet matches the drapes. At least, I think that’s what the subtext is here:
“Is your hair naturally red?”
Marina laughed. “I’m natural all over.”
Though maybe it just means she’s not giving herself any Brazilians (that’s a ‘selfie’ most would draw the line at).
In Skin, an awesome zom-rom (zombie romance) by Aussie author Kylie Scott, Roslyn Stewart is as ginger as they come. Our hero spies her hiding out in a gated school from the zombie apocalypse.
Roslyn was definitely something with her choppy, auburn hair and pointy chin. In her mid-twenties, most likely. She had a pretty mouth like a doll’s, only she wasn’t tiny or delicate, she was just right. That school uniform...fuck, he couldn’t get his head around it. Filthy thoughts, the sort bound to reinforce the pissy looks she’d given him, kept bubbling up inside his brain. The things he wanted to do with her. The things he would do with her.
Yeah, auburn, that’s just a fancy term for ranga-esque. Anyway, she’s ranga-licious, so no wonder Nick trades a panel van full of food to acquire her from the group she’s been hiding inside the school gates with. In fact, her ginger mane beguiles him so much he handcuffs her to a bed, but you’ll have to buy the book to find out more about that, kids.
I’d also like to mention that when asked about her red-haired characters Kylie also mentioned something about one day writing a character based on the “dude from Queens of the Stone Age. RAWR. Dribble, dribble, drool”.
Yes, we bring you the big scoops here at NN.
In Shadow Kin by Mel Scott, Lily is not just a wraith who slips between worlds and an assassin but also, you guessed it, a ranga. Check out the defiant ranga pose on the cover, she’s ready to stab any gingerist who gets mouthy about mutant ginger genes.
Finally, one of my favourite writers, Nalini Singh, pays tribute to the ranga in her Guild Hunter series. Galen is a powerful angel and a ruthless warrior with grey wings and hair “a red so pure it was a flame”. Ranga angels, now that’s just wrong in so many ways...
Alice Clayton, she of Wallbanger fame, is one author obviously not worried about a gingerist backlash, she wrote an entire redhead series: The Unidentified Redhead, The Redhead Revealed and The Redhead Plays Her Hand.
In Australia, Bronwyn Parry has shown similar courage in the face of potential gingerism. Local police sergeant Kris Matthews is the ranga heroine of Parry’s award-winning romantic suspense novel Dark Country. Kris even has wayward red hair:
The sergeant had gone quiet, stopped asking her questions. With her head back, eyes closed, a hint of vulnerability underlay the confident cop persona she’d shown earlier. Wayward curls of red hair framed her face, and a few wet ends curled against the pale skin of her neck, just above her shirt collar. For some reason, that sight gave him a sharp, hot kick in the guts.
He turned his eyes back to the road. Oh yeah, lusting after a cop, in Dungirri of all places—that was truly the definition of stupidity.
See the power of the ginger curl? The hero is instantly smitten, hot gut-kicks and all.
Who are your favourite rangas in romance?
(By the way, if you’d like to see what you’d look like as a ranga, try the online app at makemeaginger.com)