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Culture & Religion

Could the Conan O’Brien Fiasco Really Be About Redhead Discrimination?

It’s still only January, but arguably the year’s biggest entertainment story is already in the throes of overexposure. While the story surrounding NBC and the Tonight Show is sure to dominate headlines for at least another week or two, it may have also inadvertently revealed a bizarre bias against redheads like spurned Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien. It may sound like the most ridiculous conspiracy theory of the year (again, still only January), but held under a microscope, could the anti-ginger movement be real?

The issue of O’Brien’s hair color hasn’t been an issue in NBC’s controversial decision to replace him with former Tonight Show host Jay Leno. Neither has his humor, this was purely a dollar-and-cents decision by the network. But despite the recent show of support for O’Brien, there has been a startling amount of apparent bias against redheads that could maybe (not probably, maybe) be in play.

The very idea sounds preposterous until you realize that the issue of discrimination against redheads in the UK has been an issue for some time. Just last December, an ad for a British program that implied that redheads were unattractive caused some controversy. The ad was eventually banned. Around the same time, the popular series Doctor Who was accused of having an anti-redhead agenda, sparking an official apology from the BBC. In 2007, reports even emerged of a redheaded family in Newcastle being driven from their home.  

These incidents accompanied by a culture in which redheads are widely mocked raises the question, is Gingerism a real problem? Based on a number of web sites supporting the cause of redheads and the discrimination they face, it just might be. No one is about to blame it for the imminent dismissal of Conan O’Brien, but based on some of the video pleas of redheads around the world, the evidence is certainly undeniable.

The issue of redhead bias has been percolating for a couple of years now, resulting in the founding of Red and Proud, an organization and accompanying web site that seeks to empower redheads.  Even writing this, the concept sounds preposterous. But with international pleas, cases of insensitivity and discrimination, and even an action group supporting their cause, maybe the ginges really are a marginalized people. And we thought the whole Conan thing was about ratings.


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