04/07/2014 10:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Ginger Man: Scott P. Harris, Red Hair and Redheads on Film

Scott P. Harris, via

A sweet, earnest redheaded guy from America moves to Edinburgh, Scotland. Bullied as a boy for his copper hair, he hopes and expects this will never happen in the capital of one of the countries of the world where red hair most commonly occurs.

Not to be. Scott P. Harris still suffered taunts and jibes, dumb or cruel redhead jokes, and apathy or downright rejection from women. Was he going to just put up and shut up? He decided not only not to, but to document his redheadedness, its perils and positives, pejorative comments and possibilities for red-haired men. We all, and not just kindred flame-haired spirits like myself, should be glad that he did.

Harris' movie, Being Ginger, uses the most common word for redheads in Scotland, England, and Ireland in its title. In America, the word still most commonly applies to spice, which is, of course, part of the idea behind its use as a tag for us. The word "ginger" is gaining ground here, though, for better or worse. One of the things Being Ginger does is to show how insults can be turned back on the would-be teaser, rejector, or bully, and make a space where the former victim finds creativity and even contentment.

from Being Ginger, via

It's hard to make a movie, and harder to make a movie about yourself. When Harris and I talked about redheads on WNYC's The Takeway this past February, for Valentine's Day, he spoke of some of the difficulties and vulnerability inherent in doing a project about stereotypes and bullying in a personal context. Delightfully, and often movingly, he has succeeded.

To help him Harris enlisted two good friends, Lou McLoughlan and Ben McKinstrie. Says Harris of Lou, Being Ginger's camerawoman and director of photography, and Ben, his married (and very funny) friend to whom he logically turns for relationship advice, "I can't think of anyone who could have filled either's role in the film; I feel like I caught lightning in a bottle, and they were a huge part of that." Cat Bruce, animator and illustrator, helps capture how being a ginger felt to Harris as a child -- and still affects him, especially when he's trying to talk to, or -- perhaps more accurately -- being confronted by, women.

Being Ginger is getting attention for being about redheads -- redheaded organizations and conventions, like Holland's Redhead Day, featured in the film, love it. Harris, though, is intent on more than his fiery hair in his work. "The truth is that I wanted to make a film about the long term impact bullying has on adults who've long since left the schoolyard," he says. "I think it's easier for an audience to take in a serious message if it's wrapped in humor."

After opening in Europe and in selected U.S. locations for short runs, Being Ginger has come to New York. On April 4, The New York Times gave Being Ginger an understanding review in advance of its opening tonight in New York in the Village, at the Quad Cinema. Go and see Being Ginger while it's here, from April 4-10. Enjoy this intelligent and positive movie. And bring a redheaded date -- if you're lucky enough to get one.

Anne Margaret Daniel 2014