FAN­NING THE FLAME

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT -

AS THE RED HOT EX­HI­BI­TION LAUNCHES IN LON­DON TO CEL­E­BRATE RED-HAIRED GUYS, COLIN GEN­TRY EX­PLORES WHY GIN­GERS HAVE THE UN­CANNY ABIL­ITY TO TO­TALLY TURN US ON – AND OFF.

“Think how few lead­ing men there are in Hol­ly­wood who are proudly gin­ger. Would the pub­lic ac­cept a gin­ger ac­tion hero?” muses ac­claimed pho­tog­ra­pher Thomas Knights. As cre­ator of a new ex­hi­bi­tion show­cas­ing red­haired tal­ent, he has a point. Wolver­ine, Bat­man and Cap­tain Amer­ica are all brunette. Yet in the real world, gin­gers are the mu­tants of so­ci­ety, both adored and ab­horred like their comic book coun­ter­parts.

Red hair ap­pears in peo­ple with two copies of a re­ces­sive gene that re­sults in a mu­ta­tion in the MC1R pro­tein. Though it has the power to at­tract, red hair (par­tic­u­larly in men) has the Kryp­tonite-like abil­ity to re­pel, and it is this dual sword that our flame-haired broth­ers have to wield and wage bat­tle with. It is be­lieved just two per cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion has gin­ger hair. There is a Euro­pean bias: Scot­land has the high­est pop­u­la­tion of red­heads, with 13 per cent watch­ing over the high­lands. Red­heads re­main a global phe­nom­e­non, though, and one un­der threat from arch en­e­mies so­cial stigma and science. Na­tional Ge­o­graphic claims that evo­lu­tion could over­come this ge­netic flour­ish in just 100 years time, but it ap­pears red hair has de­vel­oped some sur­pris­ing de­fense mech­a­nisms to pro­tect its small num­bers. Var­i­ous re­search has pro­duced find­ings that re­port red­heads have a higher pain thresh­old, with­stand­ing 25 per­cent more elec­tric shocks than their fair-headed friends. Red­heads can also han­dle hot ob­jects bet­ter and re­quire more anes­thetic to be knocked out. Such su­per­hu­man abil­i­ties have not, how­ever, stopped red­heads from over­com­ing stigma or im­proved their chances in the dat­ing game.

When it comes to meet­ing a man, there is the mis­con­cep­tion that we all want tall, dark and hand­some, but some of us pre­fer our guys to come with a bit of colour. Per­son­al­ity is what mat­ters most, of course, and the names for

Gin­gers are the mu­tants of so­ci­ety, both adored and ab­horred like their comic book coun­ter­parts.

red hair cer­tainly have that, rang­ing from the com­pli­men­tary (straw­berry blond, auburn, bis­cuit) to the deroga­tory (ranga, ginga, car­rot top). Red hair is com­monly part­nered with a light skin tone and lighter coloured eyes. It is this tidy pack­age that gets some of us hot un­der the col­lar, and oth­ers turn­ing their backs. Bri­tish pho­tog­ra­pher Thomas Knights’ ex­hi­bi­tion, Red Hot, show­cases some of the hottest red-haired boys around the world, from guys next door to Olympic ath­letes and porn stars. They are more than just eye candy, though. Many of the mod­els tell a tale of a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship with their red hair, and have al­lowed their mask to slip for the cam­era. “I’m hop­ing peo­ple who might ini­tially come to look at the hot men will leave with a greater aware­ness of the per­sonal jour­neys and strug­gles with iden­tity many of the guys fea­tured went through to have the con­fi­dence to be pho­tographed in this way,” says Thomas. Hav­ing part­nered with the Anti-Bul­ly­ing Al­liance, the ex­hi­bi­tion aims to cel­e­brate the stig­ma­tised hair colour and help pre­vent its de­mon­i­sa­tion. “I would love the pub­lic to go away with an altered per­spec­tive of red-headed men, and an aware­ness that there is a prob­lem with our cur­rent at­ti­tudes.” s

Knights de­clares, “My ul­ti­mate aim is to set in mo­tion change in the me­dia and to create a move­ment that might see gin­ger men rep­re­sented more pos­i­tively in film, TV and lit­er­a­ture.” We may not have a gin­ger ac­tion hero on our screens just yet, but Red Hot is ev­i­dence there are al­ready gin­ger cru­saders on our streets – no capes nec­es­sary.

more: The Red Hot ex­hi­bi­tion pre­miers at The Gallery in Lon­don 16 to 22 De­cem­ber. Visit face­book.com/red­ho­tex­hi­bi­tion.

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