It is a truth universally acknowledged that redheads didn't generally have the best time in primary school. Having red hair, even without hand-me-down robes, was basically an invitation to be picked on, whether you went to a wizarding school or your standard comprehensive. As much as I insisted that my hair was actually auburn (or titian, depending on one's preference), unfortunately more things rhymed with ginger, so that was that. Then when I was introduced to not just one ginger hero in the Harry Potter series, but a whole family of them, you can imagine how delighted I was. Here's how the Weasleys helped me to live my best redheaded life...
It was 2001 and during 'circle time' in my year 6 classroom, our teacher asked which fictional character we would most like to be. I proudly opted for Ginny Weasley. Despite one classmate’s snarky cry of 'who?!', I was pleased with my choice. For the first time in a long time, there was a ginger character to get on board with. After all, Ginny was in one of the coolest wizarding families! She lived in the Burrow! She could cast a mean Bat-Bogey Hex! She became slowly possessed by the spirit of Lord Voldemort! OK, maybe not that last one.
Ginny wasn't the only redheaded Harry Potter character to inspire me. Ron, after all, was Harry's best friend, and he’s not teased about his hair in the books, not really. It wasn't a personality point, nor was it an invitation for the rest of the characters to treat him badly. In fact, the only character to point out his hair is Draco Malfoy, who then gets superbly taken down by Harry Potter, marking the end of any chance of them becoming friends. It made me realise that hair colour isn't nearly as important as being good at something; like Ron with his chess, or being a great friend, or sticking your neck out to help someone. Just because my hair colour was what my classmates zoned in on, it didn't need to define me.
Suddenly, the classmates that picked on me were just a bunch of mini Dracos. And who wants to be Draco, running to tell the teacher every time he wanted to get Harry in trouble and buying his way into the Quidditch team, when you can be ginger and winning the House Cup?
Then there was the Weasley family beyond Ginny and Ron. Fred and George were easily the funniest and most likeable characters in the novels (in my opinion, anyway). Hilarious, charming and massively popular, it made me feel smug that we had at least one thing in common. Not to mention Bill, who especially made being a redhead cool, what with his ponytail and his fang earring.
Of course, I'm not the only one to feel like the Weasley family seriously helped me out as a youngster. Speaking about how J.K. Rowling helped her to love her red tresses, Laura, 33, said: "She inspired me when she said she loved ginger people at the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 premiere. I also love the fact that all the main characters are ginger like Lily, Ron, all of the Weasleys." Hayley, 28, added that thanks to the Weasleys, she's never dyed her hair a different colour. She said: "There wasn’t really anyone else who I knew in my year at school who was a redhead and people would always make jokes about me being ginger and I always desperately wanted to change my hair colour. But then the Weasleys got a bit of a cult following and became cool, so it helped me embrace my colour rather than hate it - haven’t touched hair dye since!"
Even Rupert Grint himself had a lot to say about the Weasleys being up front and centre in the novels. Speaking at the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 premiere, saying to J.K. Rowling: "What you've done for ginger people … I can't put it into words. So, thank you, Jo," to the ecstatic screaming of what I assume was the ginger part of the crowds at Trafalgar Square.
Going from a hair colour that went from being widely mocked to coveted was great. With countless people dressing up for Hallowe’en sporting red hair and a broken wand as Ron, it can most definitely be said that the Weasley family contributed to the rise of the redheads, and I couldn't be happier to be a part of that crowd.
Now, who wants to talk about Spattergroit?