They’re about as rare as unicorns these days. No we’re not talking about red-heads, we’re talking about awesome female protagonists, duh! Which is why we are hand-over-heart committed to using our space on the internet to promote badass women doing extraordinary things in industries which have told them they either don’t belong or are only there as some sort of accessory.
We have featured a number of awesome women creating their own content from the uber famous like Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham, to the up-and-comers like the Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting female comedy duo and Sitting on Babies team.
We recently had the chance to chat with another woman who has created her own series online and is making waves online for the subject matter covered. Elisabeth Ness is the creator, writer and star of ‘Redheads Anonymous’ which is has been given some serious props from Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Allure magazine, and USA Today.
The basic premise is based around a girl called Molly, played by Elisabeth who stumble upon a too-good-to-be-true situation. They can pay their way through school by applying for a “redhead scholarship” which is open only to gingers.
Molly and her friends go on a journey of discovery, finding out what it truly means to be a redhead which will change her life. The series is not just funny for funny’s sake, it touches on topics such as feminism, identity, bullying, tokenism and many more to make it a show that is necessary viewing, whether you have red hair or not!
Here’s what Elisabeth had to say about her critically-acclaimed series.
How did you come up with the concept for ‘Redheads Anonymous’?
I knew I wanted to create a comedic role for myself that wasn’t the girlfriend, love interest, or hooker with a heart of gold – the standard industry tropes for actresses. I also knew that I rarely get to perform with other redheads; I’ve actually been told that more than one redhead in a scene can be confusing for an audience! So I did some research on how I could use multiple redheads in a comedy, and the answer became clear as soon as I discovered the Redhead Scholarship (which is, in fact, an actual thing).
As an actress and comedian, are some of the situations based off your real life experiences?
As soon as I launched into writing the show, my team and I started conducting interviews and surveys to find out other redheads’ opinions, experiences, and anecdotes, and many of the results are used in the series. We interviewed a former bully who really said the phrases Sam’s Bully uses in Episode 3—Red Head Redemption; we interviewed a redhead whose date with a fellow redhead took the surprising turn of Molly and Doug’s date in Episode 4—Two Redheads Walk Into A Bar… . The most personal to my own experience, however, is Episode 2—Beach Blanket Molly, because the life-long battle that I’ve waged with the sun, as well as my own personal body hang-ups, are great fodder for comedy.
What is your comedy background and acting experience?
I’ve been a performer for as long as I can remember — whether hamming it up while telling stories to my family, or performing professionally in plays and musicals as a kid (I recall, in rehearsal for playing a young orphan in Annie, pitching the idea “what if I pop out from inside this laundry basket?” and having it get shot down. I still haven’t gotten over it). I’ve done everything from multi-character roles (where you have to keep track of your accents – and your wigs) to tours (my Bobo Monkey was a big hit). I’m also constantly training; there’s nothing better for keeping the skills sharp between demanding gigs than attending UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade), ESPA, or working with fantastic teachers who stretch you.
Your web series touches on a number of issues that we are passionate about discussing, using comedy as a vehicle to share the message. Do you think comedy has a way of reaching audiences that other mediums do not?
I absolutely do – in fact, that’s one of the main reasons why I chose performing. Growing up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, I seriously considered working in politics, until I realized that even politicians must rely on culture to open people’s minds to new ideas, before they can garner support for policies.
It’s much easier to be open to new perspectives and ideas when one is at-ease and laughing, and that’s why shows like ‘All in the Family’ and ‘Modern Family’ have been so important and influential. The Supreme Court decision on gay marriage could not have happened this year if there hadn’t been a tidal wave of cultural change, thanks in large part to the media we consume.
Give us a rundown of how Redheads Anonymous discusses feminism:
From the outset, the fact that the show features a female lead, and that three of the four series regulars are women, flips the industry statistic on its ginger-tinged head! The show also passes the Bechdel test (two named female characters discuss something other than men, multiple times throughout the first season), which I thought was important.
The story lines for the female characters involve strides toward self-discovery and self-acceptance. Molly makes the first move and asks out her crush; Amy tries to navigate the often-intimidating NYC on her own after having moved there from a small, sheltered hometown; and Jessica discovers that she is more than the sum of her hairs. And I have a feeling many female viewers will relate to the characters’ individual encounters with sexual harassment (in this case, “Does the carpet match the drapes?”), and how they each handle them!
It’s much easier to make statements about controversial social issues when the jokes involve an innocuous subgroup that folks can feel comfortable making fun of – redheads — rather than, oh, say, any other legitimate minority group. It allows us to freely point out the benefits and drawbacks of stereotypes, and their effect on how we treat others – as well as treat ourselves.
Episode 3—Red Head Redemption is devoted to the subject of bullying, since it came up so frequently in our interviews and surveys. It was fascinating for the writers to explore some differences between male and female bullying experiences, and the varying reactions to being bullied; we gain power over bullies by owning and being able to laugh at the experiences.
As with the cultural stereotyping, we can lightheartedly point out redheaded tokenism – by showing true examples in a fictional format – and extrapolate what that means for race- or gender-based tokenism. Consider the fact that it’s socially-acceptable to say that someone has a “redhead fetish”… or that we may confuse one redhead for another because we’re not used to seeing more than one in any given place!
Episode 2—Beach Blanket Molly is devoted to the subject of beauty standards and health concerns. In a world that promotes a sun-kissed, standardized mole- and freckle-less look, we empower viewers to embrace the unique skin they’re in – and to keep it burn- and cancer-free.
From the outset, Molly isn’t quite sure how she fits into the redhead hierarchy. Her hair is auburn, but how red/brown it is depends on the light, whether it’s wet, whether it’s been straightened… it’s interesting to me how much something as seemingly-trivial as our hair, helps form our identity and sense of self!
It’s been really moving to receive messages from redheaded viewers saying that Season 1 of Redheads Anonymous has helped improve their view of their hair, encouraged them to laugh at their own experiences, and made them feel understood and less alone.
What message do you have for other redheads out there who are going through some of the same issues you have?
Despite what the rumors say, we’re not a dying breed. (Although we may be a dyeing one?)
Popular culture is having a redheaded renaissance; in addition to our comedy web series, there are fun and whimsical redhead conventions across the world, and Ginger Parrot (online magazine and store), Red: A History of the Redhead (book), MC1R (print magazine), Everything for Redheads (online store), and Ginger With Attitude (clothing) are just some of the wonderful redhead-focused offerings out there. Keep your (red)head held high!
Finally, what makes you a powerful woman?
This Redheads Anonymous journey is far beyond anything I’ve ever set out to do. Leading and representing the 425 people who have been involved with our show in some way or another has been both a thrilling and daunting process. It’s a humbling balance of teamwork and individual, non-glamorous, exhaustingly-focused work that has made the show successful, and I haven’t let outmoded gender expectations, doubts about what is achievable based on what I or others have achieved in the past, or plain old fear stop me from achieving my goals — and supporting others so that they can do the same.
There’s no question I’m a very different and more self-empowered woman than I was 18 months ago, and that’s because I took a risk – a whole series of daily risks, actually, strung together to create one big one – and followed it through. That is, in and of itself, a powerful (and empowering) act!
Hopefully, as more and more women in the industry step up to the plate — creating our own work and supporting each other — it will become even more common for us to be behind- and in-front-of the scenes in key (and, in terms of characters, interesting) roles, taking those empowered risks.
Be sure to subscribe to the Redheads Anonymous Youtube Channel and watch series one online today.