Apparently only about 4% of the entire human population has the red-hair gene, which furthermore is recessive, so the characteristic might entirely die out of the human race in the foreseeable future. What I’m saying is, redheads are naturally very rare.
So why did it ever become common practice to include a redhead along with one blonde and one brunette in a trio of female entertainers, models, actresses, or what have you? The Andrews Sisters had a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead. The “Charlie’s Angels” remake had a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead (and apparently even the producers of the original series initially wanted the standard BBR configuration).
The PowerPuff Girls are BBR. Nancy Drew and her two sidekicks are BBR, or became so at some point. Hell, the 1639 painting “The Three Graces” by Rubens shows a trio that are arguably BBR.
How did this particular aesthetic trope get started? What famous work(s) launched the convention of including this very rare hair color in one member of any stereotypical group of three lovely women, to balance out a conventional brunette and a conventional blonde?
(I’ve tried to look this up, but googling on “trio blonde brunette redhead” brings up a whole lot of stuff unrelated to my particular question.)
Well, I don’t have any factual data about when the first instances were, but I don’t see why it’s so surprising just because red hair is uncommon. It’s common enough, in america and several european countries, that most people have seen or vaguely know someone with red hair. It’s just common enough that some of these trios might have assembled by chance.
And then… whether by chance or design… it’s a combination that REALLY sticks out. Because those three alternatives represent, effectively, the extremes of natural hair color in the general european-american population, thus it maximizes contrast. What other combinations are you going to pick to stand out, with each one different like that. Blonde, Brown, and Sandy?? More people have sandy (light brown, etc) hair than red, but it seems ‘closer’ to dark brown or light blonde hair, just one step on the continuum between them. Red hair, on the other hand, is way off in another pigment direction.
And now, of course, with hair dyes being so prevalent, it’s easy for any particular trio to assume this combination of colors… as long as they can sort out who has to be what.
While natural redheads are rare, dyed redheads are very common. Furthermore, red hair dye (henna) is one of the oldest, gentlest and most reliable hair dyes there is, and has been used for centuries on nearly every continent. So I don’t think red hair is going anywhere, even if it’s genetically bred out.
As for why the trio, I thought it was obvious: by incliding one of each, you triple your chances of someone finding their “type” in your show.
No, in order to maximize the gene they should not!* It’s a recessive gene; if redheads breed with people other than redheads, more people will secretly have this gene, thereby surprising the hell out of parents who turn out redheaded babies two or three generations down the line.
*And for other reasons, too.
Really it’s not that uncommon, in America. These numbers have been skewed by all those non-redheaded Oriental people no doubt. When I was in grade school there were more natural redheads than there were natural blondes. At least in grade school I’m assuming they were natural. Some of my elementary education took place in southern California so I can’t be sure.
Everybody’s saying that this seems like an obvious or natural marketing choice. But a lot of aesthetic conventions that seem “obvious” or “natural” to us now have roots in a particular work that got a lot of attention and imitation. Anybody have an answer to my GQ about what actually started this BBR trend?
(And yes Spartydog, a contemporary version of the trend is to have the brunette be a black or Asian woman, as Lucy Liu in the Charlie’s Angels remake or the pop group Sugababes, whose advertising poster for their new album is what got me thinking about this question.)
Joining those saying that the BBR model is, essentially, a “European” one. Redheads (even without resorting to a trip to the salon) count for far more than 4% of “White” population (whatever “white” means…); there almost certainly were, until recent years, more redheads in Northern Europe than there were raven-haired lasses. So BBR did represent a fairly plausible “end-to-end” selection.
This red-headed guy thinks that’s a wonderful idea
A number of people here have made similar claims, but I’m not so sure. I’ve seen stats that suggest that redheads make up only 2% to 5% of US population, and 4% of Norwegians. The highest percentage of redheads is in the population of Scotland, at 13%; the second highest is among the Irish at 10%.
So redheads are still probably well under 10% of the total population even of light-skinned groups. Definitely much rarer than brunettes (although you’re probably right that the “raven” or absolutely black shade of brunette hair is also rare among light-skinned peoples).
And still not common enough to explain, IMHO, how it became standard practice among European artists and entertainers to put a coppertop in any conventional group of three females.
I did notice in my third link, though, that
Redheads were a favorite subject of 19th-century British artists, including the Pre-Raphaelites and John W. Waterhouse. Many of the most famous Victorian paintings featured beautiful red-haired ladies.
So there’s evidence that redheads have been for quite a while a focus of artistic interest disproportionate to their presence in the population. I’m still looking for the Straight Dope on how and when the typical BBR configuration became standard, though.