Haven’t redheads been through enough? Our flame-haired friends already have to deal with being the subject of lazy jokes, and Hollywood seems determined to extend the offense with a recent rash of faux redheads who boast utterly unnatural coloring. I corralled authentic Vulture redhead Abe Riesman to help me discuss five of the most eyebrow-raising examples below — and I should note that the raised eyebrow in question simply doesn’t match the dye job at all.
Amber Heard, Aquaman
Heard made her debut as Mera in last winter’s Justice League, but perhaps because her cameo was so desaturated, the full-blown Kool-Aid color of her wig was not apparent until she reprised her role in the new trailer for Aquaman. While the comic-book character she’s playing is a bold redhead, they didn’t exactly slap a yellow wig on Jason Momoa because they believed in page-to-screen fidelity. “Unconscionable,” said office redhead Abe when I showed him this picture, though I then warned him that the worst was yet to come: In the Comic-Con exclusive maxi-trailer for Aquaman, we glimpsed Dolph Lundgren with a red wig and beard that truly have to be seen to be believed. (And yet, the film made natural redhead Nicole Kidman go platinum blonde!)
KJ Apa, Riverdale
The CW’s teen drama makes Apa dye his hair a truly vivid shade of maroon that doesn’t even convince under low lights and blue filters, and when he’s out and about as a normal person, still forced to rock that red hair, that’s when things get truly egregious. Does Apa, a natural brunette, have what it takes to pull off Archie’s iconic red mane, or is this the best we can do with a losing battle? “I don’t know enough about hair dye to know whether Apa’s original hair color can’t be properly done in a natural red,” said Vulture Abe. “All I know is that I’m looking at this and it’s like The Hunger Games.” I wondered out loud whether Apa’s brown brows create a sort of cognitive dissonance when taken together with his red hair. “Then again, imagining brows of that color is also terrifying,” said Abe. “I think the issue is that it’s just a shade too blood-orange to be natural.”
Julianna Margulies, Dietland
Another strong brow-to-mane discrepancy is whatever is going on with Margulies on this AMC show. (I know. Wig.) “I don’t watch Dietland, so take this with a grain of salt, but just from this photo, the character seems like the kind of person who might get a dye job and not give a shit if people could tell it was fake,” said Vulture Abe. “She just liked the color and was making some kind of statement.” Astute!
Joaquin Phoenix, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
Phoenix goes code-red for Gus Van Sant’s new movie about cartoonist John Callahan, and while the resulting dye job is a little bit off, it’s a far cry from the actual bright-red shade of the real Callahan. “I saw the movie and although I didn’t care for it, I never once felt uncanny valley’d, so I’d say it works,” said Vulture Abe. “However, the real Callahan’s hair looks very fake, despite the fact that it (presumably) was natural. So maybe it’s like how the movie Road to Perdition changed the name of real-life mobster John Looney to ‘John Rooney’ because ‘Looney’ sounded too implausible.”
Scarlett Johansson, countless Marvel movies
Is Scarlett Johansson appropriating redhead culture with her role as Black Widow in the Avengers movies? “Y’know, what’s weird is I totally felt that way,” said Vulture Abe, “and then when she went blond for Infinity War, I felt utterly betrayed.” Perhaps the sheer frequency of Johansson donning red wigs has worn us all down, though opinions differed on which of her Widow looks was the most plausible: Abe favored her long, flat-ironed Captain America: The Winter Soldier hair over any of the Avengers wigs that I found a bit more acceptable. “Maybe there’s something about it being short that accentuates the fakeness?” mused Abe. “When it’s longer, like in Winter Soldier and Iron Man 2, it translates better.” Whatever the case, rumor has it that in the next Avengers sequel, Widow is back to rocking her naturally unnatural red, this time tied off in a ponytail. Perhaps by then, Scarlett will have mastered scarlet.