Ed Sheeran says South Park ruined his life by mocking gingers


Ed Sheeran is blaming South Park for ruining his life. Or he’s calling Americans idiots. Or he’s just full of crap, I’m not sure which. Ed told The Independent that once upon a time, teasing people with red hair only happened in the UK. And somehow, that was okay. But then in 2005, the wunderkinds at South Park changed the face of the world by writing in speech in which character Eric Cartman defames gingers. Prior to this episode, the people of America adored red-headed people such as Ed. But Ed would have us believe that the creators of South Park turned us and from that day forward, the US was an unwelcoming landscape for gingers.

In a new interview with Slam Radio, as reported by The Independent, Sheeran explained that while poking fun at “gingers” was common in the U.K., it wasn’t until “South Park” that ginger-mocking became a thing in he U.S.

“Having red hair in England was always a thing that people took the p**s out of you for,” said Sheeran. “But it was never something in America. People never knew what a ginger was in America.”

In the episode, “South Park” character Eric Cartman delivers a school presentation on “gingervitus,” a disease that curses “ginger kids” with “very light skin, red hair and freckles,” and “occurs because ginger kids have no souls.”

“That episode of ‘South Park’ f**king ruined my life,” Sheeran complained.

“I was going to America and everyone was like, ’I love your hair dude.’ And I was like ‘Oh my god, people like my hair?’” he recalled. “And then I remember that episode coming out and that was just it worldwide for the rest of my life.”

[From ET Canada]

The interview from which this was taken is behind a paywall, so I cannot determine if Ed is being funny or not. The bit quoted does not make it sound like he is. In which case – what?! If Ed thinks gingers were free from mockery here in the States prior to South Park, there’s an army of red-headed stepchildren who would like a word with him. And as a person who gave birth to a ginger in 2005, I can assure Mr. Sheeran and everyone else that Americans still love red-heads. I could not keep people away from my son’s hair. They blamed me when his hair started to darken, as if I was trying to hurt them on a personal level. Fortunately, he’s stayed at a coppery auburn, which seemed to appease them.

I never really watched South Park (I have nothing against it) but it didn’t strike me as an overly influential show. A few catch phrases wound their way into kids conversations, but nothing changed the discussion in America. And whatever ginger-bashing speech was written into the show was fashionable, not innovative. I’m not saying people didn’t collectively turn on Ed in 2005, I’m just saying it probably wasn’t his hair that was the issue.




Photo credit: Avalon Red

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47 Responses to “Ed Sheeran says South Park ruined his life by mocking gingers”

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  1. Bettyrose says:

    Yup. No American redhead was ever teased at school until South Park started the trend.

    • Lauren says:

      How is saying “I love your hair” teasing? I don’t get it.

      My older son is a redhead, and we’ve gotten lots of postive comments about it, since he was little.

      My mom dyed her auburn hair red for years. I’ve dyed it red, too.

      I’m sure there are some who have beene teased for it, but I feel like it’s generally considered an attractive color, at least in the US.

      • Bettyrose says:

        It’s wonderful that your son hasn’t been teased. Obviously I wasn’t referring to him specifically.

      • Drea says:

        I was in college in the 90’s, and firecrotch jokes were not a scarcity. I honestly think the teasing has become more lighthearted over the years, but perhaps that’s just my experience and general maturity.

    • bettyrose says:

      @Drea – Two of my closest friends growing up were redheads, and as girls they got the crude jokes (like yours) but weren’t teased mercilessly. My red-haired partner of 20 years, though, was teased so harshly as child (70/80s) that he began dying his red hair brown as soon as he was away from his strict parents. His experience might have been on the extreme end, but it’s culturally part of American childhood for kids to be teased (more so before anti-bullying efforts began in recent years). Ed Sheeran is wrong that it wasn’t an American thing. Not all Americans had identical experiences. We are a huge nation with many many different cultural environments, but Ed Sheeran is not a good source of information on American childhoods.

    • Wiglet Watcher says:

      Redheads were teased before South Park was in existence. Yes, it got kicked up, but the mocking happened.

  2. Laura says:

    He’s actually not wrong, bullying against redheads increased after that episode.

    • Sankay says:

      Agreed. There are memes to back it up. I heard all the gingers are soulless on the internet before I knew it originated with SouthPark.

  3. minx says:

    It’s funny that he makes sweeping statements about what happens in America…because he’s not American.

    • bettyrose says:

      It’s possible this was taken completely out of context, but it is really comical on face value that he’d claim to have intimate knowledge of growing up American.

  4. girl_ninja says:

    I’m not a fan of Ed’s and I don’t like his music but he seems like a nice enough guy. Why make sweeping statements about an entire country that you do not live in?

    • Drea says:

      Because everyone has generalized thoughts about other countries that are simpler to see as a whole rather than when you’re embedded in it. See, ‘salty racist England’ on this site, for example. Whereas I see the US as more racist than the UK, especially in terms of the police. The nobility is a different (racist) animal.

      • Oliphant says:

        LOL totally Drea, we all make sweeping generalisations about things we know nothing about on this site, can’t get mad at Ed for that 🙂

      • Emma says:

        The US is more racist than the UK? I don’t agree. For my money it’d be hard to choose. Both have long histories of racism and colonialism and deeply racist ruling classes.

  5. Winoforever says:

    Poor Ed. Things for him really have taken a turn for the worse since 2005.

  6. lucy2 says:

    I hope he’s joking and it’s just not translating, because none of that is true or makes sense. Also because no one wants to hear about a young millionaire superstar complaining that his life was ruined.

  7. SophieJara says:

    I hope he was kidding, but also Cartman was pretty influential when I was in school. I was teased about “Jew gold” for years. But if it hadn’t been South Park it would have been something else.

  8. Skittlebrau says:

    I say this as a ginger kid in the 90s that episode was hilarious and any teasing I got was in good fun. Sorry his experience was different.

  9. Kaydee says:

    ‘Ginger’s’ are relentlessly bullied in the UK- well in England at least. It may be different in Scotland. I always found it so strange that people would so openly mock and ostracize individuals based on their hair colour. I never saw this as an issue in North America- only when I moved to England.

  10. Happyoften says:

    Being a redhead, I can attest that being bullied about my hair color did not start with Southpark. I was the only redhead in a small Midwest school. I was in my twenties before I started loving my hair color.

    However, I now live in the Middle south, which was apparently settled heavily by the Irish and Scottish. We are COVERED with gingers here. My son was part of his highschools “ginger line”. Seriously, the entire offensive line were redheads. Everyone thought they were related.

    They may have popularized the term Ginger outside of England, but people picking on redheads started AGES ago. Thankfully they no longer, like, set us on fire.

    • VIV says:

      Same Midwest youth experience here. Sometimes adults would say nice things, I believe it was a much more popular color for them, but kids were pretty bad about it. I did find the comments changed after the South Park episode, though was a bit older at that time so it didn’t bother me much. The firecrotch comments Drea mention above were much worse. I think how influential the episode was will vary greatly based on age at the time. I could see it being worse for someone younger when it came out. I don’t know that comparing to now makes sense though, at the time younger red heads in entertainment were basically bully kids or Lindsey Lohan. You see way more red hair now and fewer comments (though I still hear “red-headed step child” a lot… that one can go away any time now.)

  11. Tiffany :) says:

    I remember seeing news stories about (I feel terrible even writing this) “kick a ginger day” that was started in response to the episode. Not sure if that was just anecdotal and the news overhyped it, or if it was truly wide spread.

  12. Delphine says:

    I grew up in the US in the 80s and got bullied for my red hair and freckles nearly everyday for years.

  13. Pinkosaurus says:

    Clearly he has not read Anne of Green Gables as the entirety of the plot is about red hair struggles. 🥕 I know that’s Canada but we’ll just assume his comment was related to the Americas and not just the USA.

    • HoofRat says:

      I grew up with the Anne books, and always longed for naturally red hair. I cannot fathom why something so rare and beautiful should be a source of scorn.

  14. whatWHAT? says:

    OK, not a fan of his particularly, but from what I DO know of him, I suspect this was all in fun.

  15. Lucy says:

    He was just joking around.

  16. Lark says:

    Yes but he is talking about his expierence in the UK. Sometime tried to set me on fire for being ginger. The bullying i received in secondary school left me suicidal.

  17. JEM says:

    Fellow Mother-of-a-Ginger here. Every time my kid goes anywhere, the hair is commented on, but always in a super positive way. People are crazy obsessed with it. Strangers used to touch his hair constantly when he was little, but now they just talk about it and all the old ladies talk about how much they want hair that color.

    • Lucy says:

      I’m a former natural ginger, during my pregnancies my hair turned brown. Both of my girls have curly red hair. Strangers ALWAYS comment on it, literally every time were seen in public. My husband is finally starting to get creeped out by it.
      My oldest is in second grade, last year (In first grade!)a little boy started telling her red hair wasn’t pretty, it was weird. A few boys have said shit this year too. Luckily, the positive reinforcement from literally hundreds of strangers helped her believe the boys are wrong.
      Anyway. Being a redhead is just one of a thousand ways kids can be dicks. It’s the guys with a thing for redheads you have watch out for.

  18. Stef says:

    Is Canada supposed to be upset because of Blame Canada as well?

    Gingers have been picked on for ages, it’s not South Park specific.

  19. Charfromdarock says:

    I suspect he was joking. Although, I live in Canada and I never heard the term ginger until after it was used in South Park. The vocabulary definitely changed from red head to ginger.

    There is/was a lot of attention both positive and negative on my hair colour.

    More than comments and teasing, I hate people touching my hair. As a kid so many adults would stroke my hair and I was supposed to be flattered by that.

  20. jferber says:

    I like the word “ginger,” but in my neck of the woods, it’s always “redhead.” I wasn’t aware of the teasing, really.

  21. Lisa Taylor says:

    Yeah. F”#k Southpark. My son was teased mercilessly after that episode and it didn’t stpp. I had to pull jim from his school. When he walked down the hall all of school the kids would yell, eeww ginger germs and then the student body in the hall with part like the Red Sea. He went into a terrible depression in 7th and 8th grade as a result of this and it would not surprise me at all if there were even suicides and other terrible outcomes from those irresponsible Southpark aholes.

    • Tessa says:

      I’m so sorry, that sounds horrible. I’m also a little puzzled by all the people coming after Ed. I’m not at all familiar with South Park and did not watch that episode, although after reading this discussion, I now realized I’ve heard it quoted, but didn’t know where the quotes were from. Whether what he said is true or not, that sounds like a horrible, unfunny thing to say about people based on their looks. None of us find that funny about black skin or blue eyes, so why is it so easy to brush off when it’s about red hair? I mean, I get that a hair color is easier to change than skin color, but seriously? If anyone is made to feel like they need to change their hair color for acceptance, safety or mental health, it’s neither ok nor funny.

  22. VespaRed says:

    Being a redhead is the best and worst. I thought the South Park episode was funny, but I was older and in a relationship. When I was in college though, I didn’t go out to the bars much because I got tired of hearing comments like “I’ve never had a firecrotch before.”

  23. canichangemyname says:

    I 100% got the impression that he was joking.

  24. BudsBunny says:

    At least he’s easy to spot on stage from the cheap seats.

  25. Courtney says:

    Us redheads are adored by older women who want our hair color. They think it’s great and you get all sorts of attention, much of it unwanted. But what most others don’t realize is how bad the teasing is for us by our peers. “Does the carpet match the blinds?” yelled across the highschool cafeteria. “Firecrotch” carved into your locker. It really sucks and the amount of unwanted attention from creepy men with redhead fetishes is a whole other thing.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      “ the amount of unwanted attention from creepy men with redhead fetishes is a whole other thing”

      YES! I dyed my hair red for a bit, and I was not prepared for that! I had no idea!

  26. Nope says:

    I’m really surprised that this community is mocking Ed Sheeran for an interview none of us has accessed and isn’t looking at the greater cultural context on his reaction. The reason “gingers” are so widely mocked and insulted in the UK is rooted in prejudice (does it count as racism when it’s white-on-white? I’m unsure) against Irish people. There is real oppression tied in with that, and it was still a major problem resulting in terrorism as late as the 1980s. This isn’t a non-issue.

    I’m also wondering how many people here saw that episode of South Park. I did. I see at least one other person here did and they found it funny, but I saw it when it came out and I was put off by how vicious it was.

    And Matt and Trey really enjoyed doubling down on it afterward, in the DVD commentary. I’m not taking Trey straight here, but this isn’t lighthearted humor, it has a nasty edge and he’s clearly enjoying himself with it.

    “We were in England doing press for the show and we noticed a billboard,” Parker said. “It was something like ‘Only you can stop ginger’ and it had a little ginger girl on it smiling. There really is some truth to this. I am sort of ginger phobic in a way, I guess. I definitely have nothing against them but they do just kind of freak me out.”

    “In fact, I sort of reference myself in this show,” Parker said. “I had just gotten engaged when this show came out. The guy says to one of the kids, ‘The only way you can be sure you’re not going to have a ginger kid is to marry an Asian because then you probably won’t have a ginger kid.’ He’s talking about me because that’s what I did.”

    “I was dating someone before and having a really great time and it seemed pretty good,” Parker said. “Then I meet her mom and she was ginger. And I knew deep down it was the beginning of the end right there. Okay, how do I get out of this because there’s just no way. We can have fun but there’s no future here because I’m not having a kid that has a 1/10th of a chance of being ginger.”

  27. Anonymous says:

    I am an American natural redhead in my 30s. I now choose to keep my hair blonde because of the lifelong harassment and bullying I have experienced.

    Here is just one example:

    In 2019, I was living in SAN DIEGO. A place one would generally consider to be liberal and welcoming. My husband and I were having lunch at a very nice seafood restaurant, and I was dressed up (I was also still rocking my natural copper hair color). We were having a lovely time, when out of nowhere, a man approached our table and aggressively informed us that redheaded women are worse than terrorists, because “you can negotiate with terrorists.”

    I am so sick and tired of society making leaps and bounds in sensitivity towards people who are different, but allowing redheads to remain fair game. There are YouTube videos of random people on the street being asked how they feel about redheads, and many of the answers are horrifying. There is a certain ultra-religious group whose men spit on redheads if they walk by, because we are apparently bad luck. (This very thing has actually been addressed by at least one comedian.)

  28. Fabiola says:

    As far as I know redheads have always been made fun of. Growing up I always heard redheads are either all good or bad, don’t trust them. Then when Lindsey Lohan came about it was all about fire crotch jokes. There are even genetic tests so people can avoid having a redhead. My dad told me that his dad would shave his red hair until it grew brown. I do not envy redheads. They have it hard.