I must begin this post by stating that I, Maddy Myers, have red hair. It is a dye job on my natural golden-blond, which some people have referred to as “strawberry blond” depending on the stages of natural bleach job I get from the sun in the summertime.
You can look at my Instagram and make up your mind as to how angry you want to be with me about the fact that I personally think it’s funny to replace the word “Jedi” with the word “ginger” in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
Many fans have decried Cal Kestis as a “boring” character, but I don’t agree. He’s soft-spoken but playful — not as quippy as Nathan Drake, perhaps, but bless him for it, because that shit can get irritating. And he’s got something that few other (maybe zero??) Star Wars leading men have ever had. I am speaking, of course, about his hair.
In video games, it’s very common for female protagonists to have red hair, often an unrealistically vibrant shade of crimson. That includes the default female version of Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect trilogy, as well as Joanna Dark from Perfect Dark, or — more recently — Aloy in the Horizon games. Of those famous examples, Aloy is the only one whose red hair appears to be natural; plus, she’s got freckles.
It’s also more common in the world of Star Wars to see lady redheads rather than dudes — Mon Mothma and Aurra Sing, for example. Of the male cast members, there’s Domhnall Gleeson as Hux, but of course, Hux is no hero.
Similarly, in video games, male redheads — let alone freckled gingers — rarely get to be heroes. There’s Reno from Final Fantasy 7, a side character and a bit of a bad boy. Secondary protagonist Atreus in God of War Ragnarök has red hair, but it’s not nearly as vibrant as Reno’s. Then there’s Ganondorf, a problematic fave. All three are shades of the trickster type, with Atreus being the most heroic of the bunch... although he does also go by “Loki.” (Cal Kestis actor Cameron Monaghan played a trickster villain himself on Gotham.)
But in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Cal Kestis is a hero — no question! — and he was in Jedi: Fallen Order, too. I loved that Cal was a redhead back then, and I still love it now. Is this a form of representation that I actually think is a big deal? Nah. Prejudice against redheads and gingers exists, but few people will claim it’s a significant social ill. Still, Cal’s hair is something that makes him a little different from the norm. From what I can remember, no one in the games ever talks about his hair, or his other ginger-adjacent traits (freckles, translucent eyelashes, etc.). And because he’s so unusual, as both a ginger leading man and especially one in the world of Star Wars, I personally find it fun to replace the word “Jedi” with “ginger.”
The Star Wars Jedi games are set in the wake of Order 66, so the Jedi have all been murdered — except a precious few who’ve escaped capture, like Cal. There are some pretty obvious cultural analogues for Order 66 from our world’s history. Discrimination against gingers, however, is not one of them.
Unfortunately, my fun has been deflated slightly now that I’ve learned somebody made a mod for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor that recolors Cal’s hair. In a now-deleted Twitter thread, Monaghan responded with seeming frustration at the existence of such a mod. According to popculture.com’s article about his thread, he had written: “Seriously, ginger hate is still a thing? We’ve gotta be one of the only groups left where it’s not taboo to shit on us for being born or looking a certain way, right?” He then walked back this statement, saying the thread was a “lighthearted joke,” and continuing: “People who look different from the norm are awesome. Redheads are awesome. If someone tells you you aren’t great because you are different from whatever is considered ‘standard’, just know you rock.”
That’s a great attitude in Monaghan’s final post, even if it was deleted. And if anybody makes a mod for Star Wars Jedi: Survivor that replaces the word “Jedi” with “ginger,” just... maybe don’t tell Cameron Monaghan.