Love Interests have always been Colour-Coded for Your Convenience. Traditionally, the hero's significant other would usually be a blonde, to contrast with the brunette Vamp or Femme Fatale. But today, the passive Damsel in Distress and Satellite Love Interest have been replaced by the sassy, bold, brash, sharp-tongued Action Girl and Well, Excuse Me, Princess! — easily compatible with the "spunky Fiery Redhead" stereotype.
The hero's redhead is actually calm, at least most of the time. When she is fiery, she will probably be making him work to win her over for a long time or he won't realize that she's the one for him until the end.
Considering that less than 1% of the world's population have red hair (mainly in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Scandinavia, and among Eastern European Jews), there is a disproportionate number of red-haired female characters out there, and an inordinate number of them are The Hero's winning Love Interest. (On top of that, she is also inordinately likely to have green eyes to go with it.)
Naturally, it's quite common for the Veronica in a Betty and VeronicaLove Triangle to be a redhead; the Betty will be a blonde.
One possible source is Robert A. Heinlein's fondness for hypercapable redhaired heroines (he had a red-haired wife).
In European comics, the high proportion of redheads among the main protagonists has been explained by some authors by the simple fact that, since redheads are rare, they're easier to spot in the panels — especially true for crowd scenes.
Look out for the large number of Dark Skinned Redheads in Anime.
Perhaps surprisingly to outsiders, given the (relatively) higher proportion of Irish redheads, this trope does not seem to exist in Ireland. Redheaded female leads do appear, of course, but they are heavily outnumbered by the more common blondes and brunettes. This may be that, unlike almost everywhere else, red hair is not really seen as especially "exotic" in Ireland and Irish made media reflects this.
There isn't always a reason for this; if there is, sometimes, the red hair is symbolic of love and romantic desire, or the author just finds girls that look like that appealing.
There are some cases where the redhead actually isThe Hero. Please note that not every romance involving a red-head falls under this trope. A Red-Headed Hero will probably end up with someone. Only when he is heroic, perhaps a superhero or her personal hero from something, and ends up with a girl with red hair, or has multiple Love Interests to choose from but the redhead fits best with him, and/or the blonde or brunette express an extra attraction to their partner's red hair is the trope in effect.
Oh, and this can apply to Evil Redhead, overlapping with Dating Catwoman.
Compare Everyone Loves Blondes, Red-Headed Hero, Red Is Heroic.
Contrast Red-Headed Stepchild.
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Issei from High School D×D, while he has no shame in admitting he wants to have his own harem, it's also rather blatantly obvious the one girl who has the biggest hold over his feelings is Rias Gremory, the very one who brought him back to life as a devil and made said dream possible in the first place. Issei, upon first seeing Rias at school, even remarked to himself just how beautiful her deep crimson hair is. Said feelings are requited, and they finally become a couple in Volume 10, after Issei's harem encouraged him to confess to her.
While it's left to your imagination what really happened, 25th Baam and Hwa Ryun from Tower of God travelled together for five years between the first two seasons.
Shakugan no Shana wins points by having fiery red hair, with an emphasis on the fire. Her hair color is actually part of her name.
Asuka Langley Soryuu, of Neon Genesis Evangelion, has a very interesting Everyone Can See ItBelligerent Sexual Tension relationship with Shinji Ikari. The two share similar backgrounds and are clearly attracted to and want to get closer to one another, but their very different ways of handling their social shortcomings (Asuka in an aggressive and head-on manner pushes people away because she is afraid of getting hurt; Shinji in a passive and withdrawn fashion runs away people because he is also afraid of getting hurt) leads to numerous misunderstandings and resentment, especially on Asuka's part, between them. The very end of End of Evangelion implies that they have reached some kind of understanding, at least.
Mamori Anezaki of Eyeshield 21 was a brunette for the first manga volume, but the author quickly changed her hair to an orangey-red color to make her stand out more. Deuteragonist, Hiruma Yoichi, ends up being her (sorta) love interest.
Not to mention the straighter subversion of this trope. Miaka is a brunette, but some people think she's a redhead.
Actually, in the second arc of the manga, her name is said to be written with the kanji for "beautiful red". In the OVA, which spans over the second arc of the manga, her hair is turned into an auburn color.
Yoko of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann garnered interest from at least three heroic men. Though the true protagonist, Simon, ends up seeing her as more of an older sister/good friend character and pairs up with Nia, whose hair is...well, Anime Hair.
It was played straight between her and Kamina, who seemed to be the protagonist right up until the moment he died and apparent sidekick Simon was elevated to the role of hero.
Could be played straight since Simon had an obvious huge crush on Yoko. He practically had an emotional breakdown when he saw her and Kamina kissing.
Maruko from Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is arguably a subversion of this trope, as she's somewhat off-putting towards some of the characters (including the main character) and it may be partially the author's intention to convey that to the audience. Quite a bit of the audience aren't listening, though, and as far as they're concerned, she's a straight-up trope example.
Jump forward about sixty years and you get Cecily Fairchild, who has an entire movie centered around the hero's quest for her.
Flay Allster of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED may have been the Scrappy, but Kira had a crush on her at the beginning of the series and it grew into something more. They have sex, even if she was manipulating him, and it's clear he still cares greatly for her at the end of the series. Also, she did come to care for him after her Character Development, but ends up dead.
And, to a greater extent, Lacus Clyne (although she has pink hair rather than red).
In fact, by the end of Destiny, all three main heroes end up paired with redheads: Kira, with Lacus, Athrun, with Meyrin, and Shinn, with Lunamaria.
Mikuru Asahina, the Moe-blob in Haruhi Suzumiya, has reddish brown hair (or brownish red hair? Orange? We may never know) and might be Haruhi's closest competition for Kyon's heart. Not 100% love interest, but Kyon is still very fond of her and she triggered Haruhi's second unconscious universe warping when she thought Mikuru and Kyon were too close.
Not to forget, Haruhi definitely has a thing for Mikuru too.
In fact, both of the other major Les Yay pairings (not that there's a shortage), Nanoha/Fate and Hayate/Vita, involve a redhead of some shade. Whether this is coincidence or not, though, is entirely a matter of speculation.
Lead character Izumi Noa of Patlabor becomes a redhead about three seconds into the OVA opening animation. Apparently, they'd already started animating, then decided that she needed to be more visually distinctive.
Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin is also a redhead - despite his Japanese origins. He's pursued by both Kaoru and Megumi. The first wins.
Every heroic member of Negi's Unwanted Harem fall prey to this, as Negi is a redhead.
Kotarou's one female love interest right now? Natsumi. Haircolor? Red.
Kenshiro's fiancee, Yuria, in the Fist of the North Star anime, was the unrequited love interests of other characters as well (namely Shin, Toki, Raoh, and even her half-brother Juza), while her look-alike Mamiya attracted the attention of Rei and Yuda. It should be noted that both women were originally dark-haired brunettes in the manga.
Kyo has orange hair and he most likely has black hair naturally. His orange hair comes from the fact that he harbors the spirit of the orange cat. All of the Sohma family probably have black hair but it changes due to the animal spirits (Yuki = white mouse, Kisa = orange tiger, etc).
Ayashi no Ceres heroine Aya Mikage had the choice between the sandy brown-haired Yuuhi Aogiri or maroon-haired (honestly. Just live with it, okay?) Tooya. Not only does she get the redhead, they also fall into Babies Ever After.
Katerose von Kreutzer in Legend of Galactic Heroes, as prior to her introduction, the only romantic interest introduced for Julian Minci is the older of Alex Czellenu's daughters.
Ennis in Baccano! has realistic, dark rust-colored hair, and even though she's an Artificial Human, Firo has enough of a thing for her to wait fifty years to marry her.
GaoGaiGar has this trope in spades. If Gai and Mikoto and Mamoru and Hana aren't enough, FINAL strongly hints that Soldat J and Renais had become a Battle Couple or are on their way to it. Does red and pink hair remind them of their hearts burning with courage or something??
Although he hasn't made his fondness for her known vocally in Hayate the Combat Butler, pink-haired Hinagiku Katsura clearly holds his interest.
Sanji from One Piece is enamored with the flame-haired Nami, though he's enamored with anything female that isn't a complete Gonk.
Steins;Gate: Okarin...Kyouma, spends a Mind Screw-worthy amount of time trying to save his Childhood Friend Mayuri. He decides all his effort should be thrown away, when the choice comes to save either her...or the redhead.
Except, in the game, Kyouma can give up for whatever reason before then for the sake of one of the other girls' happiness, though the route the anime took certainly is the true ending. There's also the fact that she's only a redhead in the anime: in the game, she has brown hair.
While not the hero, Naoki Shinjyo from Future GPX Cyber Formula has a love interest in Miki Jounouchi, who has reddish-brown hair for most of the series.
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds does this with Yusei Fudo, "The Hero", and Aki Izayoi the psychic/(psycho) powered red head. Not that there was much competition aside from Sherry LeBlanc, the blonde rival to Aki in this sense. Yusei basically confirms this trope in the final episode of the series.
In the anime adaptation of DN Angel, Daisuke Niwa has two potential love interests in Risa Harada, the brunette girl who he initially has feelings for, and her twin sister, Riku Harada, the redhead who Daisuke develops feelings for as the series progresses. Guess which one he ends up with.
Mary Jane Parker, main love interest of Spider-Man, and Official Couple during most of the character's run. She's arguably, not only the Trope Codifier for comic books, but also THE most iconic example in all of Western popular culture.
Highly unpopular love interest for Peter, Carlie Cooper, is subject to a severe case of Depending on the Artist for almost every subsequent appearance she's made. She's been depicted as a redhead twice now to the point where, in the second occurrence, certain fans weren't sure if Peter had gotten back together with Mary Jane or not, until Carlie's name came up in the text.
Cyclops' longtime love interest was Jean Grey, who's even nicknamed "Red". The first time he thought she was dead, he married her (obviously redheaded) clone, Madelyne Pryor. After she went crazy from that and committed suicide, he dated Jean for a number of years before she proposed to him and they married. Meanwhile, Wolverine's fixation on Jean Grey is apparently the latest in a long line of redheads going back to his childhood, where his first love, Rose, was a dead-ringer for Jean.
King Mob of The Invisibles ends up in a relationship with the red-haired Ragged Robin.
Becky Burdock, Vampire Reporter, is the potential love interest for Jack Staff. She's clearly stated to be a redhead in the early black and white issues, and is naturally depicted as such when it moved into colour.
When Yvonne Craig portrayed Batgirl on the old Adam Westlive-action series, Barbara Gordon had short-cropped brunette hair. Batgirl's long red tresses were part of her cowl, part of her identity-concealing costume, and the same technique is currently used for Batwoman, whose extraordinarily long flaming red hair (so long that Batman actually advised her to cut it, since any mook could grab it in a fight) is actually a wig over her much shorter, darker, real hair.
Aquaman's on-again, off-again wife, Mera. (Note that white-haired Dolphin didn't last too long as his belle and was eventually paired off with Tempest, formerly Aqualad.)
E-Man has Nova Kane. (Eventually, she gained energy powers like his own.)
Looker of the '80s and '90s Batman and the Outsiders was portrayed as highly attractive and desirable, even when she wasn't literally hypnotizing bad guys into doing her bidding.
Another male example, Green Arrow's sidekick, Roy Harper (formerly known as "Speedy" and "Red Arrow", known now for the second time as "Arsenal"), has always been a ladies' man.
Parodied in Powers; when a philandering superhero is found dead in bed as a result of bedroom-related complications, the police find a little black book with the names all of the women he tried it on with and have to go and interview all of them. Every single one of them is a redhead.
Despite having a great many "sweethearts", Conan the Barbarian seemed to always hold a special place in his heart for Red Sonja, to the point of being ready to abandon his wife, children and throne to go adventuring with her in Conan The King #28.
Nightwing's two major canon love interests are both red-heads; Barbara Gordon (Batgirl / Oracle) and Koriand'r (Starfire). And if that counts, Girl of the Week Cheyenne was a red-head. Nightwing has even stated himself that he has a thing for red-heads when first meeting the new Batwoman in 52. And in the 2011 series, his love interest is Raya Vestri. Guess what color her hair is. For bonus points, his two Heterosexual Life-Partners pre-New 52, Roy Harper and Wally West, are redheaded as well.
In the Static comics, Frieda Goren is Virgil's first love interest. She's also caught the eye of Hotstreak - so much so that he really goes out of his way to capture her - and she has a boyfriend named Larry Wade, who is one of Virgil's friends. In the cartoon, she's still Virgil's first love interest and Hotstreak still has the hots for her AND two boys named Jimmy and Nick really like her, too; Jimmy's and Nick's attraction to Frieda fuels Nick's bullying of Jimmy and Jimmy's feeling like no one really cares about him, which leads to the climax of the episode when Jimmy brings a gun to school. In the first episode, she lists off how many boys have asked her to the dance as Virgil is trying to ask her out.
X-Factor's Rictor has exclusively dated Rahne and Shatterstar, two very violent redheads.
Lana Lang, Superman's high school sweet heart, is traditionally a red head. Which inverts the trope when Superman chooses the brunette Lois over Lana.
Scott Pilgrim's romantic life consists of Kim (redhead), Natalie, a.k.a. "Envy" (redhead), Knives (temporarily had red highlights), and Ramona (her hair was red for a time, but it changes often). More obvious in the Game where his ending involves him dating Kim, Envy, and Knives all at once, and all three are pictured with him, and they all have red hair.
The original Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew, had a "roommate," Lindsey McCabe, who was a redhead. Considering the colossal amount of lesbian subtext (It was pretty clear that the writer, Chris Claremont, would have portrayed them as a lesbian couple if Marvel would have let him) between them, this is at least an honorable mention.
Captain Atom's first and second wives, Angela Adam and Bette Sans Souci, were both redheads (or maybe strawberry blondes). In between, he dated women with different hair colors, but both of the women he married were redheads.
RE-TAKE. In an scene Ghost-Asuka theorizes Shinji noticed her because her hair is red.
The Second Try: Shinji and Asuka are sent to the past after surviving on their own several years in the post-Third Impact world. Throughout that time they managed to get over their traumas, fall in love and got married and got a child.
The redheaded Lucy in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula is pursued by three suitors who all turn heroic by the end of the film. In the original novel, the character is a brunette. Sadie Frost (who played Lucy) dyed her natural brown hair red because she and Winona Ryder looked too similar.
Far And Away: Joseph takes quite a liking to Shannon, an Irish immigrant with unsurprisingly red hair. At least a couple of the more minor characters are attracted to her as well.
Coniff: I think the prettiest girl in this factory, the one with the prettiest eyes, and the prettiest red hair, is Joseph's sister note They're only pretending to be brother and sister.- if you don't mind me saying so, Joseph.
Ginny Weasley of Harry Potter. Harry, of course, follows in the footsteps of his father James, who loved Lily Evans. Dumbledore also had red hair when younger. J. K. Rowling has stated she likes redheads. Funnily, the other two main characters end up together; brunette Hermione ends up with redhead Ron, brother of Ginny.
Clarissa MacDougal Kinnison, of E. E. “Doc” Smith's Lensman saga, is not merely a redhead — she's the Penultimate Human Woman, the unknowing culmination of millennia of a secret alien breeding program, and being a redhead is a distinguishing feature of that line going back to the Fall of Atlantis. She's destined to be the hero's One True Love — since he's the male Penultimate.
Shira Brie and Mara Jade were both Luke Skywalker's love interests, and the latter became his wife. And remained with him until her death in Sacrifice...thought to have been at the hands of the other, interestingly, until it was revealed to have been Jacen who killed her.
Dani! The Bantam era preferred brown hair, but he ultimately got a redhead. As well, as a Zeltron, she had red skin...
Jacen Solo and Tenel Ka (who is a QUEEN, to boot).
Apparently, Skywalkers have a thing for redheads (this next comment applies to the Legacy comic series); Cade (one of the two remaining descendants of Luke and Mara) has a new love interest in the form of a former childhood friend, Azlyn Rae. It's far too early for confirmation, but it does seem to be going somewhere...
Except Anakin Skywalker, it seems.
Why limit the "red things growing out of the girl's head" to hair? Cade also hooks up with a Darth Talon.
As if to drive the point home, red twi'lek are rare because their red skin is the result of a mutated gene. Likewise, red hair is rare and results from a mutated blonde hair gene. She's as close to a redhead as a hairless alien babe can get.
Ygritte, a wildling woman who becomes Jon Snow's Temporary Love Interest in A Song of Ice and Fire. Wildling society as a whole favors redheads, believing them to be "kissed by fire". Jon also thinks of Melisandre (another woman with red hair note along with red eyes and always red clothing) as very beautiful, if a little cold. And he's not the only POV character to take interest in redheads. At the beginning of the series, Ned Stark is happily married to auburn-haired Catelyn Tully and their daughter Sansa (who took after her mother) ends up being married to Tyrion Lannister who admits that he is very attracted to her. Jaime Lannister, another POV character, found Catelyn's sister (that has the typical Tully coloring) rather pretty and Catelyn herself interesting as a teenager. There's also Rohanne Webber with whom Duncan, the protagonist of the Dunk&Egg tales, is infatuated.
In poor Sansa's case though this is mostly averted to Villains (or Anti-Villains in Sandor's case) Want Redheads, as out of her two biggest admirers, one is a bitterly cynical Blood Knight, the other a YandereMagnificent Bastard.
Red hair is one of the most common colors among the Aiel in the Wheel of Time, so one of Rand's three is a redhead, as is Chiad (though that relationship is very minor and very complicated).
Actually, two of Rand's "three" are redheaded - the other one is strawberry blonde.
Dr. Isis Proserpina McDonald of the Babylon Rising series. (And she's Scottish, to boot!)
Garion, of The Belgariad, has Ce'Nedra...and their partnership is an exciting one, given her temper.
Again from Eddings, Dweia in the Redemption of Althalus is a redhead.
Almost all members of the ruling class of the planet Darkover have red hair because all characters with red hair in Marion Zimmer Bradley's series have psychic powers. Also, the original colonists of Darkover were from the Scottish highlands, Ireland, and the Basque country, so this is really just an attention to detail. Since every single offworlder hero or heroine who arrives on Darkover ends up hooking up with a member of the ruling class...
Toward the end of the timeline, we do get a Spunky Blonde instead.
Then, there is the averting blond Ridenow clan. Of course, they get their ladies the old-fashioned way...they STEAL them!
Many, many heroes (and many, though fewer, heroines) from the Scottish-set breed of historical romance novels. Getting distinct vibes of Outlander and Diana Gabaldon here...
The complete works of Robert Anson Heinlein. This is to be laid at the feet of Virginia Gerstenfeld Heinlein (and, some have said, at those of Leslyn MacDonald Heinlein).
In Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, both the "hero" and his love interest have red hair.
Anne from Anne of Green Gables is an example, though it may not be immediately obvious because she complains so much about having red hair. She is proposed to five times in Anne of the Island, twice by Gilbert Blythe, whom she eventually marries.
Inverted in the Falco series by Lindsey Davis set in Ancient Rome. Informer (private eye) Marcus Falco has a strong dislike of redheads, either stemming from his much-loathed military service in Britain or the fact that his father ran off with one
Starting with The Titan's Curse, the titular character of the series Percy Jackson and the Olympians has two main love interests: blonde Annabeth and redhead Rachel. Eventually subverted in the final book, as Rachel dumps him (when they weren't going out in the first place, no less) in favor of becoming the new Oracle of Delphi. He gets Annabeth in the end.
Ironically enough, the only red headed goddess, Artemis (The Goddess of virgins) is the second most popular god on fanfiction.net based on the amount of stories tagged with her name (Only beaten by her brother Apollo), with tons of stories with her having red haired children....
Nearly every hero in Terry Brooks's Shannara series fits this trope. Wil Ohmsford and Amberle Elessedil in The Elfstones Of Shannara (but this is subverted when, following Amberle's transformation into the Ellcrys tree, Wil marries the black-haired Eretria), Par Ohmsford and Damson Rhee in the Heritage Of Shannara quadrilogy, Bek Ohmsford and Rue Meridian in the Voyage Of The Jerle Shannara trilogy, and Panterra Qu with Prue Liss in the Legends of Shannara duology.
Male example: Edward Cullen from Twilight has reddish-brown hair, as does his infamous daughter.
Male/male example: Ash Trine is the primary love interest of Kieran Trevarde in The God Eaters.
Another male example: Marcus Flutie from Sloppy Firsts.
In Kristin Cashore's Fire, there are certain beings called "monsters" with brightly colored hair in unusual shades, who are extraordinarily attractive and entrance people with their appearance. The titular heroine is one of these monsters and has shimmering hair in multiple shades of red, with occasional strands of pink and orange that make it look like a sunset. Like all other monsters, she is seen by everyone around her as incredibly beautiful. Her father, also a monster, had gleaming silver hair with hints of blue, making him a White Hair, Black Heart - the evil kind.
In the The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, the main character, Locke, is hopelessly in love with a woman named Sabetha. One of the only traits revealed about her is that she is a redhead.
Somewhat subverted with Karen in The Three Worlds Cycle. Karen, a redhead, is technically a hero, but her love interest Llian is something of a bumbling klutz. He does turn out to be a bit of a hero in the end, though, so I guess it's alright eventually...
Alanna in Alanna: Song of the Lioness, being a hero herself, was romantically pursued by the three greatest heroes in the story; namely, her Warrior Prince (Jonathan), The King of Thieves (George), and The Shang Dragon (Liam).
Over the course of the first Time Scout book, Malcolm Moore falls for Margo Smith. Hard.
Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Bert Navarro wants Kathryn Lucas, who has red hair. Weekend Warriors had Jack Emery hanging out with a redhead, who turned out to be his sister-in-law, and he did that just to make his blonde girlfriend, Nikki Quinn, jealous. Ted Robinson really likes redheads, if his relationship with Maggie Spritzer is anything to go by.
In The Selection, Prince Maxon has a choice of 35 girls and takes a liking to America, the only redhead in the competition. America is also in the middle of Love Triangle between Maxon and her first love, Aspen.
All of the princesses of A Brother's Price are noted to have hair of "the royal red". Jerin ends up marrying them all.
In Firebird, Ilya finally falling for the Firebird at the end.
In the City of Devils universe, maiden witches tend to have red hair and green eyes. It's subverted, as Hexene Candlemas and Lily Salem both have a little romantic tension with Nick Moss, he doesn't actually end up with either one.
Angel: A flashback episode had a character bringing this up, mentioning this trope. Though it seems that Angel and The Doctor share tastes. After all, his romantic interests have almost all been blonde (Kate, Nina, Buffy, Darla), and it was said that he and Spike slept together once (offhanded comment by Spike in S5 implied it was ONLY once).
Battlestar Galactica: President Laura Roslin is a redhead and has no shortage of male admirers in spite of her age, health, and position. She is also a change for partner Bill Adama, whose previous interests in flashbacks have been blondes.
The Bill: In one episode, DC Banks and DC Webb have a tough interview with a suspect, who is aided by a red-haired solicitor. Webb comments he'd like to sleep with her. It's established that Banks does sleep with her - she's his wife, using her maiden name for work.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Would Willow Rosenberg be a case of Werewolves and Lesbian Witches want Redheads? Also, annoying potential slayers and occasionally Xander. And a demon/robot.
Castle: Almost every important woman in Richard Castle's life is a redhead, from the 'one who got away' to his first ex-wife, even his mother and his daughter. Seemingly averted by Kate Beckett, his Love Interest in the show — until you realize that her brown hair is a curiously red shade of brown.
Not to mention the Tenth Doctor's...relations with Queen Elizabeth I.
Amy Pond's fiancé, Rory, since he spent two thousand years, without so much as a magazine to read, guarding her while she was in kinda-stasis, kinda-death so that the Doctor could use the powers of the Timey-Wimey Ball to bring her back to life after he was reincarnated as a killer robot.
And of course good old whacky Eleven Doc himself, who has undying love for his ginger Amelia Pond.
In Amy's Choice this trope is specifically referenced where the Dream Lord mockingly says "Naughty Doctor likes a redhead."
Firefly: Has Saffron, which is a Subverted Trope by Mal not showing any initial interest in her. Flipped on it's head when she appears to seduce him and then flipped right back into subversion again when she knocks him out and reveals herself to be a conwoman, then almost flipped back into played straight when she reappears and, after a successful, heist they seem to have a "moment", and then bounced right back to subverted when she double crosses him. Saffron was, of course, played by Christina Hendricks, as mentioned for Mad Men. There's also Nandi.
Lie to Me: Almost every important woman in Cal Lightman's life is redheaded, too. His daughter Emily has long red hair, his mother (in flashbacks) is shown to have had an auburn shade, and his partner Gillian is a strawberry-blonde (though it's not natural, unless her dark hair in the "Sweet Sixteen" flashbacks was dyed).
Mad Men: Notably an Averted Trope; the hero dates brunettes, marries a blonde, and is the only (straight) man on Earth who's apparently oblivious to Joan Holloway (played by the...voluptuous Christina Hendricks), one of the greater redheads of this or any time. Avoided by Don. Roger Sterling and Paul Kinsey, who certainly agree with the trope.
NCIS: Gibbs has been married four times and all of his wives were redheads. His first wife Shannon was killed while they were still married and the other three wives are ex-wives. He's also had an affair with his (redheaded) boss and was dating a redheaded Army investigator. And everyone else recognizes it. When he first met the investigator, the other team members noted the growing attraction and pointed out the red hair as proof it was inevitable. Tony even said that "Gibbs just met his fourth ex-wife". Possibly hereditary - his father had Betty Grable painted on the nose of his P-51, but Gibbs' mother was a redhead.
Power Rangers Dino Thunder: Possibly Tommy and Hayley. The writers left it open in case they wanted to bring back Catherine Sutherland as Kat, but Tommy and Hayley certainly flirt quite a bit.
Revolution: Emma in the episode "Home". Back in the day, she was Miles Matheson's highschool fiance. Then she ends up revealing that she cheated on him with Sebastian Monroe and gave birth to Monroe's son.
Robin of Sherwood: Seems to have firmly established Maid Marian (or Marion, if you will) in the collective unconscious as a feisty redhead.
Smallville: Lionel Luthor has shown an attraction to redheads — his wife, mistress, and Martha Kent all have or had red hair. Though the 'hero' part is rather questionable.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: Had the gorgeous Dr. Beverly Crusher, who Picard has been in love with for years; DS9 had Major Kira Nerys, who Odo had been after for six years before finally getting her in "His Way"; and then, of course, there's Chakotay's blatantly obvious feelings for Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager.
That '70s Show: He's not exactly a hero, but this show had main character Eric Forman's love interest be the red haired Donna. Forget the last few seasons where she was blonde. We all try to. After winning over Donna, Eric Foreman became my hero.
Bruce Springsteen's "Red-Headed Woman". Dedicated to/inspired by Patti Scalfa, no doubt.
In Dolly Parton's "Jolene", the eponymous temptress is described as a incomparable beauty, with "flamin' locks of auburn hair", who has bewitched the hapless speaker's husband. She's got green eyes to boot.
Princess Aura from Flash Gordon, at least in her early appearances. (Later in the strip's run, she somehow became a blonde...and her skin color changed from "Oriental yellow" to Caucasian white. Queen Desira of Tropica is also a striking redhead.
In the FoxTrot arc where Roger writes His Codename Wasthe Fox, his (blond) wife gets particularly upset over the fact that "Agent Fox" has a fling with a redhead.
Subverted in Dragon Age II: in Act I, Hawke can attempt to initiate romance with another Orlesian redhead, Aveline Vallen, but she ultimately rejects him/her for Guardsman Donnic in Act II.
In the Mark of the Assassin DLC, however, the red-haired Tallis can be romanced, although this is more of a short-term fling instead of a serious romantic engagement, and nothing happens if Hawke is already in a romance with another party member.
Not surprising because they're all pretty much the same person. It's a well-known fact that the cast of Majora's Mask is almost completely comprised of Ocarina of Time expies, and the creators acknowledged that Talon and Malon were expies of Tarin and Marin from Link's Awakening.
Also, though frequently forgotten thanks to her gradual blondification, Princess Zelda herself was red-haired in the original NES games. (Or should we say both Princess Zeldas, since the one in the second game was a relative of the one from the first.)
This might be more be because of the limited palette of the NES — note that even Princess Peach was a redhead in the first Super Mario Bros. game.
The Sleeping Zelda has red hair in her artwork, so it's intentional. The first Zelda, however, had blond hair◊, as evident in her Japanese artwork and her sprite; but, in the west, she has two different artworks, one with her being blond◊ and the other where she's a brunette◊.
Kairi of the Kingdom Hearts series. Sora (and possibly Riku) falls for her.
In Fire Emblem: Sword of Seals, the redheaded male lord Roy can have six different possible brides (and one of them, the dancer Lalam, is a redhead as well). In the prequel, Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword, his also redheaded father Eliwood can have three possible girlfriends (but no redheads this time).
For a traditional female version, look no further than White Magician Girl/Magic KnightPriscilla, who has three official love interests (though she only gets to keep one of them, the others have to go) and arguably has chemistry with two other guys.
One of Princess Eirika's four suitors is a redhead male, Seththe Silver Knight. This support/ending is also ridiculously easy and fast to get.
Another male inversion: Natasha can support and have a happy ending with two redheads. Interestingly, they form a Betty and Veronica dynamic, with Joshua being a gambling addict and Seth being Seth, though the triangle never comes up.
Red-haired Titania has Ship Tease with Ike, Boyd and Rhys, though she can't actually pair with them. If you like your Les Yay, secondary hero Mist has this with Jill.
Averted by Fire Emblem Awakening with red-haired Cordelia and Chrom: She can't even support with him, much less marry him! Can be played straight with Chrom and the female Avatar if one makes said Avatar a redhead. Not to mention the Avatar can also marry a variety of redheads: Anna and Cordelia for a male and Gaius, Gregor and Ricken for a female. Chrom can also marry Sully, a red-haired Lad-ette.
Not exactly a hero, but the main character in the Harvest Moon games has almost always a redhead as one of the potential brides to choose.
To be precise: Ann from SNES, her descendant also named Ann from 64. Ann appears again in Back To Nature, Friends of Mineral Town, and DS (FOMT Ann's descendant). Katie in Save the Homeland (and Lyla who has pink hair). Nami from A Wonderful Life, A Wonderful Life Special Edition, and DS (AWL Nami's descendant). SNES Ann appears in Magical Melody (though that may be her descendant), and Katie apparently moved to Flower-Bud. Melody, Lynette, and Lara have pink hair (well, Lara's is almost violet), from Rune Factory 1. Chelsea, Julia, and Natalie from Island Of Happiness and Shining Sun and Friends. Cecilia from Rune Factory 2. Maya and Selena from Tree of Tranquility and Wakuwaku Animal March.
Don't forget the invert with "Claire", and "Jill"/"Pony". Both females have red headed love interests in Cute, Rick, Grey, and Cliff (though, he's more of a brownish-red). Also, Basil and Blue in Magical Melody, for Tina.
Elly from Xenogears is a redhead and the love interest of the hero.
Her hair is a slightly different color in each incarnation, but it still always is some shade of red.
Though she originally had purple/black hair, but you could argue that that's not really Elly.
One could also say this is an example of Gamers Want Redheads, seeing how popular the two of them are and how many mods exist to fix their uncompleted romances.
Though the main heroine is a blond, most of the heroines of Tsukihime, and a few non-heroines as well, are redheads. Since the hero can score with any of the heroines, an overwhelming majority would make this game fit this troupe.
Akiha, Hisui, Kohaku, Aoko; that's half of them. More, if you don't count Sion.
Planescape: Torment has two "romance" options (in quotation marks because the game doesn't really consummate the relationships). The one you can get farthest with, giving a deep and passionate kiss to, is the redhead Annah.
Both the heroine and her love interest are redheads in Laura Bow 2: The Dagger of Amon Ra.
In Bully, Jimmy and Zoe end up together at the end of the game.
The Witcher positively overflows with red haired "love" interests to the point where you can safely assume it's possible to sleep with a woman if she has red hair. The game even features a Betty and Veronica triangle where both women are red-heads.
Inverted: Ritz, the literal red head (who actually has white hair) from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, has some feelings for Marche. So, it's the red head who wants the hero.
In Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, the vampiric player character has the option to acquire a red-headed, green-eyed love interest pretty early on by saving her life and turning her into his or her devoted 'ghoul' (vampires mostly don't have sexual relations, but the 'blood bond' that arises between a vampire and his ghoul is described in-game as one of the most intense emotional sensations it is possible to experience), who will then provide perks, money, blood, conversation, and generally keep house while he or she is away on missions.
Mitsuru Kirijo from Persona 3 is one of several love interests. Yukari Takeba's hair color is an auburn that's closer to brown than red, but there's definitely some red in there. The latter is also the closest the game has to a default romantic interest.
Rise Kujikawa from Persona 4. She's only one of several romantic options, but she's the only one who falls for the protagonist whether you choose to date her or not. Redheads Want Heroes?
Of the more ginger variety (though, given that this is Japan, probably everyone is dyeing), Ai Ebihara of the Moon Arcana.
Olivia Dickens, the wife of Commodore Dickens and the matriarch of the detective family in Disney's Guilty Party.
Tsubaki Yayoi from BlazBlue is a redheaded lady and the love interest for Jin Kisaragi (and, by extension, Hakumen).
Laura Bow The Dagger Of Amon Ra has the titular hero fall in love with the hunky redheaded stevedore/art student.
In MARDEK Chapter 3, Emela and Deugan play this pretty straight. Actually, nearly everyone in the royal guard wants Emela. Gloria, for her part, apparently attracts the lust of the entire male population of Canonia. Averted in that she only has eyes for a certain stammering Technical Pacifist inventor, who reciprocates her affections.
Both Haru and Yuzu in Devil Survivor, both of whom show interest in the protagonist.
Tycho's wife from Penny Arcade, though Tucho isn't exactly heroic...
Given that the wives are just their real-life wives in comic form, this is more of a Real Life example than a webcomic example.
Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire: the minor characters' love interests have red hair (Pam for Gregory, Jayden for Milov/Siegfried), while the main character's girlfriend, Luna, is the traditional blonde. However, it's interesting to note the shifts in the artist's coloring from the early days, when color strips were rarer; early pictures of Luna had redder hair (and Gregory, now a solid redhead, was fairer-haired).
Nanase, from El Goonish Shive, is an odd example. She briefly dated the hero, before dumping him. He's dating a blonde now...And Nanase? Well, she's in a relationship with the hero's Opposite-Sex Clone.
Though Ellen now has drifted from Opposite Sex Clone to a different person entirely due to magical intervention which aged her soul. El Goonish Shive is really complex. And weird.
Anne Onymous, protagonist of The Wotch, is a red head, as are a few side characters. The (blond) Jason has a huge redhead fetish...so much so that he has a "Red-Head Sense". Also, whenever he is turned into a girl (which is fairly often), he's red-haired (and calls himself Sonja). Ironically, his one true love is a brunette.
Though not apparent, both Erika Hayasaka and Largo of MegaTokyo have red hair.
Princess Voluptua in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!. Granted that her human form is an illusion and she is actually a giant alien butterfly - which Bob knows and which prevents any possible relationship between them - but even her butterfly form has those same long flowing locks of (presumably red) hair.
Chel, from Alien Dice, is the heroine of the story and Lexx's love interest. True to the trope, Chel is fiery and independent, and it's her stubborn nature which brings them together and prompts Lexx to fall in love with her. He finds her hair color strange (but pretty).
Lexx is a Rishan and Rishan have skin and hair of bluish hues.
And no matter how you interpret the story, yes, the hero wants the redhead.
Although they are never seen in the series without their helmets, this may be the case with Church and Tex from Red vs. Blue. Virtually every piece of fanart that shows them without helmets depicts Tex as a redhead. It helps that Luke McKay, who originally put forth the concept in his artwork, has now become an Ascended Fanboy, working for Rooster Teeth officially, making the idea Fanon in a way.
Family Guy's Peter Griffin is (most of the time) a hero to his wife, Lois. The cartoon couple above this got a mention in "Dammit Janet"; a scene has the main character being described as a "fat man inexplicably married to an attractive redhead". The police sketch depicts Fred Flinstone. Simpso.... er, Flintstones did it first!!!!
Come to think if it, it's difficult to find a red head (or former redhead) that hasn't got some on that show. The Question (redhead! Surprise!) has something with Huntress; Lex (but how do you tell what color his hair...ahhh...) was doing Mercy and Tala, and as for The Flash...well, let's just say there's truth behind the "Wally's a pimp" meme.
On Clone High, Abe spent most of his time in love with black-haired Cleopatra, but, in the last episode, realized he was in love with magenta-haired Joan of Arc.
In an episode of The Venture Brothers, Phantom Limb freezes a courtroom and gives Dr. Orpheus a hypnotic suggestion to testify against the Monarch, then he'll get an archvillain like he always wanted. When the room unfreezes, Dr. Orpheus is wistfully muttering "I hope they'll get me a girl villain. A redhead..."
In Daria, Daria's little sister, Quinn Morgendorffer is the teen queen of this trope, as almost every guy who sees her is immediately hypnotized by her bouncy carrot-top (and tiny, cute pores!). In fact, the only guys who see her and AREN'T interested are those who see her as a Well, Excuse Me, Princess! type (Trent Lane, David Sorenson), are part of an Official Couple (Kevin), or where First Girl Wins (Young Master Thomas Sloane, aka Tom, who also beautifully subverts that trope by ending up with Daria, the star of the show, after coming aboard as part of a Beta Couple with Jane).
Actually, Word of God has Daria as auburn-haired (red-brown hair), so the trope isn't subverted with her. In fact, look at the guys interested in her - Tom, Ted Dewitt-Clinton, and (of course) Trent Lane. Daria fits the trope, too.
It can be argued that Tom is not a perfect hero...
In the 80's G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, redheaded intelligence officer Scarlett was vaguely presented as a love interest for the heroic male lead, Duke. In the comics, she was the main squeeze of primary character Snake-Eyes.
April O'Neil, yellow-jumpsuited friend of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was an object of the boys' affection in both the cartoon and the movies (especially for Mikey) and for Casey Jones. Especially in the 2003 series. There, she was far more of a redhead than she's ever been in any other media series up until then.
Also, when they encounter versions of themselves from an alternate universe (who are basically just Palette Swap versions of them), the alternate Leela and Fry are married, and the alternate Leela is a redhead.
On the animated show Huntik, there are two female heroines: the sultry, raven-haired Asian beauty, Zhalia, and the fiery redhead British hottie, Sophie. Guess which one is the main character's love interest?
The main character's childhood crush, Scarlet, is also redheaded. Meanwhile, Sophie spends the first half of the series much more interested in the main character's mentor, Dante Vale, who also has red hair.
Roxanne for Max in A Goofy Movie. Sylvia for Goofy in the sequel.
In the Legion Of Superheroes, Alexis is a one time love-interest of Superman's, although somewhat ruined by her Heel Face Turn. Not to mention the Princess of the Amazons in an issue of the spinoff comic. Plus, if people with orange hair count, Triplicate Girl is this to Bouncing Boy, or so it's implied.
Firestar of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was at times the crush of both Spidey and Iceman. Considering that Firestar (who was originally created exclusively for the show) is actually based off of Mary Jane Watson, to the point where she is practically a clone of the original John Romita design but with superpowers...
Parodied in Megas XLR. The gang is picked up by a Captain HarlockExpy (but is really more of a Jerkass than a hero) who immediately starts hitting on Kiva. We don't know, though, that the guy has a thing for redheads until Kiva finds a portrait gallery filled with paintings of all his old, strictly redheaded girlfriends...and one redheaded dude. Played straight when, in the Bad Future, Jamie and Kiva get together.
Undergrads: Kimmy, object of Nitz's affections, is a red head.
One episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends features Mac, Bloo, a Prince Charming friend, and a pizza boy all falling for the red-headed Frankie, in addition to her own date. Another episode featured two nerdy guys falling for her as well. Mac continues to have a long time crush on her throughout the series.
He's not a hero per se, but Xanatos from Gargoyles is so magnificent, he gets a red head anyway. Subverted when The Hero, Goliath, has a red head as a mate for a while, but breaks up with her when it's revealed she's become a little less moral over the past couple of centuries, and then gets a Hopi/African American woman as his main love interest.
A canine example occurs in Balto, where the wolf-dog's love interest is Jenna, a husky with red fur.
The Spectacular Spider Man is a subversion/aversion, as while Mary Jane does appear and is originally built up as if she's going to be his love interest...She makes it clear the next time they see each other that they're just friends and then refuses to date anyone seriously, until Mark Allen/Molten Man shows up anyway. Word of God has stated that they try to draw mostly from the roots of the franchise, so MJ was relegated to her original role as a Foil for Gwen, the primary Love Interest.
The short lived Fish Police includes a fish-themed variant, with Gill's main Love Interest being the diner waitress Pearl, who has red scales and fins.
Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: Shane was attracted to his teammate, Niko, but it was implied that he also shagged the crime boss Daisy O'Mega during "Renegade Rangers". And Shane wasn't the only one with a thing for redheads. Zach's wife, Eliza, was auburn-haired - making this trope one of the few things The Hero and The Lancer had in common!
A sort of inversion in Kim Possible, where the titular hero is the redhead and her main Love Interest in her best friend/sidekick.
Redhead Kid Flash/Wally in Young Justice has a crush on the equally redheaded Miss Martian. Who is interested in Superboy. Aqualad has a crush on his friend Tula, but she is already in a relationship with his other friend, Garth. And then there's Dick Grayson/Robin/Nightwing, who is Friends with Benefits with his Childhood Friend Barbara Gordon/Batgirl.
Hey Arnold!!: Arnold's two longest crushes have been Ruth Mc Dougal, who has auburn hair, and Lila Sawyer, who had red hair until halfway through Season 4, when it became closer to auburn-brown. Averted as Word of God has said that Arnold will eventually end up with Helga, a blonde.