By Lindsey Bahr
February 13, 2013 at 09:53 PM EST

If you want to stand out on the red carpet, red hair isn’t always the easiest accessory.

However misguided it may be, ginger locks are frequently regarded as somewhat of a hinderance. Terms like clashing and matching suddenly start getting thrown around — a sartorial burden that doesn’t regularly afflict ravens, brunettes, blondes, whites, or grays.

But this awards season proves that any “restrictions” on options for the scarlet-haired can be broken, with three striking redheads making their fashion presence felt.

And the most striking of all isn’t even a real person.

Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow recently told Brave director Mark Andrews that she thought their films had some surprising similarities. Andrews was slightly baffled. What could the gravely serious film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden have in common with an animated fantasy about a rebellious Scottish princess who turns her mother into a bear?

Bigelow explained to Andrews that both Jessica Chastain’s Maya and the animated Merida were strong, determined women. Neither blindly obeys orders from the men in their life, or rely on the men to save them. Both battle against the popular beliefs of their time.

And both have long flowing red hair — which each one is forced to cover up when they are forced to blend in.

The comparison was meant to be cute, and surely coincidental, but it’s still worth noting from a fashion standpoint that three major films on the Oscar ballot feature tough, all-consuming characters whose striking hair could be interpreted as a symbolic cinematic expression of how much each stands out in a crowd: Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty, Amy Adams in The Master, and of course, Brave‘s Merida.

“Every decision you make must support the story. Or, what do we want to say about the character that we’re not necessarily going to get out of the dialogue or the plot? All of Merida’s choices are meant to draw attention. To push that idea we gave her super curly red hair,” Andrews told EW. “It reflects her personality as this chaotic free spirit. You never know what she’s going to do. As soon as she walks on screen and you see her chewing on that apple you go ‘okay, she’s trouble but she’s fun.’ That’s visual storytelling.”

The redheaded heroine isn’t anything new to culture or movies. Red hair may be relatively rare, in terms of the overall human population, but it’s quite common in history, fiction, and entertainment. The stereotypes fictional redheads tend to embody — they’re feisty, fiery, and, most importantly unique — make for compelling characters.

In live action, red hair may simply be natural for a particular actress, but think of how often it turns up by choice in animation: Among Pixar’s redheads are Jessie from Toy Story 2 and 3, Elastigirl from The Incredibles, and Ellie from Up.

As for the challenge on red carpets, finding the right outfits to match … ? The two real-life redheads of Oscar Season 2013 have had no problem: Chastain has barely repeated a color — a purple, pink, and navy Erdem at the Academy Awards Luncheon, a royal blue Roland Mouret at the BAFTAs, a bold red Alexander McQueen at the SAG awards, and a sea foam green Calvin Klein at the Golden Globes. Meanwhile, Adams has been similarly adventurous, wearing a light rose Marchesa to the Golden Globes, a black and sheer lacy Elie Saab to the BAFTAs, a gold Jenny Packham to the Governor’s Awards, and a printed multi-colored J. Mendel to the Academy Awards Luncheon.

The digitally rendered Merida might not have the opportunity to get her day on the Oscars red carpet, but that doesn’t mean her creators can’t fantasize about the perfect dress for her.

“While she’s adventurous and likes to move freely, she does love dresses,” notes Brave producer Katherine Sarafian. “She never attempts to put on pants. She never wants to look like a boy, so I think she would wear something very elegant and very Scottish. I think she would definitely dress up in a dark, rich color — something thick and velvety with her family tartan peeking out of it and some really beautiful embroidered accents with a little bit of sparkle and gleam. Maybe even a tiara from Harry Winston.”

Andrews think she might just want to wear her blue dress from the film. So if EW were to weigh in … how about a happy compromise with this fall 2013 ready-to-wear Badgley Mischka?

If Merida were real, however, pity the poor stylist who tries to tame those curls.

Follow @ldbahr

Read More:

Oscars 2013

EW Review: ‘Brave’

EW Review: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’