Sian Vate is a writer, activist, and pop-culture ruminator from Melbourne. She recently attended Georgia’s ‘Hood and the Hunter’ music video shoot, and got the backstory of how the interactive arts project came about.
What is the story with the red hood? Why was Red hooded, and why in red? It’s not by the by. The story is called Little Red Riding Hood, not Girl Gets Fooled by Wolf in Woods; Grandmother Gets Involved; Drama Ensues. It’s not even called The Dark Wood, or The Wolf. It’s about that red hood.
Georgia Fields has recently released the video for her new single Hood & The Hunter and it is beautiful in that other-worldly, expertly-constructed kind of way: it is a romantic and concept-driven video executed with a striking and casual class. Riffing, as the single does, on the motifs of the so-familiar-that-it’s-strange-to-think-about fairy tale, the video re-imagines Little Red Riding Hood, this time playing out the story out in a way that is perfectly amenable to the ethereal Red.
A recurring gesture of the video is the unrobing of the red hood. At first Fields, and later a series of women and girls, look into the camera and remove their hoods from their hair to the back of their head. Their eyes are fixed on their watcher as they do this – on the wolf? It is a defiant visual loop.
Red meets her hunter in this video – a beautiful wolf also played by Fields, adorned by a goat’s skull, charcoaled eyes and Kate Bush-reminiscent flailing dark cloths. The wolf sits in hiding in wait for Red, yet when the two meet there is no conflict. Instead the hunter and the hunted join forces. Through an imitative dance they combine with one another and reconcile.
I spoke with Fields about Hood and the Hunter and the apparently countless versions of Red that have been written and repeated to children over the centuries. Unsurprisingly, many older versions – the story is said to have originated with the French peasantry in the 10th century – end with the macabre and provide no relief. Often the wolf feeds the remains of a severed grandmother to an unwitting Red. The sexual motivation of the wolf is overt: in some versions he has Red take off her clothes and climb into bed with him. Sometimes Red is simply eaten and the story is a wrap. In others she escapes by her own cunning. All of the scarier ways we might have imagined things to go wrong as children, when reading the story, turn out to be ways that things did actually go wrong for earlier Reds. It was a Brothers Grimm version in the 19th century that introduced the huntsman (or lumberjack) figure as a saviour.
The version of Red that concerned Fields in writing Hood, she explained, was an early one in which there was no emancipating lumberjack to make mention of. In this version Red is aware that the wolf is dressed up as Grandma. She goes along with his charade and lets herself (lets herself!) be eaten in order to meet her grandmother in the wolf’s stomach. From there she cuts both herself and her grandmother out of the wolf with a pocket-knife that she has at hand, killing the wolf in the process. In Fields’ reading of Red, the story is actually one of re-birth. Red delivers herself and her grandmother back into the world, and in effect, Red delivers an elderly version of herself.
That’s the hook of Hood & The Hunter (well, that’s one of them). Older women aren’t simply aged versions of young women, Fields elucidated. Women transform and re-emerge over time. They emerge as sager, savvier, happier and sadder versions of themselves through gain, loss and knowledge: age is not a losing process for Fields – it is a trophy of experience. And for her, this is the power of Red. This is also why there is not simply one red cape in the Hood & The Hunter video, but a series of women of different ages removing their hoods.
On day two of the Hood shoot in the Fitzroy High School music room, Rohan Spong (director of the acclaimed documentary All The Way Through Eveningand friend of Fields’) is standing on a chair in front of an illuminated moon of a backlight and looking down into a camera facing a green screen. Fields is sitting by a line of desks down one side of the room with a posse of gathered volunteers, variously unhooded and hooded women.
Fields’ vibe as a co-ordinator of the shoot is immediately animated, inclusive and humble. She explains the video’s concept and processes between personal stories and anecdotes. One of the volunteers has already mentioned the term ‘female-cult look’ and as the caped posse nods to Fields’ instructions it comes to mind, as does a kind of benevolent Handmaid’s Tale scene.
Taking turns, the volunteers stand in front of the green screen, directing their eyes towards the ‘celestial dance-off’ above them (Spong’s arms moving from side to side, fingers dancing in the air). Whilst singing along to the eerie and catchy Hood chorus, they push back their hoods. Fields’ partner Matty Vehl is at the stereo making the music of Hood variously happen and not happen and anticipating the new arrivals at the door.
One volunteer announces that she considers herself a bad actor. Spong responds that he ‘never uses actors’, and also that he ‘likes to see normal people on screen’. Later he reaffirms the supportive style by observing that the day feels more like a love-in than a film-shoot, whilst Fields introduces herself and the food that she has pre-prepared to the newly arriving volunteers. Communal intimacy is the order of the day and the feeling seems to reach over into the video once it is released.
The refined aesthetic and the theatrical narrative play of the Hood & The Hunter clip couch deeply held convictions about the importance of women’s relationships to their own experiences. Age should be celebrated, Fields wants to say, as it isn’t a numbers game that charts loss, but a process that checks cumulative lessons, taught (usually) through pain and the necessary self-assertion that follows it. Red-as-Hunter is Red who hunts pain, (lets herself be eaten!) then demolishes the wolf and emerges re-born. It seems a classic Georgia Fields move – to posit a subversive feminist message through an astral pop-song – and a very good one.
Words by Sian Vate.