It’s pretty rare that I catch myself preemptively forming opinions (I mean… I do it all of the time but I don’t catch myself doing it), but Laura Marling’s “Master Hunter” video had me pre-writing a blog post about it in my head before I was even halfway through.
Sex and violence! A girl in a sundress that reminded me so much of River from Firefly (long hair in face, dress, studiously walking on bare feet)! This girl in the sundress is doing some sort of dance with a guy who doesn’t own a shirt (I hope neither of them are expecting to get service at a casual dining restaurant), and it quickly gets uncomfortable. He clearly overpowers her — jerking her around over his shoulders while she struggles– but there is a bit of ambiguity as to whether this is simply him abusing her, or really rough foreplay. That ambiguity is a little hard to comment on, because “violence is sexy” is a horrifying message that feeds into abusive mindsets, but consensual roughness is another thing entirely.
Thankfully (and also, not), it gets cleared up by the creepy ending. After the girl finishes her dance we see the lifeless body of the shirtless man (so in a way, he did get served), and out of the shadows a bunch of creepy sundressed girls step around him. So the girl who was struggling, and who I interpreted as a plausible victim in the beginning, is the master hunter that the song refers to. The River comparison that I made was apt, because this video plays into the trope of the small, unassuming girl who surprises everyone with her physical prowess (Joss Whedon loves this trope). I don’t really care for it, because that trope generally makes the assumption that it is unbelievable to the audience that a small girl could accomplish physical feats (resulting in a lot of “aren’t you surprised?!” smugness), and also because it reinforces the idea that dominance through strength is the only way a woman can prove herself.