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Slowly the lights dim and the volume of the crowd rises. About 3,000 people have come to Massey Hall in Toronto on this night to witness what some consider rocks most bizarre spectacle: Marilyn Manson. They grip the back of the seat in front of them in anticipation of what is to come, some are almost to excited to stand still whilst others seem just a little bit scared. It begins with a few dull flashes from strobe lights accompanied with ear splitting guitar feedback noise. The flashes from the strobe light quicken and theatrical smoke pours in from all corners of the stage. One by one, the members of the band take their respective places on stage to the jubilation of the audience. The anticipation for the man himself builds and as it reaches a fever pitch, Marilyn Manson emerges from the darkness at the back of the stage like a lion pouncing on its prey and the band breaks into song.
Perhaps more shocking than any other artist in the history of rock and roll; Marilyn Manson is probably the most hated man in Middle America these days and with good reason. In 1995 for example, after being banned from playing a show in the southern United States, Manson decided to come out during the headlining bands set and tear the pages out of the Mormon bible. Most would say that this type of anti establishment behaviour that Manson encourages is responsible for turning seemingly normal young people into dark, cynical and often angry youth (Manson, Strauss, 1998). Or is he? Marilyn Manson has done what most artists can only dream of: to create a cult following mentality among millions of fans (Mattingly, 1998). Why him though and why not any of the other thousands of musicians that are floating around this continent every day? Well the truth lies in the message and the delivery of it. Marilyn Manson’s strong beliefs and powerful character provide him with a means of giving his fans an escape from their mundane reality, a sense of belonging to a group, and an uncanny ability to manipulate mainstream media for his own benefit.
A large portion of one’s leisure time is spent attempting to escape reality. This is the reason that television is so successful as well as books have been in the past and now video games.
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Not unlike a cartoon character in a lot of ways (Plotz, 1997), Marilyn Manson is very much larger than life itself as he cannot quite be described by standard rules of conduct and mostly, he doesn’t particularly look like a normal person. The image of the band is at least if not more important than the music in getting across his message and Manson rarely leaves the house without makeup (Mattingly). This is all done purposely to illustrate Manson’s view of society (Manson, Strauss), which is influenced heavily by the beliefs of Anton Lavey’s Church of Satan to which Manson is an ordained minister (Manson, Strauss). Manson, like the church, encourage self-reliance, independence of thought and as some would argue absolute rejection of contemporary religions. While some fans may in fact take Manson’s message literally, most just view Manson as a character and as entertainment “…I just came to have fun, not to start a holy war.” (Young, 1997)
A great deal of the success of Marilyn Manson came from his ability to convince the world that he was in fact the antichrist. Many music industry analysts credit Manson’s popularity to the public outcry from the Christian sector as well as the media in general (Morrall, 1997). For if no one was against Marilyn Manson, what would be the attraction to the band? He could in fact be the most depraved individual in the world, but if nobody paid any attention, it wouldn’t matter (Russel, 1997). The fact that the media and the moral majority made such a big deal about the evil that was Marilyn Manson ultimately caused him to become more of a star and more successful overall.
By using his talents to give people who want it a chance to escape from reality for a little while and a sense of belonging, Marilyn Manson has become one of the most successful artists of the last decade. His competence in dealing with the media and using it to his advantage has given aspiring artists something to measure themselves against. Arguably one of the most media savvy artists in the history of rock and roll, Marilyn Manson has definitely earned his keep in the annals of music history.
Although his message is always controversial and his methods often shocking, Marilyn Manson is already becoming a contemporary artist. He has already taken a back seat to the next big shock rocker, a hip hop artist named Eminem. And just as Manson has become accepted in the mainstream so will Eminem. Rest assured though, that as long as there are parents to be shocked and kids to be delighted, there will always be an artist waiting to step up to the plate and push the moral boundary as far as it will go.
Manson, M. Strauss, N. (1998) The long hard road out of hell. Harper Collins Publishing.
Mattingly, D. (1998, September 21). Marilyn Manson living the lead role in his own show. CNN.com Entertainment Weekly [Online]. Available: http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/Music/9809/21/marilyn.manson/ [25 November 2001]
Morrall, A. (1997, July 28). Controversy lingers as Manson moves on. JAM! Music[Online].Available:http://www.canoe.ca/JamMusicMarilynManson/97july28_edm.html [25 November 2001]
Plotz, D. (1997, June 29). Marilyn Manson: the silliness of the shock-rocker. Slate [Online]. Available: http://slate.msn.com/default.aspx?id=1825 [25 November 2001]
Russel, J. (1997, October). Offensive Art (Marilyn Manson and John Waters). Bad Subjects [Online]. Available: http://eserver.org/bs/34/russell.html [25 November 2001]
Young, J. (1997, April 21). Manson concert draws controversial following. DailyTar Heel [Online].
[25 November 2001]