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“Please proceed, only if you are prepared to confront Satan himself,” warns a Christian web site devoted to educating Christian youth on today’s hot-button issues such as pornography and pre-marital sex (Christian Family Network). But what the authors of this web page are referring to is not the abandonment of morals by today’s teens. They are naming a singular music artist to be a current incarnation of the primal evil; they refer to the man born as Brian Warner, but known by teenagers everywhere as Marilyn Manson. Marilyn Manson fronts a music rock band of the same name that in no uncertain terms preaches hate for everything: hate for family, hate for government, hate for society, hate for religion, and to some, the most threatening of all, hate for self. “I’d hate the hater, I’d rape the raper,” screams Manson on the opening track of his Anti-Christ Superstar album (Manson). Appropriately titled “Irresponsible Hate Anthem,” this song characteristically lashes out criminals and victims alike, his message leaving nothing but battered psyches in its wake.
Visual images projected by the band use death, grotesque rotting flesh, evil countenances and androgynous sexuality to shock and revolt. At one concert a hermaphroditic Manson dons a gas mask whose air supply is attached to his two guitarists’ penises. If a fan cannot get to a concert, they need not fear. Simply load Marilyn’s latest album, Holywood, into a computer and those with an Internet connection are treated to a multi-media presentation of a human brain being removed in an autopsy. Like a Sam Rami horror movie, the viewer cannot quite believe what they are seeing and watches with the same rapt fascination reserved for a train wreck or airplane crash. It is hard to imagine that this is anything more than an act, but the Church of Satan takes it seriously. The Church made Marilyn Manson an honorary Reverend saying that he is “the most satanic performer in popular music today,” (MTV News). This dubious accolade seems to fit Manson fine, as he currently prefers to be addressed as “Reverend.”
Marilyn Manson uses this revolting imagery coupled with an unacceptable message of hate to sell record albums, however, he truly feels marginalized by society. That Marilyn Manson has an intentionally shocking presentation goes without saying. But this satanic superstar has another side; a subtle, darker, humanity constantly wounded by media hounding and the overt repulsion displayed by everyone, including his fans.
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Marilyn Manson has become much of his image. He has taken to wearing just one light blue contact lens in public giving him his signature mismatched brown and blue creepy eyes. In an interview with MTV he states that if he is to be successful he must “live” the image and “become” the monster he has created (Loder). Admittedly this plays nicely to the disturbed fans that worship him. But again and again his demeanor in interviews seems more like a wounded animal lashing out than a “superstar” trying to get press. Avowedly conservative in political views, he expressed a preference for George W. Bush in the recent presidential elections. When asked for a comment, Bush’s campaign stated, “thanks but no thanks. George Bush may be a different kind of republican, but not that different,” (Loder). After this obvious rejection, which should have come as no surprise, Manson changed his reason for supporting the Republican ticket from hating the liberals to wanting to annoy the right wing republicans more. Again a change of position in order to save face provides the emotional fuel for Manson’s tirades against society.
The public’s revulsion for Manson is not the only angst driving him. Born into an intensely religious family, Manson’s latest musical efforts on the album Holywood reveal the obsession he has for Christ-images. The CD jacket cover reveals a jawless Manson crucified to a cross. This controversial image has prompted the electronic store Circuit City to change the packaging and other stores to ban the sale of the album outright (RollingStone). Manson seems unperturbed by it saying, “They are proving my point,” concerning censorship (USA Today). The missing jaw apparently symbolizes his forced silence following the Columbine shootings. And concerning Columbine, his latest video “Fight,” pits a gothic football team against the clean cut “jocks” in a fantasy game where the players in black defeat their white-clad opponents. Not surprisingly, the winning member of the black team sports the name “DEATH,” (“Fight”). Manson denies the “connection,” (MTV News) but knowing the history of Manson’s forced retreat on the last tour and his anger at the world, his denial rings hollow. If he wasn’t advocating high school class warfare then, let there be no mistake this time. After all, what better way to get back at his critics than to have their kids buy an album with a hate message just like they unfairly ran him out of town for?
Manson’s efforts on Holywood seem directly aimed at the parents, daring them, in effect, to rise to the occasion again and try to shut him up. Manson gives backhanded acknowledgement to parental responsibility in the second song of the album entitled, “Love Song.” Using another politically incorrect symbol, guns provide the analogy as he croons, “She tells me I’m a pretty bullet, I’m gonna be a star someday.” Manson describes children as the “bullets” shot by their parents into the world (Holywood). Manson feels that the parents have the responsibility to insure that their children do not harm others, not him. From a performer who makes his living by attracting the more extreme elements, his hypocrisy evidences itself with an attitude that seems to say, “It’s not my fault your kids listen to me. You should be better parents.”
Yes, Marilyn Manson walks his talk. He purposely attracts extreme youth, knowing intuitively what will draw them to him. His hatred and resentment seem well founded and well fed by greater society’s hatred for his imagery and message. But he will not let his own anger get in the way of profit making. He calculates his act to make money in this narrow niche of nihilistic teens. He bills every album as more radical than the last and pushes his imagery and message as far and as hard as will sell. The truth is, this 31 year old has not been a teenager for over a decade, and has little interest in the teen experience outside of their dollar. He has publicly become what he sells in order to maintain the public image of a revolting blight on popular music, but his real goal seems to be to get back at his eternal critics by making a mockery of the conventional wisdom that he could never manage to make it big. Once he makes his millions and his popularity fades, the world should not act too surprised when Marilyn retires and Brian shows up at a business meeting negotiating a multi-million dollar real-estate deal for a new shopping complex. Although Marilyn Manson, the performer, thrives on society’s hatred, inside, Brian Warner is hurt by its rejection of his market success.
As serious as he may be, the market place will likely limit Marilyn Manson’s relevance in the end. The parents revile his androgynous hate message, and well they should, but he sells what sells and that is the extent of it. As any good businessman would, Manson accentuates his strengths of resentment and anger, drawing on them like hidden reserves in order to achieve financial success. Like a cheap suit he will discard them as soon as they are no longer profitable. But in the meantime he sells hate to the children and hate against society. Jesus Christ, his eternal idol and nemesis provides an unlikely parallel for what the satanic Reverend sees in his future. “A long time ago there was a man as misunderstood as we are,” deadpans Manson, “and they nailed him to a fucking cross.”
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