Marilyn Manson: The Positive Effect
The Long Hard Road Out of Hell
Marilyn Manson's Positive Impact on Society.
Certainly one of the most notorious musicians in music’s history, Marilyn Manson has garnered a vast amount of media attention. Unfortunately, as has been the case since Elvis, he also receives much unfair criticism and is generally blamed for any act of wrongdoing that anyone who listens to his music may commit. In some cases, acts by people who did not listen to his music and even disliked him have also been in some way attributed to Marilyn Manson and his music.
I have written this monograph to testify to the fact that far from dangerous, in point of fact he actually has a powerful and beneficial message that many of his fans can relate with.
Everything contained herein is based on my own personal experiences. When applicable, other sources are cited.
I first became aware of Marilyn Manson’s music when I heard his single “Sweet Dreams.” While I did not buy that CD, I did buy the follow-up CD: Antichrist Superstar.
I had just left a very traumatic and damaging relationship, and most of my life to that point could only be described as “dysfunctional,” at best. I came from a broken home, had endured all forms of abuse, had “authority” issues and really hated what I perceived as “the system.” I was still a teenager.
These are generally the traits one thinks of, when they are concerned about what type of person may be exceptionally vulnerable to or more easily influenced by Marilyn Manson’s music. Furthermore, the album I was initially exposed to was the album most criticized and blamed for all matters of wrongdoing and dysfunction in America’s young people.
While I concede that Marilyn Manson has inspired and influenced many of his fans, I do not agree that he should be blamed for some of the horrific acts that some of these young people have committed. Because obviously art is highly subjective, you can take a mentally ill individual and show him or her anything, and they will see or read into it whatever he or she wants to see.
To illustrate this point, consider the following:
“One of the two great influences on the thinking of Charles Manson, along with the Book of Revelation, was the musical group the Beatles. According to Family members, Manson would most often quote "the Beatles and the Bible." The two influences were linked, in that Manson saw the four Beatles members as being the "four angels" referred to in Revelation 9. Revelation 9 also tells of "locusts"--the Beatles, of course--coming out upon the earth. It describes prophets as having "faces as the faces of men" but with "the hair of women"--an assumed reference to the long hair of the all-male English group. In Revelation 9, the four angels with "breastplates of fire"--electric guitars--"issued fire and brimstone"--song lyrics.
Manson believed that the Beatles spoke to him through their lyrics, especially those included in the White Album, released in December 1968. Several songs from the White Album crystalized Manson's thinking about a coming revolt by blacks against the white Establishment. He interpreted many of the songs idiosyncratically, believing, for example, that "Rocky Raccoon" meant black people and "Happiness is a Warm Gun" was a song about getting firearms to carry on the revolution rather than--more obviously--a song about sex.
The White Album played a key role in forging Manson's warped ideology. According to Family member Paul Watkins, "Before Helter Skelter came along; all Charlie cared about was orgies."(*1)
Out of the millions of fans the Beatles had, Charles Manson is the only known fan of their work to interpret their music in this way. When an individual strongly believes in a cause or has an apocalyptic vision, he or she can draw supporting factors and messages that reinforce these beliefs through something as nonsensical as television or radio static, for example tuned to a channel that does not exist. Should we therefore ban televisions? Should we ban radios?
Should the Beatles have been banned because out of the millions of fans that adored them, one read his own warped and distorted beliefs into the messages of their songs? No such action was ever even considered. Yet people are eager to blame Marilyn Manson’s music for the actions of individuals who have not even liked him and would seek to ban his music and live performances.
While Marilyn Manson’s music and stage theatrics are more provocative and explicit than the Beatles, this is only to be expected as in the last 50 years the bar has been raised regarding what is acceptable and the things that society accepts as “normal.” We, as a society, are now much more desensitized to violence, sex, drugs, and debauchery. As the things it takes to provoke a reaction have become more extreme, it is only understandable that those seeking to “push the envelope” or make a point, have to use more extreme measures.
I have personally found Marilyn Manson’s music to be very therapeutic. Music always has been a big part of my life. The thing that really stands out to me regarding music, is that people will listen to the music they listen to because it corresponds to how they feel. They do not listen to music they cannot relate to, and have their perspectives changed. They listen to what they are listening to because of how they are already feeling.
Priest Anton Bobas, who claims the best concert he ever attended was seeing Manson live in Germany, says in a 2005 quote: "How could Manson turn young people into Satanists and drug addicts in the two hours of his act." (*2)
A happy and well-adjusted individual would never listen to a song that was suicidally depressing and subsequently decide to kill them self. However, a person who was already going to kill them self may listen to a song that fits his or her mood while he or she completes the act. Many would argue that the music contributed to their decision. I do not think this could be further from the truth.
Further supporting this position, a study published in today's Australasian Psychiatry journal concludes that "There is no evidence to suggest the type of music you listen to will cause you to commit suicide, but those who are vulnerable and at risk of committing suicide may be listening to certain types of music." (*3)
Marilyn Manson has covered a wide array of subjects in his work. He utilizes a high amount of symbolism and while many things are spoken, much more must be taken in the context of the entire work of art, as opposed to being analyzed on its own. Due the vast differences amongst all his CDs and because Antichrist Superstar was his most controversial and notorious release, I will primarily focus on it.
As I mentioned, at the time I discovered Antichrist Superstar I was very angry and probably could have been considered clinically unstable. I related to the anger and aggression that was being expressed based on my own personal rage regarding atrocities and wrongdoings I had experienced. However, after time and listening to the whole CD while I was going through my own process of healing and becoming something far greater than I had ever been, I discovered a much more significant and meaningful interpretation of the CD.
Each song taken and interpreted on its own has its own individual merit; when all the songs are listened to and put into their proper context, what one discovers is a CD describes the experience of total self-destruction and rebirth into something much better; stronger, if you will.
Of course it touches on rage and many other intense emotions. It also clearly contains components highly reflective and indicative of pain. Ultimately, the main character- Antichrist Superstar, is the end result after the self-destruction and rebirth of the character.
I do not believe for a second that any Marilyn Manson fan who expressed anger or distress with his personal environment or life, did not already have feelings of discontentment and conflict prior to listening to his CD. It just does not work that way.
Has Marilyn Manson exposed his fans to things they may not
have discovered at that point in their lives, otherwise? It
is most probable. However, Marilyn
Manson has never once said “This is cool, go do it.” He has never said, “Be like me.” He has continually said “Be like you, and
make a difference.” To use a specific
"We really represent individuality. Kids should think for themselves. Not to be like your friend who think they are individuals, but to be like you. Not to be like us, but to be what you are."
Many things he does I believe are done for shock value and to provoke a reaction. I believe anyone would be hard-pressed to find someone who disagreed with that statement. I also believe there are important messages being missed by those who judge him on a superficial level.
While he has appeared in drag, simulated sex acts on stage and used imagery that insinuated homosexual tendencies; this is not consistent with directing people to apply those things to their lives.
You cannot make a person homosexual by showing him or her imagery that may have a homosexual tone. Personally, I am as hetero-sexual as it gets. I do not care if I were held down and forced to watch lesbian pornography for 24-hours-a-day and seven-days-a-week, I would not suddenly become a lesbian or demonstrate bi-sexual behavior. You cannot make a person kill someone by playing him or her a song featuring aggressive melody and lyrical content. In the song “1996” (again on the Antichrist Superstar CD), he specifically sings the following: “anti-hate,” “anti-gay,” and “anti-dope.”
Of course, why he has specifically stated “anti-dope,” he has also been known to indulge in illicit substances. Celebrity socialite Paris Hilton and Pop Star George Michael are both known to be drug users, as is indisputable by their drug arrests. Other well-known celebrities who have been arrested on drug charges include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Gregg Allman,Louis Armstrong, Hoyt Axton, Sebastian Bach, Mischa Barton, Ol’ Dirty Bastard (also the first person arrested for being a convicted felon wearing a bulletproof vest under a new California law), Chuck Berry, Bo Bice, Notorious B.I.G., David Bowie, Bobby Brown, James Brown, Orlando Brown, Lenny Bruce, Marcus Camby, Jennifer Capriati, Michael Carroll, Aaron Carter, Neal Cassady, Orlando Cepeda, Ray Charles, Adam Clayton, Eldridge Cleaver, Joe Cocker, Jason Cook, Coolio, Frank Corder, David Crosby, Macaulay Culkin, Tony Curtis, Trick Daddy, D’Angelo,Mitch Daniels, Neil Diamond, Andy Dick, DMX, Snoop Dogg, Donovan, Faith Evans, David Faustino,Freddy Fender, Flavor Flav, Mark Foley, Kevin Gage, Jerry Garcia, Art Garfunkel, Boy George, Al Gore III, Woody Harrelson, George Harrison, Don Henley, Dennis Hopper, Whitney Houston, Robert Iler, Allen Iverson, Jadakiss, Mick Jagger, Haley Joel Osment, Shawn Kemp, Lil Kim, Suge Knight, Queen Latifah, Timothy Leary, John Lennon, Jeremy London,Method Man, Bob Marley, Linda McCartney, Paul McCartney, Matthew McConaughey, Katie Morgan, Randy Moss, Bill Murray, Mystikal, Willie Nelson, Iggy Pop, Richard Ramirez, Brad Renfro, Paul Reubens, David Lee Roth, Ja Rule, Carlos Santana, Bon Scott, Tupac Shakur, Charlie Sheen, Kimora Lee Simmons, Steve-O, Oliver Stone, Thurman Thomas, Peter Tork, Rob Van Dam, Marcus Vick, Rasheed Wallace, Dionne Warwick, Lil Wayne, Dawn Wells, Amy Winehouse, andLindsay Lohan.
Politicians, athletes, comedians, musicians, movie stars, movie directors, child entertainers, and Disney stars! Drugs have been stereotyped as something primarily consumed by the lower-class, however I believe it has been firmly established that substance abuse and addiction knows no socio-economic boundaries. Marilyn Manson cannot be singled out for his recreational drug use, when so many other celebrities that epitomize the very idea of being a “role model,” have clearly made the same decisions.
Personally, I am more concerned with an innocent five-year-old that idolizes Lindsay Lohan and thinks her drug and alcohol use is “okay” or “normal,” than an angst-ridden teenager who is rightfully disillusioned with a faulty and flawed system that finds some degree of solace in Marilyn Manson’s music.
If we want to take it a step further, what about the first known act of fratricide ever committed? This would be the murder of Able by his brother, Cain. This is widely accepted in many faiths worldwide as the first known murder involving humans.
No media influence can be blamed. No video games, movies or music that could have played a part in that situation existed. However, highly reflective of the desperate need most people have to disavow humans of having any innate capacity to commit an act of violence with no external influence; people have conjured up an evil being who was said to have told Cain not only how to use a rock to inflict fatal head trauma but also how to bury the body and conceal the crime. While humans have no problems recognizing the potential for good that humans have, they desperately seek out external influences to justify or explain the bad.
Humans are very smart. I find the thought that a man needed the devil to tell him how to dig a hole and bury a body exceptionally preposterous. But,that is what people find much easier to accept than being forced to admit we, as humans, are prone to dysfunction and violence. Humans do not need an external source to blame their dysfunctions on.
Of course, the fight between the two brothers was over a woman. In fact, this woman was their sister. Is it so implausible that the same primal violence demonstrated by most members of the animal kingdom is also present in the human animal? While it has been said humans are the only species that kill each other, this is not the case. Primates, our closest relatives as determined by similarities in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), fight and kill members of their group frequently.They routinely kill newborn babies.
Aggression and “survival of the fittest,” is a common way of life for most species of animals. Social Darwinism is nothing new. In fact, my observation has been that the more intelligent the animal, generally the more extreme the violence. I have never seen a bug kill another bug (mating rituals, aside). I believe that dysfunction is more of a human trait. While animals under duress can develop anxiety disorders and idiosyncratic tendencies, I have never heard of a bipolar panda bear or a cat that had schizophrenia. As humans are more intelligent and emotionally complex, this will directly lead to higher incidence of mental illness or dysfunction.
If we are looking at brains of various species, they are like complex computer programs. The more lines of code, commands, variables, and executions, the more likely there is to be a malfunction. The simpler the code, the less likely you are to encounter difficulties.
The more thought and emotion present in any individual, the more likely they will suffer more extremely from traumatic experiences or perceived injustice than an individual who is not as aware or intact. It has long been stated there is a connection between “genius” and “insanity.”
I think that what most people are trying to do when they place blame on entertainers or external influence, is minimize their accountability for whatever tragedy has transpired.
If we look back 50 years compared to now, the differences in society and how most family units functioned are as different as night and day.
Back then, humanity began to embrace free love, free sex, and free drugs. Women burned their bras and decided that instead of being the primary caretakers of their young, they wanted to work. Frequently, both parents were largely absent in the home and children were left alone to their own devices. We grew up seeing unethical behavior on television. I specifically recall Oral Roberts, televangelist extraordinaire, making tearful pleas that he raise eight-million-dollars or God would “take him home.” Moral corruption and religious hypocrisy are nothing new.
Homosexuality, drugs, violence, anger, and anti-religious sentiments are not in any way unique to Marilyn Manson. In fact, not a single one of these issues can be attributed to him. All of them pre-date his very existence. They are prevalent in modern society. We have television sitcoms focusing on homosexual stars and drug dealers on the same block as our children’s schools.
All Marilyn Manson has done is condense what is wrong with society into one source, mirroring its ugliness back at it. If you are unhappy with what Marilyn Manson represents, I think the first place we need to look is here, where his inspiration came from.
Last, regarding the hypocrisy of most individuals who condemn Marilyn Manson’s music, many are Christians, who out of fear and ignorance respond to Marilyn Manson and those who listen to his music in a way not honoring of God. Ironically, these extremist Christians are those most responsible for his explosion onto the music scene and into the public eye, after the Antichrist Superstar release.
This is poetic justice, at its best. You hate him for what he represents, and cannot see that it is your own flaws he mocks. Then,you instrumentally bring him nationwide exposure, which promotes what you are trying to suppress. You have only continued to create and support that which you are in denial of and seek to destroy.
~Renae “Starr” Earnest
*1 University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law. (n.d.), The Beatles Influence on Charles Manson.. Retrieved from http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/manson/mansonbeatles.html
*2 Contactmusic.com. (2005). Catholic Priest Defends Marilyn Manson. Retrieved from http://www.contactmusic.com/new/xmlfeed.nsf/story/catholic-priest-defends-marilyn-manson
*3 theage.com.au. (2008). Musical key to unlocking teenage wasteland. Retrieved from http://www.theage.com.au/national/musical-key-to-unlocking-teenage-wasteland-20080804-3pxy.html?page=-1
© 2011 Renae “Starr” Earnest, Essay may be freely distributed and copied as long as no alterations to the source are made and the author receives credit.