The Road Back to Hell- A few words on Marilyn Manson

TW: This article refers to discussions and allegations of sexual abuse

Given my love of Marilyn Manson, which I’m sure I’ve expressed at some point on this blog over the years, I thought I’d make a short statement, forever whoever cares to read it. An open letter, if you will. I don’t intend to speak on the specific allegations themselves. The details are out there for anyone who wants to dig them up, but I did want to briefly address my own feelings on the topic.

I used to LOVE Manson when I was younger. Still love his older music. Portrait of an American family and Antichrist Superstar were a huge part of the soundtrack of my formative years. So I can’t tell you how disappointed I am since I learned of all these allegations. He definitely has had his “extreme” moments in the past, some of which you might have seen if you had ever watched the video from the Dead to the World tour, or read his supposed biography The Long Hard Road out of Hell. Reading that, it was clear he himself had endured his own trauma and abuse as a kid. Once he broke into more mainstream notice, his music was raw and angry, his persona seemingly carefully cultivated to antagonize the status quo. But I always defended him to my parents, and his other detractors, as an intelligent, evocative, but generally misunderstood artist. Maybe he used to be. Now it seems he’s just the garden variety dirtbag everyone always thought he was, and that fucking sucks.

Obviously most of my sympathies are saved for the women that had to endure any abuse at his hands, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel sorry for fans like myself, because his music meant a lot to us. After all, how can you identify with someone railing against the status quo, when they just end up being another abuser and oppressor themselves? Some of us are completely able to compartmentalize and separate an artist from their art, but for many of us, we feel like we get to know a piece of that person and we identify not just with their message, but with the feeling that they’re saying it out of a sense of genuineness. In short, we have someone to commiserate with, someone with a real voice, whom we feel understands what we’re feeling inside as well. This news and these allegations chip away at that feeling of genuineness that Manson had.

I’ve also read interviews with Trent Reznor regarding Manson. Reznor produced/worked on some of Manson’s earlier albums, Portrait of an American Family, and Antichrist Superstar. He said that at the time Manson was not like this, but was rather very driven, and once described Manson as “the smartest person in the room”, but that later on he became a “malicious guy who would step on anyone’s face” to get ahead, and that drugs and alcohol had turned him into a ” dopey clown.” Reznor himself cut ties with Manson some 20 years ago. Given the conflicting stories of people that have dated him and worked with him, I’m inclined to think that the fame that he worked so hard for, coupled with the drug and alcohol abuse, corrupted him and brought out his darker tendencies. It’s really a shame, honestly. But it’s even more sad for the women that had the unfortunate luck to be in his path of destruction.

Some of Manson’s exes, most notably Dita Von Teese and Rose McGowan, have come out with statements in support of the victims, but have also denied that Manson was ever abusive during their relationships. They acknowledge that has no bearing on the abuse allegations, but rather were attempting to assuage their own fans’ concerns for their well-being.

Image courtesy of Yahoo

My hope for the people that have been affected by his behavior is that they find peace and healing and that Manson faces some accountability, whether it’s personal or legal. My hope for Manson himself is that he has a personal reckoning, and not only realizes that his behavior in the past decade has cheapened his once important message, but that he needs counseling to find himself again. I further hope he does the right thing, sacks up, and take responsibility for whatever he’s done, and that he finds it in himself to seek forgiveness and make amends to those people that he hurt.

And just in case it’s still not clear throughout this whole article, I stand with Evan Rachel Wood. I believe women. I just wanted to address my own personal feelings on the matter, as irrelevant as they may in the grand scheme of things, because I know that there’s got to be other people feeling the same thing- the disappointment- and acknowledge the fact that scandals like this by influential celebrities and artists have far-reaching consequences, as Manson’s finding out now after losing all of his contracts and gigs.

EDIT: 2/9

Since the writing of this post I have read further accounts of alleged misconduct; that’s really not even strong enough a word, but again, I don’t intend to go into details here, because the allegations themselves aren’t really what I’m trying to convey. What I read dated back to incidents in 1995 and potentially occurred with minors. I am so disappointed and so disgusted. He has apparently always been a damaged person, which is really not so surprising given his lyrical content, however, I used to believe his turmoil was expressed THROUGH his music. Obviously given the breadth and variety of types of music, I would never say you could judge a musician solely by lyrical content. I have heard people make remarks regarding Manson’s victims like, “What did they expect, if they ever listened to his music?” Aside from being a particularly shitty example of victim blaming, it’s a ridiculous fallacy. Lyrics are expressive, sometimes literal, but more often hyperbolic. Manson’s lyrics were often very evocative and definitely hyperbolic, but they also betrayed truths about him. More than once, he made not so oblique references to childhood trauma he had suffered.

“Toys all smell like children
And the scab-knees will obey
I’ll have to kneel on broomsticks
Just to make it go away,”
Kinderfeld, Marilyn Manson

These lyrics were a direct reference to the punishment he often incurred from his grandparents if he broke any rules.

I don’t bring this up to defend him or in any way excuse what he did. My only point is there is often symbolism in music and listeners can never be sure whether they are hearing a evocative symbol used to express a theme (heartache, betrayal, pain, etc) or an actual event.

Regardless, I feel silly saying this but I’ll say it anyway because I know in my heart I am not the only person who feels this way. I am mourning my loss of who I thought he was, of the extremely nostalgic emotions his music evokes for me, of his decency. Mostly I am afraid I will never be able to fully enjoy his music again. Maybe that sounds selfish in light of what his victims have gone through but I’m not the kind of person who feels like painful experiences are a competition. I don’t see anything wrong with acknowledging the effect music, and by extension musicians, have on some people. People have long mourned deeply the loss of musicians that meant a lot to them, even the flawed ones (and some were more flawed than a lot of people realized.) John Lennon, Patsy Cline, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, David Bowie, and far far too many more to mention. Obviously I’m not mourning a literal death, but it’s still a loss. Even if it’s just the loss of enjoyment of the music of one artist, it feels a little like I lost a piece of my past.