MUMBAI: ‘The Neglected Hero’ or ‘The Celebrated Villain’- it does not matter how you recall Marilyn Manson, born as Brian Warner to a conservative Catholic family, the Ohio-born musician has definitely left an impression among the youth since the 90s. Often deprived of doing ‘what he loved’ as a child, Manson grew rebellious and the habit stuck to his personality gradually, and on his 47th birthday today, it's safe to assume the legacy of the 'metal and rock n roll icon' is here to stay.
Marilyn Manson is not meant to be understood. He is meant to be spiritually loved or religiously hated. Some of the music Manson created earned him Grammy nominations and the reputation as 'One of the best Metal vocalists'. However, the name Marilyn Manson brings back the odd memories related to some of the artist's genuine display of emotions and views. But were those acts an honest reflection of what Manson stood for or mere shenanigans? In an interview with Guardian in 2015, Manson accepts of creating a fake world for himself because he did not like the one he lived in. And, thus was born Marilyn Manson. The collocation of two cultural icons- actress Marilyn Monroe and American icon of evil Charles Manson - tells a lot about Manson's perspective of life.
Staying alienated and isolated was Manson’s decision, but he chose ways beyond singing to inspire people to embrace what they want, and not what is socially or ‘ideally’ acceptable. “No longer be oppressed by fascism of Christianity” appealed Manson as he stood on the stage of MTV Video Awards in 1997, and the crowd loved it. Manson continued, “Do not be oppressed by fascism of beauty.” Manson walks the talk, and remains a firm-believer of elements that challenges society’s traditional ideas of what is right and what is wrong.
Evidently, Manson wanted to create a difference. Manson observed things that aren't right, or at least what he concluded, and picked up tools in order to create an impact. Pen, microphone, paintbrush, and a script- Manson found ways to connect with people. More often than not, he managed to create a balance among his lovers and critics.
On 24 June 1999, Marilyn Manson, through Rolling Stone, expressed his sadness on how he was hounded and victimised by the media, politicians and people who had never even heard of his name before. Manson defended himself from the allegations that the infamous Columbine High School massacre, two months prior to the interview, was partly due to the violence portrayed in his videos. Manson explains, “We applaud the creation of a bomb whose sole purpose is to destroy all of mankind, and we grow up watching our president's brains splattered all over Texas. Times have not become more violent. They have just become more televised.”
Manson does not shrug off of the responsibilities and he, definitely, knows the emotions of fans matter. Paris Jackson, daughter of MJ, was allegedly not allowed to attend one of Manson's live shows, resulting into the 15-year-old disturbingly slitting her wrist. Upon hearing the news, Manson dedicated the song ‘Disposable Teens’ to Paris and offered her guest-list entry to any of his concerts whenever she wants. Although, Manson did what you expect of Manson, and imitated slitting his wrist while dedicating the song.
Manson shares the pain associated with teenage life, and there could not be a better example of how less Manson thinks of ‘Christian’ values and the burden it bestows upon youth. In 1995, Marilyn Manson appeared on Phil Donahue's chat show, with several other artists, and faced questions from the audience that included religious Catholics critical of Manson's ways of inspiring and influencing young minds. To the repeated accusations that Manson and company cannot make constructive contribution to the society and chose “an easier way to be famous”, Manson calmly replied, “Kids grow up feeling guilty of not turning out to be like their parents. And they feel like reacting.” Manson’s reply was a symbolic suggestion to the fact that his beliefs could be the ideal solution to troubled childhood. Although scientists, experts, psychiatrists, therapists, doctors, teachers, or several other artists may not echo Manson's opinions, but they surely cannot disagree with him either. Manson was bullied, got ass beat, when he was a child, but understands why no one stood up for him- “that’s because I did not stand up for myself.”
Ask him if he's a pessimist or narcissistic, and he'd reply “I’m a realist.” Such is his perspective of society and things that breathe and exist. Of course, it must be easy for a Manson or Lennon to yell “Be real. Don’t be fake. Don’t be oppressed” when they wear gold rings, drive in limousines, eat cuisines that cannot be easily pronounced and watch the sun set over the mountains of Alaska. But Manson's struggle was real, although the world he created to get over it was “fake”.
Manson is not a murderer, although he claims to be the son of one. Vietnam-war survivor, Hugh Warner, opposed (his son) Manson's idea of artistic expression or, simply put, the ‘un-catholic’ lifestyle. Upon his father's arrival from the war, Manson played “Killing Strangers” to the seemingly disturbed vet. Manson sang “We’re killing strangers so we don’t kill the ones we love! We’ve got guns, we’ve got girls, we’ve got guns” as Manson finally managed to, for a brief moment, connect with his Catholic father. Manson was closer to his mother, and naturally, her death changed quite a few things for the Warner men.
With fame came a lot of attention and Manson, somehow, always ended under the negative light. Be it Jennifer Syme’s death, or his relationship to Pat Buchanan, or the endless controversies surrounding his girlfriends and partners, Manson always invited trouble. Or was it the other way around? The confusion stands as a metaphorical portrayal of Manson's life, that goes before fame knocked on his doors, or his journey as a musician or the metaphorical death of Brian Warner.
So, what shade of glass do we wear before judging Manson? Maybe, we just don’t. Probably, the naked eyes illustrate the precise personality of Manson. The icon who freaks out at his drummer during a live show, the freak who kicks his guitarist, the devil with the heart of gold or a musician who was misunderstood since the day he surfaced on the music platform.
Manson's life is an open book. Put a cover on it- black or white or grey - it wouldn't matter. The story remains unchanged, and to an extent, fairly untold. That also makes perfect justification regarding his appearance- the Goth make-up or semi-nude dresses. Brian Warner is the memory about a troubled child who found ways to escape the guilt or harsh memories.
Having said that, the doubt remains, whether Marilyn Manson was only the juxtaposition of a murderer and ‘the face of beauty’, or in fact, juxtaposition of the idea the two personalities stood for. Sure, Manson is not a murderer or, possibly, a violent creature, but then, neither does he believe in Monroe’s definition of beauty.
Marilyn Manson appeared on Eminem's set few years ago, and the artist could not have picked a better composition to provide his vocals on. On his 47th birthday, we celebrate Manson’s contribution so far, and hope (or not) the future offers everyone a ‘sorted’ conclusion to Manson's story.