For some reason, my Marilyn Manson post is the most-viewed post on this blog. On February 1st, 2021 (yesterday, upon the writing of this post) Evan Rachel Wood disclosed some pretty horrific details of her relationship with Manson. His label dropped him. Multiple television platforms dropped his shows. He became, as the touchy people like to say: CANCELLED. And us Manson fans were left in this all-too-commonplace scenario in the #metoo era.
What Do You Do When One of “Your” Celebrities is Cancelled?
Do you erase that fandom now?
Do you throw away their work?
How to we change our feelings about how their work has affected us? Work that once meant something to us? Work that provided comfort or assurance or solace in a pivotal time of life?
Manson’s entire public life always thrived on shock and controversy. I started listening to his music when I was 12. I loved “The Dope Show”. His music reached that dark parts of me, not in a bad way, but in a constructive one. I didn’t have to feel weird about it. Maybe people would think I was weird because of the stuff I wrote about, but there was a truth worth telling. And I guess that’s what his music has meant to me, without delving too much into my religious struggle that already gone into.
What I Can Say NOW About Marilyn Manson
- He seems like an awful person with a lot of unresolved personal issues.
- He has drug problems.
- His “shock rocker” persona is something he’s adopted in all facets of life.
- He uses his fame and power to get things for himself (primarily much younger women).
- Like a lot of middle-aged men, he’d probably have avoided a lot of his problems if he just got some therapy.
So hey, not an ideal guy.
I mean, sure he had some interesting things to say post-Columbine, but now that we’re all paying attention to the book he wrote BACK IN 1998, it’s pretty damn obvious that eloquent people can also have some serious damage. He pretty bluntly told us all the person he was and somehow we all just ignored it until now.
When Evan Rachel Wood disclosed the details of her relationship with Manson, I did write a tweet responding to the matter:
I still like Marilyn Manson’s music but I believe Evan Rachel Wood. It’s tough to know what to do in these cases when the abuser is someone whose art resonates in some place with you.— Rebecca Jones-Howe (@rjoneshowe) February 1, 2021
ALWAYS separate the person from their work.
A handful of people (likely fans of Manson’s music) liked the tweet. I also got a few responses from folks explaining that it was wrong to “give bad people a platform” and that “continuing to support a bad person’s work was inconsiderate of their victim’s feelings”. I’m paraphrasing here, but this is essentially the argument that people made to me.
Separating A Figure From Their Work
I do, however, stand by the concept of separating people from their work. I’m an author, and as an author, I’ve learnt that separating oneself from their work is important. Whatever I write is subject to proper criticism. People can say all the positive things they want about my fiction, but they’re also allowed to criticize the shit out of it.
That’s why they typically tell authors NEVER to respond to bad reviews. Because your work isn’t “yours” anymore once other people read it. Readers perceive their own meaning. Their own understanding. Even if they don’t understand it at all, they’re fully allowed to give it 1 star on Goodreads.
My writing isn’t fully a representation of me and my private life. I see it as art. It’s open and subjective to opinion. Sure, some of my stories might be inspired by my life or my opinions, but the stories themselves exist to be interpreted in their own way.
In the case of “cancelling” a celebrity, though, well, it’s kind of the reverse, isn’t it?
Is Marilyn Manson’s private life a part of his music?
I guess we all know the answer is Yes.
I’ve never listened to Manson’s 7th studio album The High End of Low, which contains that infamous song about him murdering Evan Rachel Wood, titled, “I Want to Kill You Like They Do in the Movies”. The album’s Wikipedia page pretty much makes it obvious that the dude was in a pretty troubled state at the time of writing, recording, and promoting the album.
Obviously, like with Taylor Swift, his persona is a part of his music.
My Relationship with Marilyn Manson’s Music
I’m not a well-versed Manson fan, though I guess I don’t even need to be ashamed of that now.
I haven’t listened to his entire canon of work. I listen to Mechanical Animals, Holy Wood, and Heaven Upside Down. Sometimes I listen to The Golden Age of Grotesque if I feel kind of nostalgic for the aggressive sound of my teenage years, but honestly, most of the songs are pretty dumb and juvenile.
His latest album, We Are Chaos is pretty good too, but I didn’t get much time to really indulge in it before the Wood revelations came out, so here we are.
Some of the songs in those albums have violent lyrics, sure. Are they manifestations of things he’s actually done in real life? I don’t know. I personally like the stuff he’s written about American culture and some of his more introspective songs like “Saturnalia”, which is about the death of his father.
Should I just never listen to it again? Can we not recognize any of it as good? Do we just delete “The Dope Show” from every 90s alternative music playlist?
Degrees of Cancellation
This is where things get subjective. Because music is personal. People resonate differently with it. People still listen to Michael Jackson. Plenty of people still read and enjoy and buy every single Harry Potter-related item that capitalism provides to us. And yes, sometimes I do still look back and appreciate this particular sequence from Louie.
Does it make me a horrible person if I choose to bring Mechanical Animals with me if I were on a deserted island? Does liking this album not make me feminist? Not make me believe women? Not make me a good Christian?
I hope that Marilyn Manson faces retribution for what he’s done. I believe Evan Rachel Wood and the other women who’ve come forward. Their testimonies sound credible and corroborate with statements that Manson has made himself. He negatively-impacted people’s lives with his actions.
He also impacted people’s lives with his music. Maybe for better. Maybe for worse. But that’s ultimately up to the fans to decide. His music meant something to me. I don’t think that makes me connect with his behavior in any way. The articles are horrifying. They stuck with me all night and I had a hard time getting to sleep.
I can’t allow myself to his music for a while, but I’ve had “I Don’t Like the Drugs, (But the Drugs Like Me)” stuck in my head all day. I’ll probably listen to it again eventually, once the shock has worn off. Just not now.
Because again, whenever “Thriller” comes on at a wedding reception, a lot of people get up and go to the dance floor. I don’t think anyone idolizes Michael Jackson for being a child molester when they’re dancing to one of his songs. They’re not glorifying him. They’re not giving him a platform for his behavior. It’s about the song, not the performer in that moment.
I think it’s okay to wrestle with this. And I think it’s okay to listen. I think it’s okay to dance. I also think it’s okay to throw all of Marilyn Manson’s music away, should you choose.
There’s no one right answer to this problem, honestly.
In Terms of Cancelling Marilyn Manson, What I Know For SURE is This:
I no longer regret not buying that Marilyn Manson beach towel.